Tories' London mayoral candidate criticised for comments that 'attack working class families'

Labour’s Angela Rayner among those angered by past and recent remarks about poor or homeless people

The Conservatives’ London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has been accused of an “attack on working class families”, after comments emerged in which he appeared to suggest that poor people cannot be trusted with money.

Bailey is running against the Labour incumbent, Sadiq Khan, in May’s election, which was delayed for a year by the Covid pandemic. A YouGov poll in November suggested Khan has a 21-point lead over his rival.

Bailey has already been criticised for a series of controversial comments, including suggesting homeless Londoners could save up a £5,000 deposit for a mortgage.

Giving evidence to a House of Commons select committee in 2011, Bailey said: “The key thing about poverty and poor people is that poverty is as much about mindset as it is about money. If you give poor people lots of money, they buy things, and not always what they need; they buy what they want.”

The remarks were made when Bailey was an ambassador for David Cameron’s ‘big society’ volunteering initiative.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “This is a disgusting attack on working class families, which reveals the true colours of the Conservative candidate for mayor of London”.

In a 2005 pamphlet for the thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies, Bailey had previously claimed that “a culture of dependency rules the working class”, and “this liberal agenda hasn’t benefited the working class. The working class look to rules. The rules are important to them. Take away the rules and they are left in limbo.”

He was also criticised last week when he claimed in an interview with Inside Housing magazine that his plans for affordable housing would help homeless people trapped in temporary accommodation because they could save up the necessary £5,000 deposit and secure a mortgage.

“I don’t think the £5,000 will [be a problem],” he said. “The mortgage application thing might be a bit tougher … they could save for it, yeah.”

Pressed by the interviewer on whether he was suggesting a homeless family in bed and breakfast accommodation could afford a deposit, Bailey replied: “Not all of them, but some people could. A full proportion of people could.”

In response to Rayner’s criticism of his 2011 comments, Bailey said: “I grew up in a council house. I was raised by a single mum. I’ve been poor and I’ve been homeless. I’m proud of my working-class roots.

“The only attack is coming from City Hall, where Sadiq Khan is raising council tax on working-class families by 10%. Something even Keir Starmer called absurd.”

In a recent speech, Starmer called on the government to provide more funding to local authorities to prevent them from having to impose council tax increases at a time when people can ill afford it.


Heather Stewart Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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