Politicians Out of Touch With Cost of Living Concerns
In the last 12 months alone, the government tanked the economy, handed out new oil and gas contracts to friends and failed to declare blatant conflicts of interest, amongst many other financial issues. Is it any wonder that the latest YouGov report from The Bottom Line indicates fewer than 1 in 4 people believe solving the cost of living crisis is a priority for the two main political parties?
The report was split into different demographics, including two main ones that are often targeted by the parties: Workington man and Stevenage woman. The former is largely composed of older voters in the north, while the latter is made up of campaign strategists and younger and more economically insecure people in the suburbs.
According to the report, which consisted of 2,000 people, only 23% of Labour voters believed tackling the cost of living crisis was a priority. For the Conservatives, this dropped to 21%. Behind the NHS, as the second biggest concern facing voters, concerns over energy bills are rising as no government support has been outlined for this winter. A mere 15% of people believed they knew what either of the two parties would do.
The policies most in favour across all demographics were those that cut energy prices, raised the minimum wage and reduced housing costs. Tax cuts came out less in favour than any of these key issues, which puts the policy of Trussonomics to bed (not least because the trickle down effect doesn’t work).
Critically, The Bottom Line acknowledged that Rishi Sunak had highlighted the target of halving inflation by the end of the year, but specified that there was very little meat on the bones when it came to any policy surrounding this. The main concern was that current government policy indicates the crisis needs to worsen in order to bring down inflation, which means more rising interest rates and falling real incomes.
The majority of people are fixated on a two party system, but Labour didn’t come out much better in the report. Indicating that there was little to offer as a meaningful or tangible benefit in the way of policy, there would be no immediate benefit for voters. Living standards aren’t being targeted by either party, which would require calls for insulation and renewables investment.
A massive 14% swing in voters was found with bolder policies to directly tackle the cost of living crisis in the Stevenage woman demographic. With Workington man voters, policies to lower energy prices were more than three times more likely to be appealing, compared to introducing tax cuts.
Politics aside, the real danger here is that the government hasn’t indicated genuine concerns for the electorate’s priorities. While parties will often blame each other for problems, there’s nothing stopping politicians from taking up multiple jobs and lining their pockets. A mere 90 Conservative MPs earned a staggering £4.75 million in the last year alone, while Boris Johnson earned an additional £4.8 million. Despite MPs historically having been encouraged to have a separate career alongside politics, public opinion is not in favour of this, least of all in a cost of living crisis.
One of the dangers here is that politicians have become so desensitised to the value of money that they no longer appear to care about how the public feels. Various polls and surveys highlight how disenchanted any party seems to be. When the Prime Minister himself fails to declare conflicts of interest in financial deals where his family is concerned, without any repercussions, it’s no wonder that the electorate has lost all faith.
It’s not only the financials that are concerns with voters either as MPs are quick to take to Twitter (X) and cause trouble online. Jonathan Gullis called his constituents “scrotes” and “scumbags”, while Nadine Dorries was quick to make fun of someone’s lack of followers, before spending more time “resigning with immediate effect” than Liz Truss spent as Prime Minister. Lee Anderson even criticised nurses for using food banks.
What the future has in store for the government tackling the cost of living crisis, only time will tell.