Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
Tory minister struggles to answer how he was personally affected by austerity
8 December 2019, 14:06
The caller repeatedly asked if Brandon Lewis was personally affected by austerity - but the minister struggled to answer it concisely.
A caller asked whether austerity was necessity or ideological.
Brandon Lewis replied: "It was a necessity in the sense that we're not going to shy away from the fact we had as a government those tough decisions to make in 2010 because the economy was in a really bad place. Now, borrowing levels were too high. Some people would argue we never had austerity in some ways because quite a lot of areas, like the NHS, continued to see increases in investment."
The caller then asked: "Can I just ask you, then, Mr. Lewis, how did austerity affect you personally?"
The caller said that his wife, as a WASPI woman, was affected.
He added: "People around social services and council services, it affected them. People on benefits, it affected them. How did it affect you?"
The caller asked again: "How did it affect you?"
Brandon Lewis said: "Well, like all of us, I pay council tax the local authority so anybody who was affected by changes in what local authorities offer was affected.
"But I have to say I'm very fortunate that in Great Yarmouth, we had a really well run, at that point a 2010 Conservative council that managed to continue to deliver all those services.
But I've not been on benefits or anything like that so I've not had any experience in that sense, no."
The caller said: "So you were not affected? So when you said hard decisions, it was hard decisions which affected other people but didn't affect you personally."
Lewis said: "Well, yeah, but that doesn't make them not difficult decisions to make when you're changing things, reducing funding for things.
That is always a difficult decision as a politician, the easy thing to do is to continue to invest, give people everything they want, but we had to make tough decisions."
The caller then said: "You make tough decisions which affect the poorest in our society and don't affect the richest in society but it didn't affect you personally, I assume.
So you're just confirming that it did not affect you personally. That's all I wanted to know, that's answered my question."