Brexit: a callous attack on those least able to bear it

The collision of stories in the last few days sends a shiver down the spine. At Christmas, there are grinding stories of real poverty, and of the super rich who donated to the Leave campaign complaining at HMRC asking them to pay their taxes.

Early last autumn I blogged about Brexit as a new class war — already by then it was seeming like a cynical attempt of a wealthy minority to mobilise the frustrations of the most disadvantaged to vote in a way that helped the wealthy minority. I hesitate to lay that at the door of the Conservatives because that is a deep betrayal of the “one nation conservatism”, which deserves respect, and took us into the EU, displaced by something far nastier.

Just before Christmas there was the story of a grandmother dependent on donated food and unable to give presents. That could be claimed to be a one-off, as each individual story of poverty is unique. But there do seem to be rather a lot of these stories.

Then there was a story of “the establishment’s tax revenge” on donors to the Leave campaign. Except that it’s nothing of the sort. Reading the article, it appears that HMRC are just applying their rules. The “bias” appears to be because the affect individuals making substantial donations. It highlights the fact that a small number of very wealthy people made substantial donations to Leave. This is perfectly legal, and was their choice. But one has to ask whether this super-wealthy paying to ensure that the voices of the “left behind” we’re heard, or paying to get what meets their own interests.

This is against the background of deepening poverty in the UK. We’ve also seen serious concern at increased homelessness, coming on the back of a very moving speech on poverty from Frank Field in the Commons, which moved the Conservstive MP Heidi Allen to tears. Then today an extroadinary Twitter exchange, where David Gauke posted:

#UniversalCredit is working well but inaccurate claims that claimants are not getting timely support are causing unnecessary anxiety.

Tim Farron injected realism and honesty by replying:

David, this is a load of rot! The people in abject poverty, using food banks, who I see in my surgery are not suffering from ‘inaccurate claims’ they are suffering from an underfunded system, implemented badly. Accept responsibility and fix it!

(the use of food banks is up in areas with Universal Credit)

Showings that this mentality is not confined to the UK, Donald Trump owed a great deal of his electoral success to mobilising those in the US who have suffered financially. But instead of delivering for them in government, his widely-reported comment to wealthy supporters at Mar-a-lago was “you all just got a lot richer“, with analyst suggesting that he had personally gained $15 million.

On both sides of the Atlantic it sounds those who have suffered economically have been duped into voting in a way that benefits a coterie of the wealthy at their expense.

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