The role of the emotions in the framing of welfare policies is still relatively underexplored. This article examines the role of resentment in the construction of a particular form of ‘anti-welfare populism’ advanced by the Coalition Government in the UK after 2010. We argue that UK political parties have appropriated the discourse of fairness to promote fundamentally divisive policies which have been popular with large sections of the electorate including, paradoxically, many poorer voters. In focus group research in white working class communities in the UK undertaken just before the 2010 General Election, resentments related to perceived unfairness and loss emerged as very strong themes among our respondents. We examine such resentments in terms of an underlying ‘structure of feeling’ which fuels the reactionary populism seen in ‘anti-welfare’ discourses. These promote increasingly conditional and punitive forms of welfare in countries experiencing austerity, such as the UK, creating rivalries rather than building solidarities amongst those who ‘have little’ and drawing attention away from greater inequalities.