TEHRAN (Iran News) –The UK ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference in the city of Birmingham has been met with huge protests with MPs requiring police protection to escort them into the conference hall as public anger boils over the rising cost of living crisis and falling living standards.
Amid chants such as “say it loud say it clear – Tories are not welcome here” and “Tax the rich not the poor, we won’t take it anymore”, it became clear this government has all but lost its popularity with more and more reports emerging of party infighting.
As one former deputy prime minister, Damian Green warned, the Conservatives will lose the next general election if “we end up painting ourselves as the party of the rich” before admitting that this conference “is more difficult” than the many others he has attended over the past 40 years. This, after last week the government introduced very controversial tax cuts for the wealthiest in society while doing very little to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and vowing to crack down on strike action by trade unions.
A police escort was needed to guard the cabinet minister Jacob Rees Mogg as he made his way to the conference hall. The Business Secretary was heckled and chased by an angry crowd. Another MP, Michael Fabricant, was among other party members who required extra police officers for protection, amid reports he was attacked. Fabricant says the demonstrators “shouted abuse”.
One protester told local media that “since Liz Truss has taken office it seems that everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. She’s so ideological with her beliefs. It seems she doesn’t care about anything else other than these tax cuts for the rich and where do they come from – public spending. Our transport will get worse; our NHS will get worse.”
“I think the mood of the country is changing. You look at polls. You see the mood of people. I think we’re going to be heard and hopefully we will see a General Election and kick them out.”
The People’s Assembly, is among the groups leading the protests alongside the Trades Union Congress (TUC). The People’s Assembly describes itself as a broad united national campaign against austerity, cuts and privatization in workplaces, community and welfare services, based on general agreement with the signatories.
The protest organizers said: “This is the first opportunity we have had to confront the new government and show the strength of feeling amongst working people.”
As millions of people are suffering from inflation, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled a mini-budget which cut the highest rate of tax and removed the cap on bankers’ bonuses. The Tories are the party of the rich, and they are proud of it. Read our response to the budget.
“The Tories want to restart fracking, which had been abandoned in the face of public resistance and environmental concerns. They intend to continue their racist policy of sending refugees to Rwanda.”
“In response to the cost of living crisis and the government’s total lack of interest in how it is driving working people into destitution, the unions are resisting. The strikes on the railways have turned Mick Lynch (trade unionist and General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) into a popular hero and postal workers, telecoms workers and dockers are all involved in strike action.”
Prime Minister Liz Truss is trying her best to reassure her party and the public by acknowledging she should have done more to “lay the ground” for an economic plan that saw the pound fall to record lows, government borrowing costs soar and markets panicking.
Truss who has been in office for less than a month is already under intense pressure, as opinion polls suggest the public does not accept her pleas to support households during what is set to be a difficult winter and beyond amid an economic crisis.
Many economists have slammed her package of tax-cutting measures which will only benefit the rich while ensuring the poor continue to suffer from record inflation levels. Traders and investors have rejected her arguments in defense of the package as a reason for the falls in the pound and the increase in borrowing costs last week.
Even Conservative lawmakers worry the government package and the new Prime Minister’s first major policy in office will hurt their chances at the next general election due in 2024. Truss has not denied that the plan will require spending cuts for public services while refusing to commit to increasing financial benefits in line with rising inflation.
However, the most severe criticism is aimed at endorsing a tax cut plan for the wealthiest and who will pay for the borrowing. Critics say it essentially means the future generation will pay for the new package with their tax money on top of all the tax money that is going to the wars the UK has waged and is currently engaged in.
Truss is struggling to answer questions on whether scrapping some taxes would have to be paid for with cuts to public services.
Asked what she was doing to ease concerns in Britain about the impact of her plan on mortgages, loan, and rental costs, Truss said she understood the “worries” but defied any changes to help the poor. She said, “I do stand by the package we announced, and I stand by the fact that we announced it quickly because we had to act, but I do accept that we should have laid the ground better.”
Even one former minister, Michael Gove, rubbished the government’s plans to abolish the highest 45% level of income tax, hinting he might vote against it, and Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of Birmingham, said he would not have made that policy.
“It is going to be very, very difficult to argue it’s okay to reduce welfare payments when we are cutting taxes for the richest,” Gove told an event at the conference. In more signs of party infighting, Truss argued the decision on the top tax cut for the wealthy was taken by her finance minister, the chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.
There is now increasing concern of a return to government austerity measures after cabinet minister Simon Clarke warned of the “very large welfare state” and the need to “trim the fat”.
Again the government is being accused of going after the poor instead of focusing on the rich. Research shows the UK has an extremely high level of income inequality compared to other wealthy countries.
Critics argue the problem lies with the lack of democracy in the country’s electoral process. The public did not elect Liz Truss just like the public did not elect Boris Johnson to represent them. Truss was elected as prime minister by just 81,000 people who are Conservative Party members. She does not represent the British public.
And by the actions of the public in the home city of the Conservative Party, the British public do not want a Prime Minister who represents the rich and admits that it does not bother her if she is “not popular”.
In a fresh poll, Truss and the Tories’ approval ratings have again plummeted. The poll conducted by Opinium showed 55% of voters disapprove of the new prime minister and just 18% approve, which is worse than Boris Johnson’s final days in office. The survey came just before the Conservative Party conference kicked off.