David Cameron is facing calls to experience the “human cost” of his party’s looming welfare cuts by meeting disabled benefit claimants, volunteering at a food bank and living on the minimum wage.
He has been challenged in an open letter written by a vicar in Manchester, which has been shared more than 75,000 times since it was posted on Facebook on Saturday.
Rev Mike Walsh, from the United Reformed Church, wrote that although the Tories won a working majority in Parliament, the party does not “command a majority of the British people”.
“Although our political views are very much at odds on many issues, I'm willing to believe that you are a good man, as sure of your ideals as I am of mine, and believe your plan is what's best for us all,” he wrote.
“You said today that you will govern for the whole country and bring back together that which has clearly fractured. I hope you will.”
Rev Walsh wrote that the 63 per cent of voters who did not support the Conservatives were not all part of the “loony left”, nationalists or extremists, but merely “scared”.
He continued: “Scared of what your policies will do to our communities and families. Scared of what will happen to our health service and our schools.
“Scared of losing our family homes for the sake of a few quid saving from the bedroom tax, or not being able to heat our home and have enough left to buy food.”
Iain Duncan Smith, who implemented many of the Coalition’s most controversial policies, has been made Work and Pensions Secretary again for the latest round of cuts.
His first five years in the job were marked by deep issues with the roll-out of Universal Credit system and anger over changes to disability payments
Another £12 billion of reductions to the welfare budget are yet to come.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
Rev Walsh wrote that although he agreed that work was the best way out of poverty and no one able to work should be supported indefinitely by the state, Tory policies did not take into account the “social and human cost” of cuts.
“The country isn't a business, it's its people. All its people,” he said. “And you are everyone's Prime Minister whether we voted for you or not.”
The vicar listed suggestions of how the Mr Cameron could understand the impact of his policies, including meeting people on zero hours contracts and those hit by the “bedroom tax”.
He challenged Mr Cameron to meet disabled welfare claimants in Liverpool and families living in poverty in Newcastle, volunteer at a food bank or try living on the minimum wage himself.
“Then, Prime Minister, you might begin to understand the cost of your policies from the other side, to see people as more than their net contribution to the economy, or as deliberate drains on the system,” he wrote.
“If you do that, then maybe you can heal some of the fractures in our society. Without this I just don't believe you can see just how crucial these issues are.”
Rev Walsh said he had been left “deeply moved, humbled, weeping and inspired” by the huge response to his letter, which was also sent directly to Downing Street.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has not yet responded to The Independent’s request for a comment.