The Question Time audience broke into gasps after Conservative politician Karen Bradley said that austerity wasn’t a choice made by the Tory government.
The party’s economic flagship policy, which first came into action in 2010, was touted as a short-term budget cuts measure to reduce the government’s debt after the economic crash of 2008.
‘We needed to get those finances back in order’
However, since a recent UN report by envoy Phillip Alston declared that the “punitive” policy means that 1 in 2 children living under the breadline, questions are being asked about when the government will take action to end austerity. Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley said that the economic policy was not a choice, but a necessity.
“It’s something we had to deal with. We needed to get those finances back in order,” she said to the audience in Cannock, Staffordshire.
“There’s many reasons why people end up in poverty.
There’s not a simple reason where you can just click a button and have a change,” she added.
Shadow treasury secretary Clive Lewis said that the government was entirely to blame. “There’s a reason for this destituton, this austerity. It’s called the Conservative party. Prisoners are being given homelessness backpacks.
“Austerity was a political choice. You’ve given billions away in tax cuts, but a UN report says millions are destitute,” he added.
‘Councils are not acting quickly enough’
Topics close to home topped the Question Time agenda, with one man addressing the dramatic surge in homelessness across the UK.
“People aren’t homeless isn’t because of a surge in population,” he said.
“It’s a surge in poverty. It’s chronic underfunding of public services. It’s been a problem ever since this government implemented the harsh measures of austerity,” he added to a round of applause. Julia Hartley Brewer might have surprised viewers with her sobering views on housing shortages.
After one member of the audience asked how 1 in 200 people are now considered to be homeless in the UK, the Talk Radio presenter said the solution was simple: the government needs to build more houses. “Councils are not acting quickly enough,” said the journalist.
“They are waiting until people are being evicted before finding them a home. Young children shouldn’t have to move to temporary shelter when they’re juggling the pressures of school.
“Sorting this is one of the top priorities, and if we get Brexit out of the way we can deal with it.” However, Hartley Brewer was the only panellist who said that the government shouldn’t continue with the current Brexit deal.
The journalist said that only Theresa May’s husband, Phillip May, agrees with the withdrawal agreement proposed by the government.
“She offered us a deal that was better than no deal. It’s even worse than remaining in the EU,” she said.
‘This is probably the worst deal in the world’
However, Bradley said that although the deal “is no perfect,” it “protects jobs.”
“If you don’t vote for it, you vote for chaos,” she warned. “We’re undoing 45 years of economic history,” said the cabinet member. I
“It’s not an easy thing to do. Let’s be clear. We will leave the EU in March. We will end free movement,” she added.
However, Lewis said that Labour still has plans to push for a general election.
“The document on our future is all waffle and piffle,” he said. “May has alienated constituents.
She served red meat to her Brexiteers. She punched through, and comprehensively failed to bring the country together.
She’s driven them further apart. Only Labour can bring them back together.”
Businessman and former Labour London assembly member Trevor Phillips said that although he was a remainer, a deal needed to be “struck for the people.”
“The current situation is holding jobs hostage. Everyone treats the people on the other side of the Brexit debate as morally deficient. I voted remain, but people who voted leave just made a different judgement. We need to stop saying people are evil.” We lost, I accept it, but this is probably the worst deal in the world.”
Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said that May has played Brexit “with dignity and tenacity.”
“There’s 60 million people with different opinions. I voted to leave. It’s not what I wanted but it’s a deal worth taking,” he added.
This story first featured on our sister site the i.