Journal column - 11/6/19


Beyond the recent revelations made by some Tories who want to be Prime Minister, those with healthy bodies would be forgiven for wondering if Theresa May got out of bed every morning determined to do her very worst.

That the worst Prime Minister since her predecessor, David Cameron, appears to genuinely think she was doing her best will leave many of us shuddering at how much worse the wheat field tearaway must think it could've been.

Her failed Brexit will be May's political legacy, the tribal Tory playing a poor hand unforgivably badly by offering herself as a prisoner of the likes of Boris Johnson who wanted, and might yet get, her job.

Johnson calculatedly ruffles his hair for the TV cameras to distract from his hardline ideological Toryism by attempting to appear a jolly japer.

Few people fall for Johnson's clown act these days and laugh at, not with, a Tory MP who views the North as a foreign land to be starved of investment.

Johnson isn't interested in detail, preferring to jabber in Latin or Greek than make sense in English when he knows he will be called out.

Educated way beyond his usefulness, the calamity that is Universal Credit is, alas, unlikely to capture the attention of a privileged Conservative born into pomposity.

Universal Credit's a monster, what was billed as a simplification of benefits is driving folk to despair and cutting gaping holes in an already threadbare welfare state.

At a time when almost three million children in the UK endured the biggest jump in poverty for nearly three decades, the Trussell Trust charity's found foodbank use climbed by half where Universal Credit's imposed.

Here in the North East the more than 88,000 emergency food parcels distributed over the past year is a harrowing condemnation of a failed system.

The state looking the other way when people go hungry or can't afford the rent is a Conservative privileged elite born to misrule inflicting misery on working people with no concern given from a Tory establishment living in ivory towers.

The grim reality of what was billed as their flagship welfare reform is Universal Credit plunging tenants into rent arrears, people unable to afford gas and electricity bills and, of course, Foodbanks becoming a new volunteer welfare state supported by communities.

Universal Credit's running up huge rent areas with the average £662 under Universal Credit owed on South Tyneside nearly £170 per person higher than the £494 debts of those still paid old-style housing benefit.

In the Gateshead area an average of £283 was owed before Universal Credit's more than doubled to £583 which is primarily the fault of a Conservative Government creating May-hem, not the tenants or council.

Across the North East there are now 116,000 people on Universal Credit and the sorry story of delayed and incorrect payments is repeated, with Tory propaganda financed by our taxes about how wonderful the drive is supposed to be nothing but a bad joke.

Had Tory Ministers devoted as much effort to making Universal Credit work as they do pretending it works, a lot of families would be happier and justice would be served.

Rising poverty, with most of those poor in low waged jobs with pay packets squeezed by Tory poverty, is a legacy that should see vicar's daughter Theresa May hang her head in shame.

She wept for herself like Margaret Thatcher but let us save our sympathy for her victims, people whose lives were made worse not better during the outgoing PM's depressing three years in Downing Street.



Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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