Gordon Brown: Poverty under Theresa May will be worse than under Margaret Thatcher

Posted On: 
13th May 2017

Gordon Brown today warned Britain under Theresa May will see worse levels of poverty than during the Margaret Thatcher years, as he made a major intervention in the election campaign.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown spoke in Fife today
PA Images

The Labour heavyweight said the Conservative leader will “leave us more economically divided and socially polarised than any prime minister in living memory”.

During the tour-de-force speech in Fife, Scotland, he savaged the SNP for its “obsession” with independence and for blaming others for the ills north of the border they have the power to correct.

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But the ex-prime minister failed to mention Jeremy Corbyn once during the 20-minute address and appeared to accept defeat at the election with his calls for Labour MPs to hold the Government to account.

Mr Brown said poverty in Britain had soared to 14 million during "the Thatcher-Major years" before the Labour government forced it down through the implementation of working tax credits.

But he lamented that it grew again to 14.1 million this year and is set to rise to a record 15.7 million by 2021/22, according to respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

And he said child poverty is set to soar to 35.7% of all UK children by 2020, compared with 29% last year.

“Mrs May says she wants to unite our country. Failing to halt this rising tide of poverty, she will leave us more economically divided and socially polarised than any prime minister in living memory,” he blasted.

“So this election cannot be a one-issue election in the UK - about Europe alone.”

But Mr Brown gave a strong hint he was less than hopeful about Labour leader Mr Corbyn seizing power on 8 June - not because he failed to name-check him once during the speech.

He said: “We need to elect Labour MPs who are all pledged to scrutinise and hold whoever is in power to account.

“It’s Labour candidates who get up in the morning with a purpose and mission to fight for and champion social justice.

“In this election that will shape Britain for years ahead, a Labour vote is necessary if we are to  wage a war against poverty.”


Turning his ire to the SNP he argued poverty was set to rise to 1.2 million by 2021/11, while child poverty north of the border in 2015/16 saw “biggest single rise in one year for a generation”.

He said the Scottish government has been handed the powers to “deal with poverty if it so wanted to do so,” but Nicola Sturgeon had aped the Tories by refusing to top up benefits and tax credits.

He lamented: "We have got a Scottish National Party that is obsessed about independence and not taking in to concern the direct needs and aspirations of the Scottish people."