Anyone remember this lady?
I was sure we debated her extensively at the time, but a search of this thread and the Labour one only turns up a couple of posts. Anyway, Aditya Chakrabortty, who is one of maximum two or three worthwhile people at the Guardian these days, followed up and it's interesting what's happened:
'[. . .]
To see how this works in practice, ignore the autocued remarks made in Birmingham this week and think about another speech, made three years ago by a woman in the audience for Question Time. Perhaps you remember Michelle Dorrell: dressed in a grey jacket and minding her Ps and Qs, she suddenly exploded at the then-cabinet minister Amber Rudd for defending cuts in tax credits.
Dorrell told Rudd that she’d voted Tory six months earlier – but now she was furious. “I work bloody hard for my money to provide for my children … and you’re going to take it away from me and them. I can hardly afford the rent, the bills and you’re going to take more from me.” And audience members in Dover started chanting at Rudd: “Shame on you! Shame on you!”
At the time, I wrote on these pages that that was a seminal moment in the politics of austerity: the point at which the government could no longer pretend that the cuts were happening only to shirkers. And Dorrell was exactly the kind of natural Tory voter the party could ill afford to lose.
Dorrell told me this weekend that she’d never planned to go off like that, but when Rudd spoke she felt “a force from inside my belly”. She’d lost her job in 2011, had to go through the horror of the benefits system and then retrained and set up a nail bar. She’d played it by the book, done everything the Tories told her to do – and still she was, to use an old phrase, just about managing. Instead of birthday and Christmas presents, her dad would buy £100 of food from Sainsbury’s or Lidl and restock the fridge.
At first business went well, but the economy in her hometown of Folkestone is as moribund as anywhere else in non-metropolitan Britain. She’s just closed her nail business and works in a local shop on a zero-hours contract, getting eight to 12 hours of shifts a week. She needs more, but the manager says the company will never give her 16 hours because they don’t want to pay employers’ national insurance. She still needs benefits to top up wages, yet the benefits system keeps getting meaner. In April 2011, 6.4 million families were on tax credits, according to Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. By this April that was down to 3.8 million: of those losing out, a tiny number may have moved to universal credit – but many millions more simply got poorer.
Dorrell, who is in her late 30s, describes herself as “a child of Thatcherite economics”. Her parents are Tory, her hometown is Tory. And in the 1980s, someone like her might have gone along with the Conservatives’ promises. In the last couple of years she’s become radicalised, joining Labour and Momentum.
She talks about local GP surgeries closing and overcrowding in classrooms. Talking to me, she looks out of her bedroom window on to a car park where drug dealers hang about. Her children are still playing by the rules – and getting punished for it. Her eldest daughter is at university, set to graduate with £65,000 of debt. For her children, austerity is all they’ve known – at home, in the classroom, at the start of their working lives. What the winter of discontent was to the Labour party for a decade – the indelible stain, the warning at the ballot box – the decade of cuts may prove to be for May’s party. “The Tories are screwed for a generation, aren’t they?” says Dorrell. “My kids will grow up knowing they’ve been screwed over by that lot.”'
Austerity has **** sucked.