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FROM AUSTERITY TO EUROPE. HAVE CONSERVATIVES LOST THE PLOT?

7 weeks away from the EU referendum and on the verge of losing the London mayoral race, the Conservative Party is on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Massimo Morelli reports.

Twelve months after winning the general elections, David Cameron’s Conservative Party has come under fire over following backlash over its economic policies and a string of financial scandals.

Since coming into power in 2010, the austerity measures announced by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did little to curb government spending. Public debt has continued relentlessly to rise; budget deficit is still wide whilst the goal of achieving a surplus by 2020 is now looking increasingly unlikely.

The Conservative Government has attracted criticisms for selling off public assets at knockdown prices (Royal Mail and RBS), in addition to committing billions of taxpayers’ money in wasteful investments, such as the nuclear plant at Hinckley and the Trident programme.

In the meantime, welfare reforms, aimed at simplifying the housing and benefit systems through universal credit, have proven to be ineffective, expensive and unfair.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is said to employ over 3,000 officers to tackle benefits fraud whilst the HMRC only had 300 officers investigating tax evasion. Yet, almost £30 billion worth of tax revenues are lost every year whereas benefit frauds are estimated to cost ‘only’ £1 billion.

The mastermind of DWP policies, Iain Duncan Smith, was recently affected by a sudden moral awakening and resigned in protest over further cuts to the weekly allowance for disabled people. The resignation follows the former minister’s decision to support the Brexit campaign, a move which highlights turmoil within the Conservative Party over the Government’s pro-EU stance.

The growing dissatisfaction over the Prime Minister is tearing the so-called Bullingdon Club apart, with Boris Johnson, soon-to-be former Mayor of London, openly challenging David Cameron for the top job.

But how did we get to this EU quagmire?

In order to please the Eurosceptic Tories, in the election manifesto Cameron pledged to stage a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

He then used the referendum as a bargaining chip to renegotiate the British position in the EU.

Although the deal was rather dull – comprising some allowances on EU citizens receiving UK benefits and the guarantee to opt out of any further monetary or political integration – Cameron claimed it to be a stunning masterpiece of diplomacy.

The Government initially deployed the so-called Project Fear to persuade Britain to stay in Europe, a propaganda strategy which proved successful in the case of Scottish Independence Referendum.

Then they tried to convey a positive pro-European message by spending more than £9 million on an anti-Brexit leaflet which was sent to every UK household.

However, the timing was unfortunate as the postal campaign happened the same week the Panama Papers scandal hit the press. Several Tory party members were named, including the Prime Minister’s deceased father who, for several years, used a company specialising in setting up offshore tax avoidance schemes.

After evading personal questions about the matter, Mr Cameron eventually admitted that he had also gained from his father’s tax free offshore investments.

The First-Past-the-Post electoral system, which prevents a multipolar political structure in Britain, has so far been the miracle superglue keeping the Tories ‘all in it together’. However, this may well change at the end of June.

No matter what the outcome of the EU referendum is, the Tories are in danger of imploding, or worse still, compromising Britain’s long-term prospects.

 

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