"I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can't pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don't notice and the poor can't afford. I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don't earn, they don't spend. When they don't spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income. I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old."
Neil Kinnock said that in 1983, warning the British populace what they would suffer if they decided to re-elect Margaret Thatcher in that year, that week's election. The British electorate didn't listen. And continued to not listen for another 14 years until England started to realise the depth of corruption of the Thatcher and Major governments and a smiling, sincere Tony Blair made Labour once again electable. Then of course we had Iraq and Tony's legacy became ill judged foreign policy rather than the improvement of life in our own country. Then Gordon Brown's four but effective socialism imploded in the echo of one 'off microphone' comment and a televised populrity contest and we were in the thrall of David Cameron's 'caring face of Conservatism' wrapped in the disguise of coalition politics.
Until this week.
Yesterday the mask slipped and true Conservatism raised its vicious, ugly head in a package of measures designed to wage class war in the sections of society that do not or can not aspire to the dog eat dog ideal of success that the upper echelons of the Tory Party espouse. In a package once again aimed at penalising the poor the ruling classes have taken a major step toward their long desired dismantling of the welfare state. We are reaching the end of the road that thatcher started on in the late seventies; a destination where only the monied have access to services, to healthcare, to education, to a life rather than an existence.
The 'bedroom tax' is but a start. An under occupancy charge aimed at council and housing association tenants whereby they lose an average of £14 per week if they have a spare bedroom. In the North of England the number of under occupied houses outnumbers fully or over occupied housing by 3 to 1. Any guesses which areas of the country this is targeted at? It's certainly not the Tory heartland voters. Take the case of 60 year old Margaret Lewis of Kirkby. Margaret suffers from angina, diabetes and arthritis. She is set to lose £22 per week in benefits as she has two 'spare' bedrooms. One of these bedrooms is spare because Margaret lost her 18 year old son, Carl, at Hillsborough. In 2009 she lost her husband. She may be forced to leave her family home due to this Tory policy. Leave the home that contains the memories of the life she lived there. If she does leave, there is nowhere to go, there are no suitable properties in Knowsley to downsize to. But almost 3,000 homes are affected by this action. It's not a benefit cut, it's an unavoidable fine on the circumstances of your life.
Where there is no suitable council accommodation the government will simply be pushing people into renting from the private sector, thereby subsidising higher levels of rent but obviously lining the pockets of Tory supporting landlords. Jobseeker's Allowance, maternity pay, sick pay, income support - all capped at a below inflation rate rise of 1%. Is this any way to stimulate economic growth? By removing all possibility of disposable income from large swathes of society? But it's okay, we can move cash back into the country. Anybody earning over £150,000 per year will receive a tax cut. 13,000 people on £1m or more will receive an average tax cut of over £42k. The poorest 10% of society look set to lose an average of £127 per year, the richest 10% gaining £1,265. The situation is worse if you have children.
The NHS will undergo further reforms to allow even more private sector involvement after two years of increased waiting times, job losses and £3 billion spend to dismantle the service for sale. We are once again in the position that we were put in by Thatcher in the 90s; the Tories are taking everything that the country owns and selling it to their supporters, not receiving the correct value and increasing our charges for services that are ours free as an enshrined right.
Labour's election victory of 1945 gave us the welfare state, the shining jewel in post war politics. The Conservative party has spent decades intent on its destruction, determined that only the privileged will have access to a decent life. To paraphrase Michael Foot, another great Labour leader ridiculed by the right wing press; 'Our one great purpose in life is to help those less fortunate than ourselves.'
If only Cameron, Osborne, Ian Duncan Smith and company could understand this concept.
This article originally appeared at Mumbling Into The Void
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