Conservatives' mini-budget: Rewarding the rich, while punishing the poor is immoral – Ewan Aitken

After last week’s ‘non-budget budget’, I wrote on Twitter: “Today the richest five per cent are £8,560 better off. Ending the 45p tax rate for the richest 660,000 cost £2bn. Those earning £1m a year save £42,500 in tax; the national average wage is only £25,971. The poorest households are on average just £230 better off. How is this creating a fair, just society for all?”
Liz Truss needs to think about the message her policies are sending to the country (Picture: Rob Pinney/Getty Images)Liz Truss needs to think about the message her policies are sending to the country (Picture: Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Liz Truss needs to think about the message her policies are sending to the country (Picture: Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

Apparently rich people need more money to incentivise them to do more, whereas those struggling with poverty need the threat of less money to “work harder”. This is immoral at its very core and about as out of touch with the reality of poverty as it’s possible to be

You might say “well, Ewan would say that”, given my politics, but, even with my acknowledged very different views to the present Westminster leadership’s, I believe this is a fair criticism.

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Leadership is about more than just the decisions leaders make, it’s about the messages they send in those decisions, the values they espouse. We all want to know what matters to our leaders and in particular, whether we and the people and things we care about matter to them.

For me, what matters is the power of community, compassion for people who are suffering, and care for our planet. In everything we do, I fundamentally believe we should treat others as we would want to be treated.

I believe the planet is under existential threat by our present economic system, which mistakes the wealth gained from selling things for what is truly valuable – a healthy, cared-for environment where value is measured not by a price tag on everything but in whether we and the generations following us can flourish together.

The message of the non-budget budget – how can you trust leaders who won’t even be honest about whether something is or isn’t a budget?! – is that rich people should be rewarded for being rich, and those in poverty should be blamed and punished for their circumstances.

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Is this the society we want to live in? Is this a society committed to justice and fairness?

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In recent conversations about the current crisis, I have heard about people turning off vital medical equipment because they can’t afford the electricity, and children not attending school because their parents can’t afford to run the washing machine to clean their uniform or give them money for lunch.

None of them, nor the millions of others struggling to simply live, will be helped by the non-budget budget. Instead they are to be ‘incentivised to work more’ by threatening the removal of the little support they have. I wonder if this is how those in power would want to be treated, were they in need of support?

The art of leadership requires knowing and living your values. That is the moral compass which shapes every decision a leader makes, and how they inspire others to do the same.

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In fact, it‘s a prerequisite for us all. Living our values helps us discover what is valuable and it can give us the courage to treat everyone, neighbour or stranger, as we would want to be treated. What values, though, have the government shown in this budget? And what future will those values create?

Ewan Aitken is CEO of Cyrenians

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