FIVE weeks from now the UK will have a new Prime Minister, the third Conservative in Downing Street in less than a decade. I’m sure I’m not alone in believing that we stand on the cusp of the most disastrously right-wing Westminster government in living memory.

Boris Johnson, the front runner, has so far made two key pledges if he’s to succeed Theresa May; to fund tax cuts for the wealthy costing the public purse around £10billion-a-year and to take Britain out of the European Union in October, deal or no deal.

Even leaving aside what you may think of his remarks about Muslim women, gay men, black people or his difficult relationship with the truth, these two policies alone would be disastrous for our city. They are ideological sledgehammers which put at risk so much of what we’re trying to do in Glasgow to close the equalities gap and the injustices which flow from it.

Tory MPs are hell bent on Brexit, regardless of the cost to communities in cities like ours. So even if it’s not Johnson, the next UK Prime Minister will be at the helm of a party forcing through deeply damaging policies at the expense of Glasgow.


Poverty in Glasgow: Can council break stubborn cycle?

The Evening Times series on poverty this week therefore is as timely as it is relevant. We may be the powerhouse of the Scottish economy, a city with an increasingly highly skilled and educated workforce. But we’re also a city with some of the greatest social challenges on these islands and we cannot and must not lose sight of that.

The Glasgow City Government is fully committed to do what we can, with the remit and resources available to us, to ward off the worst excesses of UK Government policy, especially its brutal welfare reforms.

We have extended free school meals, put in place a very successful ‘holiday hunger’ programme, and invested in our Universal Credit hubs. In a short space of time we’ve helped more than 3000 people and delivered a financial gain of £8.6million, fighting for every pound claimants are entitled to.

Longer term, it’s hugely encouraging that attainment levels across our schools are rising and more of our young people are going into work, training or more education when they leave school. We continue to attract companies to invest and locate in Glasgow, and are doing more than ever to make sure our citizens have the right skills to take up the resulting job opportunities. And our programmes to make Glasgow a Fair Work City are geared towards allowing everyone in Glasgow to share in its growth – something that will be good for all of us.


Glasgow council leader Susan Aitken offers Jo Swinson chance to see city schools

But all our work is being undermined by UK Government welfare reforms, reforms totally at odds with the compassionate approach being built in to Scotland’s new social security system. We’re being forced to run just to stand still.

And I fear that - just as in the days before the safety net of the welfare state - a combination of further harsh and uncaring reforms, the impact of Brexit and the policies of the next PM, will once again push people in our communities into an abyss of poverty that it will be very difficult to help them escape from. People who now just about get by but who may be forced into a harsh reality of deprivation and despair by forces greater than we in Scotland have the powers to control or reverse.

Glasgow has a new breed of young Tory, mostly males who weren’t alive to witness the havoc created by Mrs Thatcher’s policies on Scotland’s hard-working families and communities. For them, she represents nostalgia for a brutal time they never experienced but may soon.

When Johnson or whoever emerges as the next Prime Minister of the UK, it will be for our Tory MSPs and councillors to explain to Glasgow’s citizens why the top one per cent of earners in Britain should be further enriched at their expense. Or why plunging us into an economic crisis in a No Deal Brexit we didn’t vote for is really ‘about democracy’.

Read more of today's top Glasgow stories.

The rest of us will pick up the pieces of another generation shafted by greed, opportunism and austerity. I really hope it doesn’t come to this.