Austerity affected my life as it did millions of others. I was a signed up member of the Liberal Democrat party but almost left the party over it. I voted for the Green Party in 2015. I was sick and tired of hearing Nick Clegg spin austerity as ‘grown up politics’ and admonish those in the party who vehemently disagreed with the direction the party was taking in coalition.
I couldn’t bear reading about the tragic consequences of austerity. The sick people who had to keep applying for jobs, stories of people being sanctioned and the reduction in household income which affected children.
My story of how austerity affected me pales in comparison to others but it is an example of how middle class middle income earners felt the pinch too. As one example, my credit card debt level partly increased during austerity because I would not have been able to give my child the nice things in life otherwise. While not everyone under austerity had to choose between heating or eating, some still had (less serious) choices to make and mine was to increase my personal debt to several levels above my income. It’s all very well for politicians to tell people to live within their means. As a mother, I didn’t want to look back one day and wish I had done some things and we are not talking about designer clothes and shoes or Avocados.
During the coalition years I watched Jo Swinson toe the party line without a moments hesitation.
Fast forward to present day. Brexit has become the pivot of all British politics. Political loyalty is now affixed to whether one is a Remainer or Leaver. There is only one political choice if one’s a Remainer – Liberal Democrat. While the Green Party is a Remain party too it, somehow, comes across as a party that is best placed to act in a secondary position in some type of alliance arrangement with another Remain party. Jeremy Corbyn has missed too many opportunities to equate Brexit with austerity despite showing a rare level of understanding among politicians for those who live lives impacted by it.
Jo Swinson has apologised for the bedroom tax and for not trying harder to oppose Employment Tribunal fees during the coalition years. Truth be known, the conditions for austerity were set in motion before the coalition years. Labour under Tony Blair were edging towards being closer to the Tory party than to previous Labour governments. They voted for austerity too during the coalition years as a party even if Jeremy Corbyn didn’t.
Lisa Nandy, Labour MP, has written this: ” Is Jo Swinson, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, a hero or a villain? “ Politics is a moving dynamic that is reactive at any one time to what is going on. Consequently, I doubt that a binary answer can be given given that Brexit is the overriding question for now.
The bigger question for me is whether the Lib Dems, under Jo Swinson, will fight against any future public spending cuts that may happen. Without a doubt, her record during the coalition years of voting in favour of austerity will be a constant criticism that Jo will have to answer for.