News | Published February 25 2020

Kirsten Oswald MP: Scotland deserves better than Boris

Prime Minister’s Questions is the highlight of the parliamentary week. MPs bob up and down to catch the speaker’s eye as the prime minister and party leaders trade soundbites in parallel conversations aimed mainly at the media.

If a prime minister is under pressure, sometimes a crack opens in the defences. When this occurs, we all see the attitudes and motivations at the heart of government. One such occasion happened when I asked the prime minister a relatively simple question about his government’s catchphrase “levelling up”.

This catchphrase targets former Labour voters who switched to the Conservatives in December. Quite rightly, they now expect the government to address the scourge of inequality. 

Many who now sit on the Tory benches spent decades blaming the EU for every conceivable ill. The challenge they now face is to demonstrate that they have any idea how to respond to the concerns of these voters.

Having gained the opportunity to ask a question, I highlighted proposals to increase the daily allowance paid to members of the House of Lords from £313 to £323. This provides members with an annual tax-free boost to their income of up to £48,000. I contrasted this with the monthly allowance for a single person on Universal Credit, which is just £317. I asked the prime minister if this was the levelling up he keeps talking about.

Many who now sit on the Tory benches spent decades blaming the EU for every conceivable ill.

The prime minister answered as though he had been hit with a verbal Rorschach test. In an answer of less than thirty words, he revealed more than he intended about what it is that makes him, in the eyes of many, unfit to be prime minister. 

He failed to condemn the decision to increase the allowance for the House of Lords, describing it only as “odd”. Nor did he have any words of comfort or concern for those reliant on the increasingly discredited Universal Credit. 

Indeed, his only point of substance was that the House of Lords was entitled to increase the allowance paid to its members.

As he struggled to find a coherent response to my simple question, the prime minister dismissed myself and my SNP colleagues – who represent 80 per cent of Scottish seats in the House of Commons – describing us condescendingly as “these people”. 

Now, the prime minister’s disdain for the Scots is well known – in particular thanks to an extraordinarily rude poem he wrote on the subject – but such knee-jerk rudeness demonstrates why Scotland needs to be on its guard.

“These people” in Scotland deserve far better.

As the prime minister and his followers cast around for ways to meet the expectations of the North and Midlands, he clearly regards Scotland as “fair game”, but will defend to the last the budgets that serve the interests of the powerful and privileged. “These people” in Scotland deserve far better.

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Authored by

Kirsten Oswald
Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire
February 25 2020

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