Alex Chalk joined what seemed an orchestrated chorus of Tory MPs in parliament in the no confidence debate yesterday, by equating social progress with Tory economic policy. He intervened in Johnny Mercer’s speech to claim that social mobility can only exist under the Tories, and that Labour would bankrupt the country.
But Alex might like to reflect on his Cheltenham seat. Ordinary people feel anything but prosperous, and independence from their parents, let alone ‘social mobility’, seem empty words for most working people. In October the BBC reported how ‘shop manager Morgan Twyning’ and her partner had ‘moved in with his parents in order to save, as rent would have taken up most of their salary’. Meanwhile her friends ‘definitely struggle. A lot of their money is used up in just their rent alone,” she said.’
Perhaps though the Tories can in another way truly be called the party of social mobility, though not in a positive sense… In Cheltenham, like everywhere else, there has been a huge rise in homelessness over the past few years. And what does the word ‘social’ or society even mean when so many people have to ignore those who have no parental homes to retreat to, and who sleep on the street, for instance, outside the new House of Fraser in the middle of Cheltenham? In Alex’s constituency, ‘Caring for Communities and People’ have seen 287 people who are homeless or facing homelessness with 1,500 people seriously affected by financial issues. Senior advisor Chris Lowry said: “People believe that Cheltenham is an affluent town with no social problems. However, every day we see people in our waiting room who are either homeless or within a few days of being so.”
Alex Chalk may like his moment in the Commons limelight but his comments – which could have been spouted by any Tory in the last forty years – appear glib and unreflective of life under this Tory government in Cheltenham.