Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron says it is “selfish” to challenge the government’s austerity measures, amid a heated standoff among the cabinet members of his successor Theresa May over raising public sector wages.
Speaking at the Asia Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea, Cameron said Tuesday that it was too soon “to let spending and borrowing rip” in the face of the worries that loom over the country’s economic future.
“The opponents of so-called austerity couch their arguments in a way that make them sound generous and compassionate,” he said. “They seek to paint the supporters of sound finances as selfish, or uncaring. The exact reverse is true.”
“Giving up on sound finances isn’t being generous, it’s being selfish: spending money today that you may need tomorrow,” said the former PM, who stepped down following his unsuccessful bid against leaving the European Union (EU) in last year’s referendum.
The comments came after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment minister Michael Gove, both powerful Leave campaigners, challenged the Tory-led government’s opposition to lifting the 1% public sector pay cap.
Last week, Tories voted down 323-309 a Labour amendment to the Tory government’s agenda that called on May and her cabinet to ease the pain for families by raising pay and blocking school cuts.
The government deemed the vote a victory. Some of the lawmakers admitted that although they supported a pay raise for the public sector they did not want to vote for a Labour bill to authorize it.
Latest studies show that the average pay fallen by £3 an hour for teachers and by £2 for police officers. This is while the wages of nurses had stagnated.
Cameron gets angry responses
The former premier’s remarks provoked outrage from opposition leaders, who accused him of ignorance.
“Only David Cameron would say that hard-working people seeing their living standards fall back and their pay suppressed is good for them. It just further shows how out of touch he was then, and still remains today,” said Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron took a similar line, saying it was “pretty rich for a multimillionaire to tell our hard-working firefighters, paramedics, nurses and doctors that they don’t deserve a pay rise.”