Conservative governments borrow most, despite illusion of economic prudence

By Savi Hensman
March 15, 2016

The Conservative Party has borrowed more than its Labour opponents when in power, Tax Research UK has revealed. It appears to be an illusion (however widely held) that the party now in power is financially prudent, and that is why it is slashing public services and social security.

Over the 70 years of the post-World War Two period, Conservative governments have borrowed £22.9 billion per year on average, compared with £17.4 billion under Labour. The difference is even greater in 2014 prices.

At the same time, Labour has repaid more of the national debt.

The Conservative Party also borrowed more for each year in office (in real terms) when the period after the 2008 global financial crisis was excluded.

The current UK leadership’s appeal to electors is largely that it is seen as better at running the economy. Numerous economists have pointed out that, in reality, its actions have delayed economic recovery. Now it would appear that, even in terms of a narrow focus on reducing debt, it is weaker.

Policies that have left communities badly damaged, and individuals cold, hungry and sometimes dead, are not prudent, even in the most basic sense. Austerity’s promises are hollow.

Meanwhile tax cuts and loopholes have helped to shift wealth to the super-rich and big corporations, at the expense of people on low and middle incomes. So have policies which have boosted the profits of property companies and major landlords, while leaving many without affordable homes and resulting in social cleansing.

One reason why this sleight-of-hand has persisted is that so much of the media has bought into it. However Labour is also to blame. It has not done enough to challenge the notion that being just and merciful is somehow extravagant.

However no illusion can be sustained for ever. It is increasingly clear that inflicting harm on sick, disabled, low-waged and unemployed people, damaging public services and neighbourly bonds does not boost the economy – rather the opposite. Propaganda from the powers-that-be cannot substitute for truth.


© Savitri Hensman is a widely-published Christian commentator on politics, religion, welfare and allied topics. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the care and equalities sector.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.