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Life Under A Conservative Government: Callous Cruelty, Hypocrisy & Double Standards

by Rob Atkinson
28 March 2013 19 Comments

Jeremy Hunt's latest bout of sheer hypocrisy further proves we can never afford to make another mistake of this magnitude...

Jeremy Hunt

It was announced earlier this week that Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Rhyming Slang, will introduce measures requiring trainee nurses who wish to be funded by the NHS first to work for a year as a healthcare assistant or support worker.   The move comes amid claims that many trainee nurses, educated to degree level, consider themselves “too posh to wash a patient”.  Mr Hunt’s stated aim is “to improve compassion in the NHS”.

Other innovations to be put in place following the report into 1200 “needless deaths” at Stafford Hospital will include: A new chief inspector of hospitals to oversee an inspection system modelled on Ofsted, the schools watchdog; a statutory ‘duty of candour’ on hospitals and GP surgeries to stop them concealing mistakes; a ban on gagging clauses preventing NHS whistleblowers from speaking out; an ‘elderly care tsar’ to protect the interests of older people in care homes; a new criminal offence to prevent managers fiddling figures such as waiting times and death rates.

Without wishing to be critical of every element of this raft of proposals – there are actually one or two surprisingly worthy notions in there – the idea of a Tory minister introducing rules and regulations to “improve compassion” does rather take the breath away.  This is especially the case at a time when the Tory-led government is acting savagely to reduce the income of many of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, whilst aiming to protect the rights of bankers and their like to receive bonuses amounting to multiples of their already-massive yearly salaries.

There are also many voices being raised in protest at the so-called “Bedroom Tax” which, it is being claimed, will end up costing the country more in evictions and consequent re-housing than it hopes to save in Housing Benefits.  The Benefits Cap too has come under heavy fire.  This was introduced with the sound bite of shift workers leaving home early in the morning, and seeing drawn blinds next door behind which snore the feckless benefit claimants living a life of luxury at the taxpayers’ expense.

It has been pointed out, however, that many claiming benefits are in low-paid or part-time work, that being all that is available, and need state benefits to top up their miserably low wages; hardly an endorsement of the Workers v Shirkers argument.  There’s really not a whole hell of a lot of compassion shining through any of these policies, so a charge of double standards is hard for Jeremy, Gideon and their incompetent friends to evade.  But this government does not acknowledge or admit to misconceived ideas or mistakes.  Perhaps a “statutory duty of candour” would be a good idea for ministers too, then?

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It does in any event rather raise my hackles when some ex-Charterhouse Head Boy like Hunt starts lecturing nurses and other dedicated professionals about coming across as too posh to get their hands dirty.  Pot, kettle, grimy-arse.  And it’s not even as if Mr Hunt has always managed to keep his own well-manicured paws all that clean – but it’s the mud of scandal that’s allegedly contaminated them, rather than the results of honest hard work in a hospital sluice.

In 2009, Jeremy officially came to the notice of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, after allowing his political agent to lodge in his taxpayer-funded home, and failing to reduce his claims on Additional Costs Allowance – although he was found guilty of nothing more than a “misinterpretation of the rules”.  But how much confidence does that inspire in a man who tilts at high office?  Jeremy did pay the money back though.  Well, half of it, anyway.

In 2010, it was Jeremy’s mouth getting him into bother, now that his hands were out of the till.  He suggested that football hooliganism played a part in the death of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster; when in reality lack of police control and the presence of terraces and perimeter fences were established as the causes of the tragedy.  This necessitated a humiliating climb-down and a grovelling apology. Then in April 2012, hard on the heels of David Cameron’s vow not to associate himself with anyone involved in aggressive tax avoidance, Jeremy was outed by the Telegraph as having reduced his own tax bill to the tune of £100,000 by receiving dividends from Hotcourses in the form of property which was promptly leased back to the company. The dividend in specie was paid just before a 10% rise in dividend tax and Hunt was not required to pay stamp duty on the property.  Naughty, naughty, Jeremy.

As usual then, or so it seems to those of us who suspect that the government’s stance on a wide range of issues is not unadjacent to hypocrisy, these latest mealy-mouthings from a Tory minister reek of double standards and bitter irony.  Why is so much of their rhetoric aimed at people who are dedicated and professional, struggling against the odds and against government cutbacks to do a massively difficult job in almost impossible circumstances?

Why must every official report into some awful tragedy – and the Stafford Hospital deaths were nothing less – result in a scapegoating of the people at the sharp end, doing the real work, when instead or at least also we should be looking at management and policy-makers?  And just what the hell is an “unnecessary death” anyway?  Or should I be asking for a definition of a necessary one?  Couldn’t we talk instead about “avoidable and unavoidable deaths” and then move on from there to see who is really responsible for the avoidable ones not being avoided?

The attitude of government towards low-paid professionals in essential services has always troubled me, simply because of the elementary difference in terminology depending on which end of the scale is being discussed.  It’s been the case for most of last century that nurses – for example – have been referred to in radically different terms as compared to bankers – for example.  It’s still the case today, folks, and it goes like this:

Nursing is a vocation. People at the bottom have a vocation, you see, which means it’d be a shame to spoil something so pure and unselfish by doing anything so sordid as paying them properly.  If they have this vocation, what else do they need, after all?  Meanwhile, bankers – lacking anything as splendid as a vocation – need “incentives” to keep them here to ruin our economy, and at all costs stop them fleeing abroad (to ruin someone else’s). It’s been seen as very important by successive governments that we get this distinction and know our place.  So, remember.  At the bottom: vocation (low wages). At the top: incentive (huge bonuses).  It’s the Tory way.

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As long as we keep accepting the sheer hypocrisy and double standards that are being routinely shoved down our all-too-receptive throats, then quite frankly we deserve the government we get, though saddling ourselves with this shower seems positively masochistic. Oh, but I forgot – we didn’t actually elect them, did we?  But as long as this sort of crap is meekly accepted, then the likes of Jeremy Hunt, and his fellow born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-their-mouths cronies in the Cabinet, will continue to get away with policies and actions that seem set to drive more and more people out of their homes, off to the nearest food bank and maybe even over the brink of despair into suicide.

Scottish writer took his own life the other day, leaving a benefits decision notice in lieu of a suicide note.  A Birmingham Coroner has noted that he officiated at five inquests into self-hangings in one day recently, and that the trend of suicides is way up.  This is the human cost of this government’s policies, and meanwhile they’re blithely having a go at hard-working, dedicated people like nurses.  “Too Posh To Wash”.  Doesn’t the sheer, arrogant smugness of it just make your blood boil?

Meanwhile, Gideon Osborne was in Europe recently, arguing against proposals to cap bankers’ bonuses at 100% of salary, or 200% if shareholders approve.  Generous enough, you’d have thought.  And guess who found himself in a 1 to 26 minority?  Yep, it was our Gideon, bravely standing alone while everybody else saw sense – doubtless though his heart was bleeding at the thought of impoverished City types trying to figure out which was the gas oven and which the dishwasher, prior to sticking their heads in and, down to their last 10 million, ending it all.

I honestly think that the Tories, heedless of the plight of their poodle partners in the coalition, those hapless and doomed Liberals, have given up any realistic hope of re-election in 2015, and are set on accomplishing as much of their malign agenda as possible in this Parliament.  Surely this is the only explanation for the tidal wave of malicious policies that flow from them, like a torrent of sewage from a long sea outfall pipe.  They seem set on victimising massive, and massively vulnerable, swathes of society; the type of people that are not going to vote Tory anyway, and who therefore seem to be classified as expendable.

And with the other hand, they’re equally determined to protect their natural friends and allies from the icy blast of austerity that is making this prolonged winter seem even colder and more hostile than the weather alone can manage.  Don’t forget, it’s only a few more sleeps now until those in the million-a-year class get their £100,000 a year present from Gideon, an annual reduction in tax for each of them that could pay the salaries of four newly-qualified teachers.  How do you like them apples, chaps?  That’s what you get for being “One Of Us”, don’t you know.

And so, seemingly, it will go on, right up to the bitter end in just over two years – assuming, that is, that They don’t decide to do away with elections altogether, or maybe instigate a small but popular war somewhere – there is a precedent for saving an evil and despised government this way.   How are the Argies fixed these days for a bit of a scrap, I wonder? But if democracy does survive, what sort of a country will we be living in by 2015?  What will be the death toll of benefit reform and austerity, whether it be from suicide, starvation or hypothermia?  How will the rich have used their quarter of a million pound tax windfall?  Not to create jobs, not with Workfare providing slave labour in defiance of the courts and circumventing that inconvenient minimum wage legislation.  No need, old fellow.

We’ll need to take stock then at the next General Election; those of us who are still here. And we’ll need to go to the ballots in overwhelming numbers, sending out a message to those who have stomped all over us since 2010 that they’re out, and that they won’t be back until and unless they’ve learned a little humanity. Above all, we’ll be charged with the massive responsibility for making sure that we get it right next time.  We simply can’t afford another mistake like this one.

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Harry Paterson 8:49 am, 28-Mar-2013

Good piece, flawed conclusion. No offence. So we turf 'em out at the next election and get Blue Labour? Well, you'll pardon me for not going all-of-a-quiver as we exchange one set on neoliberal bastards for another set of neoliberal bastards. Albeit with added hand-wringing and hypocrisy. The Tories are a bullet between the eyes, Blue Labour is the murderer holding the pillow down over your face all the while weeping and crying that he's sorry but, just like Thatcher, there is no alternative and we have to make tough decisions.

Sharpy 12:59 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Harry, there is no doubt we must make tough decisions, it is the decisions that are made that define the government. While the tories focus on beating the poor, one would hope a Labour government would find the savings elsewhere. Why for example does defense get ring fenced? Things like trident, and R&D development of weapons are not a priority as opposed to making millions of british people's life a misery. Maybe withdrawing troops from Iraq/Afghanistan and keeping our noses out of libya/syria might save us the odd billion, so people can enjoy luxuries like supporting the disabled or those below the poverty line. As an aside, The war in iraq cost 4.6 billion (out of a "special reserve" of 7.6 billion put aside by the UK government - 7.6 billion that was subsequently borrowed and now puts us in the red). Crazy idea but maybe we just dont waste loads money on killing people and i dont know, maybe use it for the betterment of UK life for all. The big worry is if we dont vote labour in... who else is there? UKIP, conservatives, Lib dem? surely labour is the lesser of evils? Re-reading that last sentence has just made me depressed.

Harry Paterson 1:05 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Sharpy, all good points, mate, but therein lies the rub; does anyone seriously expect Blue Labour to do any of that?? Given they couldn't even vote against workfare, the other week, and the Tories' disgusting retrospective legislation, the only conclusion is that their degeneration into the second eleven of British capital is now complete, irreversible and final. More here http://harrypaterson.co.uk/politics-current-affairs/the-partys-over-an-open-letter-to-owen-jones-the-labour-left

Paul 1:40 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Why does no one seem to get that a this shower "running" the country, know full well they are a one term Government. By the time of the next election all the damage will be done. Commercial elements of the public sector will have been privatised whilst the rest is all but destroyed.

Rob Atkinson 2:31 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Paul, that's the conclusion I regretfully came to at the end of my piece. They're here to do as much damage to the public sector, and as much good for themselves and their mates, as they can in a one-off blitz between elections.

Harry Paterson 3:04 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Paul/Rob *exactly* They aren't incompetent, they aren't useless; they're doing brilliantly the job capitalism demands of them. Shamefully aided and abetted by craven, supine and cowardly Blue Labour.

Rob Atkinson 3:25 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Harry: politics of despair mate. It's all very well rabbiting on about "Blue Labour", but what do we actually DO?? We can't come up with an electable alternative to Labour by 2015, and we can't tolerate another term of this lot or - God forbid - a majority Tory administration under Cameron without even Clegg's feeble cheeps to restrain him. Sitting in a corner and bemoaning the perceived impossibility of ever affecting the status quo is not a viable option given the current state of affairs, surely. The difficulty of the task and the odds against those of us who want to fight do not absolve us of our responsibility to try and do just that. Let's have something more constructive out of you, please?

Harry Paterson 4:10 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Ken Loach's call for a new left party, now the recipient of thousands of signatories, is where I'll be putting my energies, Rob. No 'despair' here, mate, just an absence of illusions in Blue Labour. Not too keen on my electoral choices being between a punch in the face or a kick in the balls so, along with thousands of others, I'll be putting my energies into helping build an alternative for which I'd be happy to vote. See here for more and get involved!http://www.redpepper.org.uk/can-there-be-a-new-left-party/

Rob Atkinson 4:30 pm, 28-Mar-2013

I get the "Blue Labour" thing Harry, honestly. I'm reasonably quick on the uptake, and it's there in everything you say, as well as the initially-pithy punch in the face/kick in the balls metaphor. But there isn't TIME for any from-the-ground-up alternative. We HAVE to get these bastards out next time - the cost is being counted in lives, for God's sake. Get them out, and if that means Old Labour, New Labour, Borrowed or Blue Labour, then so be it - we can work on further alternatives from there. I'm tempted to call your Ken Loach alternative Pie-In-The-Sky Labour - but I'm not all that given to sound-bites, myself!

Rob Atkinson 4:38 pm, 28-Mar-2013

PS - do feel free to read and follow my blog, should you wish for more stuff to disagree with ;-) http://robertatkinson61.wordpress.com/author/robertatkinson61/

Ohthisbloodypc 4:58 pm, 28-Mar-2013

I don't know any bankers. Well I know one bloke who works in a bank, but he deals with customers. How do we know that bankers earn obscene amounts of money? Some do obviously. All of them? Did they ALL go to Eton? Don't some footballers earn obscene amount of money? And they they're worshiped, as long as they win for whatever brand you buy our replica shirts from. What about the NHS: Are all nurses angels? Were the 1200 deaths in one hospital all the fault of Jeremy Hunt? What would the reaction be if Jeremy Hunt had presided over 1200 deaths? I wonder, if we killed all the bankers, and bulldozed Eton, whether our social problems would really all come to an end. Why do people mistrust Labour? Wouldn't that be a good question to ask? How shit must Labour be for a significant proportion of the population not to vote for them? How bad must they be for people to think the Eton/Bullingdon set is the lesser of the two axes of evil? Only asking....

Howard 5:17 pm, 28-Mar-2013

I feel the same as Ken Loach, however the reason the left cannot get a party to rival UKIP or the Tea Party is the constant fucking in-fighting about 2 bob issues. Case in point - Suzanne Moore a champion of the oppressed, hounded for weeks for accidentally insulting transexuals (or is it transgender, no idea) enter Penny Red to beat Owen Jones up about some other slight because he used a wrong word, like someone in social housing going forced to a foodbank gives a fuck. The tories must piss themselves every time. We need to be united about 2 or 3 key issues, just like UKIP and the Tea Party spanners. The other issues can wait.

Harry Paterson 7:16 pm, 28-Mar-2013

Howard, sad but true, mate. This is last chance saloon for this generation of lefties to make any kind of meaningful contribution.

myleftboot 11:11 pm, 29-Mar-2013

I clicked this expecting some whiny far left shiite to laugh at post pub, but fair play, nail hits head. Less than half our voting populace wanted this particular shower, so they really have a mandate to say fuck you. The overriding message of this so called coalition is never ever trust a lib den. A crime I was guilty of. A cunt wearing a jacket claiming to be top cunt, yep, fair cop. It's those other cocksucking toady orange sucking masturbators cunts that made it possible that really

PhilH 3:50 pm, 3-Apr-2013

its a shame we cant add something to the ballot that says "you are all crap" then all those idiots would have to stand down or we couls all vote independants in you never know all thoise independants having to work together..... pipe dream i know. we do need someway of getting rid of "career politicians" as well as making sure the only wage a politician can have is the one the country gives them - that would be nice

underepresented 7:05 pm, 7-Apr-2013

normal people dont like this firebrand stuff. it belongs in the 80's. as if the torys are trying to destroy the world and kill people. youre living in a paranoid frenzy. chill out, its not THAT bad. theyre simply reducing the ammount of money you can get for doing f**k all. its all reasonable.

Harry Paterson 11:11 am, 8-Apr-2013

Sigh...someone left the asylum door open again...

philip Black 1:57 pm, 9-Apr-2013

I ENJOYED THE COMRADERY BANTER OF ALL THE CONTRIBUTORS ON THIS SITE.AS IN 2YRS TIME WE WILL INDEED GET RID OF THESE PARASITIC TORY SCUM. BUT WHAT OF LABOUR, YOUR RIGHT WITH MILLI,& BALLS AT THE HELM. WE WILL NEED ALL THE CASH WE CAN LAY OUR HANDS ON,LETS START WITH OVER SEA,S AID BANKER,S STASH,OH &OF COARSE THE TORYS THEMSELVES THAT,LL DO TO BE GOING ON WITH,AND GIVE IAN DUNCAN SMITH THE HARDEST KICK IN THE BALL,S THEY CAN, AS I KNOW A LOT WHO WOULD LINE UP TO DO JUST THAT.

Angryraisin 8:13 pm, 11-Apr-2013

The question is: how do we get more people interested in politics, enough for them to vote? Part of the UK's apathy towards voting/politics is the plethora of politicians who are more concerned with their own power-grab than anything their constituents really want. There is too much corruption, and too many lies from all the big parties. Mistrust rides high in the electorate...

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