In George Osborne’s budget yesterday – titled the ‘makers, doers and savers’ package – the Chancellor announced that there would be 1p off the duty attached to a pint of beer and that bingo halls would have their duty halved to 10%
Then, last night, the Conservative party Chairman Grant Shapps ‘took to twitter’ to launch the above celebratory advert, which illustrated once again that the Tories were the party of ‘hard working people.’
The crassness of the sentiments proved immediately embarrassing to the coalition. Appearing on Newsnight Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, admitted that he originally thought the ad a spoof and that it was all rather ‘patronising’. Simon Blackwell, one of writers on the BBC’s scathing political satire The Thick of It was quoted in the Telegraph as saying that if the ad was suggested as a script idea for the show it would have been rejected as being “too far-fetched”
It is the use of the word ‘they’ in the context of ‘to help hard working people to do more of the things they enjoy’ which really grates. It is condescending and crass and indicates that the audience for this message is really the die – hard Tory faithful who are actually entirely removed from this (supposed) working class culture. Implicit in the statement is the explicit reality – there is an us and them culture in the UK. As Labour MP Tom Watson put it: What the Tories mean is you drink your beer and play your bingo while we eat swans and count our money.
More than this, there is a further layer of separation which is the continued fixation of the government on ‘hardworking people’. What about those outside of the sphere of this obviously indefinable soundbite? The budget, and the welfare cuts generally, have been sold to the country on the basis that we have a deserving and undeserving population. Those 4 million scrounging families that we read about are presented as stealing from those that need it most – their near neighbours. As I’ve written before the underlying inequalities of modern capitalism are barely explored as the chancellor announces that Britain must make £25bn more welfare cuts in 2014. But that’s OK – if you’re one of the hard working ‘they’ there’s a penny off a pint and a seat waiting for you down at the bingo.