When the prime minister was asked if he could live on £118 a week, he swerved the question
If ever there was the perfect politicans’ answer, it was Boris Johnson’s response to being quizzed on universal credit. And no, he wasn’t asked to directly defend the “disastrous decision” to slash it next month, leaving an estimated 600,000 people struggling to buy food. He was asked whether what is left – £118 a week, the standard allowance for a couple over 25 – would be enough for him to live on.
是的, he personally, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, he of the £840-a-roll wallpaper that keeps falling down; he of the “working staycation” in the West Country and the £15,000 trip to the Caribbean at Christmas (but that one’s OK, 我想, because it was free). 那 鲍里斯·约翰逊. 可以 那 Boris Johnson live on £118 a week? The question was posed by reporters and by god did he answer it. 仅有的… not in the way anyone wanted him to. Colour us surprised.
What the prime minister actually said when quizzed on whether he – Boris Johnson of 10 唐宁街, of Eton and Oxford, of the £157,372-a-year salary (plus an estimated £10,000 to £20,000 from book royalties), of the £1.3m Camberwell townhouse, of the £1.2m home in Oxfordshire rented out for £4,250 a month, 的 20 per cent stake in property near the Johnson family estate in Somerset – could survive on little more than a hundred quid a week, was nothing much at all, 真的.
实际上, the prime minister blustered thus: “I have every sympathy for people who are finding it tough, I really, really do – but we have to recognise that in order to maintain the Covid uplift you’ve got to find another £5-6bn in tax. That has got to come out of some people’s pockets.”
Hmmm, it’s always interesting when politicans talk about “pockets”. It gives a sort of rakish, Oliver Twist impression; as though you could scrabble around, turn the lining inside out and come up with an easy £20 in loose change. This is an intentional “it’s only 20 quid” diminishing; a purposeful, casual reframing to reduce the impact of the loss of the £20 uplift, which is predicted to plunge half a million more people into poverty, 包括 200,000 children. And this, all this, coming just as we are about to enter a gritty winter of discontent, with soaring energy bills and warnings of similarly soaring poverty.
Johnson went on: “Then I would just point out that the best solution is to continue to invest in people’s skills, to make sure that they are getting the type of jobs that reward their hard work – and you’re starting to see that, you’re starting to see wages go up, and that’s what we want to see.”
That’s all well and good, prime minister (would you rather not talk about the cost of living crisis as the end of the Covid furlough scheme for workers approaches, coinciding with inflation hitting 3.2 百分? 不? Okay, 然后), can we please get back to the – ah, this is getting awkward – question? Fat chance. 根据 镜子, he swerved being asked if he – actual he, Boris Johnson – could survive on £118 a week, once again repeating: “It means that we want to support families in the best possible way.”
仍然, perhaps the real problem is bothering to ask the question in the first place – for it’s really just another incarnation of the classic conundrum oft-posed to politicians to show up their cluelessness about the lives of ordinary Britons: “所以, minister, how much does a pint of milk cost?”. Johnson once wasn’t too sure about that one – but he did know the price of a bottle of champagne, which won’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Let’s face facts: we all know that Boris Johnson wouldn’t (and couldn’t) live off £118 a week, and he’ll never have to. Asking a question like that of a man like Boris Johnson, to somehow “shame” him into realising what he’s asking thousands of British people to put up with, simply doesn’t work, because if he felt shame – true shame – or guilt, or remorse, then he wouldn’t be slashing universal credit in the first place.