Selling Austerity to the Public: Analysing the Rhetoric of the UK Government on its Welfare Cuts


  • Alice Tihelková University of West Bohemia



austerity, Critical Discourse Analysis, CDA, David Cameron, undeserving poor, welfare reform


Over the past twelve years, the UK has seen a marked increase in poverty and economic inequality. While numerous factors have contributed to this situation, an undisputedly important role has been played by the continuous program of welfare spending cuts designed and executed by a series of Conservative governments. To alleviate the potential for the unpopularity of austerity measures, the Conservatives have attempted to put a positive spin on their policies by making a series of core claims emphasizing the beneficial effects of the welfare reform. Using the method of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), this paper examines these claims and offers a critique of each of them. In doing so, the research seeks to expose the use of traditional stereotypes (especially that of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor) in the government’s rhetoric. The paper draws on a corpus of political speeches and media appearances of Conservative politicians, as well as on sociological reports and newspaper coverage. The analysis is principally focused on the two governments led by David Cameron, although some attention is also devoted to subsequent Conservative administrations.

Author Biography

Alice Tihelková, University of West Bohemia

Alice Tihelková is a long-term member of the Department of the English Language and Literature, Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, University of West Bohemia in Plzeň. She teaches courses in British Cultural Studies and conducts interdisciplinary research on contemporary British society. Her main research interest is political and media discourse describing Britain’s class system and class stereotypes reified by the commentariat, politicians, and other actors.


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How to Cite

Tihelková, A. (2023). Selling Austerity to the Public: Analysing the Rhetoric of the UK Government on its Welfare Cuts. American & British Studies Annual, 16, 47–58.