The UK government is set to increase the national minimum wage in an attempt to win over voters who are struggling financially. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, will announce the wage hike during the Conservative Party’s annual conference. The hourly rate for workers aged 23 and older will rise from £10.42 to at least £11 in April 2024, benefiting over 2 million workers. The exact amount will be determined by the Low Pay Commission, an advisory body.
Hunt will also pledge to tighten the rules on social benefits to address the rising number of working-age people leaving the workforce, a trend that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. He will argue that those who refuse to seek employment should not receive the same benefits as those actively seeking work.
The Conservative Party aims to appeal to voters with these measures ahead of the next national election, which is scheduled for 2024. However, the government’s ability to spend is restricted due to the UK’s sluggish economy and high inflation, which reached double digits last year and currently stands just below 7%.
While the Conservative Party has been in power since 2010, recent opinion polls show them trailing behind the center-left opposition Labour Party. The public is weary after enduring political turmoil surrounding Brexit, the pandemic, and a cost-of-living crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who assumed office less than a year ago, is facing criticism and rebellion from some Conservative members and lawmakers. Sunak, known for stabilizing the economy after his predecessor Liz Truss’s short tenure, is grappling with doubts about his ability to regain the party’s popularity. The Conservatives won an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons in 2019 but have since faced scandals and controversies, leading to Boris Johnson’s resignation in 2022.
To regain momentum, Sunak has introduced several measures aimed at alleviating the economic burden on taxpayers. These include delaying a ban on selling new gas and diesel cars and softening other green initiatives that were deemed costly for ordinary people. However, critics argue that these measures will have little impact on individuals’ finances and hinder the UK’s progress towards achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, various party members and officials are positioning themselves for a potential leadership contest in the event of an election defeat. Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch are seeking support from the party’s populist right wing, emphasizing tough immigration restrictions and opposition to liberal social values. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is popular among centrist Conservatives.
Liz Truss, who stepped down in disgrace less than a year ago, is also present at the conference. Despite her controversial plan for unfunded tax cuts, which caused concern in financial markets, Truss is calling for a revival of Conservative values such as reducing bureaucracy, lowering taxes, and trusting in market solutions.
The Conservative Party conference in Manchester will span four days and serves as a crucial opportunity for members to debate policy and shape the party’s direction in the run-up to the next election.
More detail via Daily Mail Online here… ( Image via Daily Mail Online )