Thatcher: Neither A Lioniser Nor A Ghoulish Hater Be

 

Since the news of Baroness Thatcher’s death broke, I’ve been bouncing back and forth on Twitter trying to push back against two completely opposing attitudes – the first, and on the surface most obnoxious being the gleeful cries of ‘Ding dong!”while apparently opening magnums of champagne in spontaneous street parties while dancing to the Clash. People have plenty of reason to despise her, but such macabre delight in the death of a fellow human being reflects badly not on Margaret Thatcher, but her haters. I deliberately put a photo of the young Margaret, because as always with polarising politicians, we forget they didn’t always exist in the form in which we knew them while they were in power. We forget they’re as human as we are, and so we feel free to spew the kind of hate usually reserved for mass-murderers.

On the other hand, we have the many, many conservatives -on both sides of the pond – hailing her as the greatest PM since Churchill and possibly the greatest peacetime PM full stop. Communism’s greatest foe, scourge of the Argies, a champion for freedom and liberty, Britain’s Iron Lady and Saviour, etc, etc, etc.

Bollocks.

A particularly egregious case of this is – surprise! – Andrew Sullivan. It baffles me how a gay man can admire a woman who passed the singularly horrendous Section 28, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ in general and especially not in schools. The message to gay people was clear: your country is ashamed of you, and is going to pretend you don’t exist. This nasty, discriminatory, humiliating piece of legislation designed to keep gay people as second class citizens exposes a rather large chink in his idol’s armour, yet Sullivan (whose sense of irony seems to have been surgically removed) titles his piece “Thatcher, Liberator”. Life in Britain pre-Thatcher, he writes, was insane. She restored much needed sanity. The cruel unionists were slowly killing their members  by forcing them to work in the mines.  Never mind that for these miners this was the only way to put food on the table for them and their families,  St Maggie nobly put an end to such suffering by putting them out of work to suffer from desperate poverty instead. Sullivan was, of course, a student at Oxford for the entirety of Thatcher’s first term, followed by an almost immediate move to America to work for the New Republic. So as you can see Sullivan experienced virtually nothing of the real Thatcher’s Britain, which oddly enough seems to be a pattern among her fervent admirers.

Having been born just as her rule as PM was coming to an end, I know nothing of 80s Britain either. But I know my father, who held a degree in mathematics and was a member of a professional body as a qualified actuary, had to leave Britain for South Africa to find work. There were absolutely no jobs, or opportunities to be had. Though Thatcher’s spiritual successor Iain Duncan Smith would have called my ridiculously qualified dad a snob for refusing to stack shelves after all that hard academic work.I know my grandmother, a weaver from Dundee, saw factories close as British industries crumbled under the Iron Lady’s iron fist. She and her family moved, coincidentally, to South Africa too to escape Thatcher’s new ‘sane’ Britain.

Margaret Thatcher is an object lesson in irony, in that her policies produced results contrary to her very strident beliefs. She trumpeted the need for people to be self-reliant, and implemented policies that made millions dependent on the dole. She hailed the British spirit during the Falklands War, even as her intransigence during the strikes caused bitter divides between families, friends and communities. And what about Margaret Thatcher, champion of freedom? She deplored and fought against the oppression of Communism, and declared anti-apartheid political prisoner Nelson Mandela a terrorist. In the case of South Africa, first Thatcher not only did nothing to bring down apartheid, she actively opposed sanctions – with the laughable reasoning that it would ‘hurt the black majority most’. You can’t hurt people who’ve got less than nothing.  She was anything but a champion of liberty to an oppressed Chilean under Pinochet, Thatcher’s BFF. Or to a Cambodian living in fear of the Khmer Rouge. These aren’t small blots on an otherwise pristine copybook, but ugly, glaring contradictory holes in the carefully cultivated myth of the Iron Lady, foe of tyranny.

The final myth that needs to be torn down is Margaret Thatcher the Feminist. “I hate feminism. It is poison,” said Maggie herself. And say what you will about her, she was never disingenuous. This hasn’t stopped people from declaring her a ‘feminist icon’. Why? Because she’s a strong woman? History is littered with equally powerful women who broke the mould, but nevertheless remained the exception rather than the rule and did nothing to raise the status of their fellow women. And that is what Thatcher did. If Emmeline Pankhurst had only fought for and won the vote for herself, would we applaud her as a feminist icon? Thatcher is worthy of women’s admiration in many ways:  she was a trailblazer, pursued her own path, won the leadership of a party in a overwhelmingly male-dominated profession, and did all this while raising a family. But those achievements did not unlock doors and shatter glass ceilings for women as a whole.

Sanity Is Relative

 

There’s a claim I’ve heard many times from my American friends. “The UK Conservative Party is more liberal than our Democratic Party. Those guys are sane, sensible conservatives.” And every time I see a claim along these lines, I roll my eyes.

Yesterday, it was announced that Britain’s double-dip recession is intensifying:

The economy shrank by 0.7 per cent between April and June, the Office for National Statistics said. It is now smaller than when the Coalition came to power in 2010.

Since then, the Chancellor has pursued a strict policy of austerity – “Plan A” – in an attempt to bring down the deficit, leading to accusations that he has not done enough to stimulate growth.

Wednesday’s fall was worse than expected and means that Britain is firmly back in recession, with negative growth for the past nine months.

Amid a growing clamour from business groups for radical action, one senior Conservative figure admitted that the economy was likely to be in “intensive care” for another two years.

The Coalition’s  been in power for 2 years, and things are now even worse than they were when they were elected. As a clearly on-the-ball politician points out here, the world’s economy is recovering albeit slowly while austerity-driven Europe is struggling:

“The challenge is particularly great in our neighbourhood…since the financial crash the world economy has grown by 20%. But Europe’s has hardly grown at all.”

…said Prime Minister David Cameron. Cue frustrated headdesking.

The Tories’ solution to economic disaster caused by austerity has been the same as George W Bush’s to Iraq: stay the course, and unsurprisingly had the same results. The Tory party might not obsessively attempt to restrict women’s and gay people’s rights, but their economic policies are as destructive as their counterparts’ would be and threatening to bring about both a lost decade and a lost generation of young people who simply cannot find employment. Supporting gay marriage doesn’t make David Cameron a liberal (as some would hold) – it makes him a typical conservative: supporting one kind of family value, while harming families with his idea of ‘reforms’.

Let’s compare and contrast what our Coalition and US Democrats have done or attempted to do:

UK: Undertaken a policy of austerity which has led to crippling cuts in public spending with only one of the promised effects: it’s causing a lot of pain to British people, but making our economy worse.

US: Passed a stimulus bill which stemmed the economy haemorrhaging  jobs and turned it around to the point where America has now had 27 months of job growth and 11 consecutive quarters of economic growth. US conservatives would like America to follow our plan.

UK: Raised caps on tuition fees to a maximum of £9000, which resulted in virtually every single university choosing the maximum fee, as anyone not a Lib Dem could have predicted. Students now face leaving university burdened with a minimum of £36k debt.

US: Extended low student loan rates to make life easier for college students.

UK: Overhauled the welfare system, with the following impacts: disabled people are worse off, companies get free labour from young people on ‘work experience placements’ (workfare) which still does not help them find work, families lose out on child benefit, household benefits are capped at £26k because everyone’s situation is the same, cuts to housing benefit instead of regulating landlords, and proposing that all young people should be deprived of housing benefit altogether.

US: Reluctantly renewed all the Bush tax cuts so that the unemployed could continue to receive the unemployment benefits held hostage by Republicans. The Obama Administration also offered states waivers from the work requirements in Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.

UK: Passed NHS ‘reforms’ which will create massive amounts of bureaucracy, put patients’ interests lasts, open the door for privatisation of the NHS which will lead to more of this awfulness, and saddle doctors with responsibilities they don’t want at the expense of doing their actual job of treating people.

US: Passed healthcare reform which will expand healthcare coverage to millions and act as a foundation to eventually progress to a single-payer system. In other words, Britain and America are now moving in opposite directions on healthcare.

As for those American liberals who think the Democrats are too awful to vote for this November, I’d like to point our ‘Liberal’ Democrats aided and abetted all of the above horror stories – in some cases after having campaigned for the exact opposite – which are helping keep Britain stuck in the mire along with Europe while the rest of the world pulls itself out. And that your Democrats voted for all the good stuff on that list. You have no idea what betrayal of principle is, so grow up.

So America, you have a choice. You can vote Republican this November and go the same way we in Britain have. Or you can vote to keep climbing out of the well towards the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Benefits Scam

With the House of Lords voting to approve the coalition government’s truly awful welfare reform package which will plunge thousands of families below the poverty line, and Ed Miliband’s Labour Party already stating that they’ll vote for amendments to the bill, and won’t actually oppose it, Britain took a considerable turn for the worse today. And the worst of it is it’s a bill based on out-and-out lies and pure, vicious ideology.

Let’s start with the £26,000 cap on household benefits, and how the Government arrived at that figure. Iain Duncan Smith claims that this is the average household income in Britain, but this is extremely misleading, as the Guardian points out (the article as a whole is an informative Q&A piece on the consequences of welfare reform):

Critics say it is excessively draconian. The Children’s Society says the cap confusingly compares non-working household income with average household earnings. Were it to align the former (more fairly) with average household working income – which includes tax credits, and a range of benefits – the cap would be set at £31,500. This would mean thousands of poorer households would not be pitched into poverty by the cap.

What the Conservatives have successfully bludgeoned out of people’s minds is that housing benefit is not actually income. It does not in fact go into the pockets of the people receiving it, but goes to pay the rent their private landlord is charging.  And as housing benefit makes up the bulk of the average household on welfare’s payments, the right wing’s justification for this horror of a bill, namely that people on welfare at the moment can earn more than people who work, is shown for the pack of lies it is. If you want to blame anyone for ‘excessive welfare spending’, as our dear Prime Minister David Cameron puts it, blame the landlords who jack up the rent to ridiculous levels. After the banking industry, the housing industry is probably the next most in need of regulation. But of course, the Government’s attitude to this is: if the rent is too damn high, move!

Yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the reforms were not designed to “punish” families.

He told Sky News: “I simply make the point to them that the purpose of this is not to punish people but it is to give fairness to people who are paying tax, who are commuting large distances because they can only afford to live in the houses that they have chosen.”

It’s particularly galling that this dismissive ‘just move to a cheaper area’ message is coming from a group of people to whom moving house involves using taxpayers’ money to finance the mortgage and furnishing of a second home in London. Unfortunately, poor people don’t have the option to put the costs of upping sticks on expenses. And, of course, there’s the fact that moving house would have a serious impact on children in myriad ways; being uprooted from a place they call home, having to change school and start all over at a new one with no friends, living in reduced circumstances (but hey, you and your siblings, who may be of the opposite sex, being packed together in one bedroom is no big deal according to Duncan Smith, who also lies about the charity Shelter defining this as homelessness on its website; it doesn’t). And there’s the problem of finding another house. As anyone with any actual experience of the real world will know, a great many landlords refuse to accept people on welfare as tenants. Finding a house that suits your family’s needs is not easy either. Hard as it may for the green-eyed monsters of the Daily Mail to believe, the reason those large families they pin on their front page in their idea of public shaming live in large houses is – this will come as a shock, I know – large families need more space.

A one-size-fits-all plan is a supremely cack-handed approach at the best of times, but when it impacts actual human beings, the results are even more horrendous. A single parent family with, say, 3 kids in London will have very different needs to a two-parent family with one child in Liverpool. To force the same cap on everyone receiving benefits, regardless of individual circumstances, is not only incredibly stupid, it’s unfair and yes, contrary to what Iain Duncan Smith says, punishes people. Because that’s what this is all about, really. The Tory approach to winning elections is and always has been: further improve the lives of their traditional voting bloc, the rich; then get a big slice of the middle-class to vote for them not by making their lives better, but by fanning the flames of resentment towards those on welfare and making the poor’s lives shittier, to make the middle feel better about themselves. It’s the same dynamic you see in the battle over public sector pensions; instead of encouraging the private sector to offer their employees better deals, the Tories instead dishonestly bash public sector employees and work to strip them of the pension rights they have earned by accepting reduced salaries during their working lives. It’s disgusting, it’s despicable, and tragically, it works.

And here’s the most depressing thing about this whole sorry debate:

All three parties are behind the benefits cap in principle – but there are disagreements over the details.

And then there’s this, which makes you wonder what the fuck the point of even having an opposition party is:

Labour reacted cautiously, suggesting that it would try to find a compromise. “Labour won’t be voting against the benefits cap, but we will be seeking to amend the Bill.”

That’s the sort of bold, principled leadership we’ve come to expect from Ed Miliband’s Labour!

In Britain, people on welfare are now everybody’s whipping boys – not just the right wing’s. And this a prime example of why I laugh my head off at the idiotic liberals in America who whine when a bill that is inherently progressive whatever happens to it gets watered down. Here, the only thing that gets watered down by our allegedly ‘left wing’ (ha!) parties is right-wing political and economic theory.

 

 

The Iron Lady

Finally went to see The Iron Lady yesterday. From a movie standpoint, I thought it was excellent; as a biopic, it was good, but distinctly lacking in vital areas.

It’s impossible to comment on this film without addressing the controversy surrounding it – namely, that should it have been made while Margaret Thatcher was still alive, and should it have portrayed her dementia? Having seen it, I must say the treatment of Thatcher’s senility has been tastefully done, and served to humanise her in a way that little else could have done. A woman known as the ‘Iron Lady’ and for being the most divisive political figure in modern British history is not likely to arouse much sympathy, but this film has managed to do just that. As to whether it should have been made while she’s alive…books that examine public figures far more intimately than any movie have been published during their subjects’ lifetimes for decades now, so it’s hard to find a convincing argument why The Iron Lady should not have been made.

Now, to the film itself. I must add another round of plaudits to the universal acclaim given to Meryl Streep for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. To call this mere impersonation is an insult to an extraordinarily talented actress and what she has achieved here. She doesn’t mimic Thatcher to a high standard, she is Thatcher. It is one of the most multi-dimensional performances I’ve ever seen on screen; as the film revolves around flashbacks, we see the contrast between the frail, lonely, dementia-stricken widow of recent years and the ferociously strong, sharply intelligent politician who blazed a trail to Downing Street for future British women to follow, and both Thatchers are brought vividly to life by Streep. I will confess, some of the scenes between the elderly Maggie and her husband Denis (another wonderful turn by the wonderful Jim Broadbent), who having been dead for several years exists only as a figment of her imagination, brought a tear to my eye. The supporting cast is also strong, if wasted; Richard E Grant as Michael Heseltine is barely more than a cameo.

A lot has been said about The Iron Lady’s refusal to go into detail about Thatcher’s actual policies or offer a critique of the woman and her government either way. While on the whole I think this a wise move, it does tend to make this more of a generic  ‘woman takes on the world’ story than a true biopic. When the film focuses on Thatcher’s growing and virulent unpopularity with the public, we’re shown scenes of protests, strikes and riots being crushed by the police, usually followed by Thatcher making a tough-as-nails, never-back-down speech. The effect of this, whether intentional or not, is to make Thatcher look like an exemplar of reasonableness and tough love; a mother telling the populace to eat their vegetables, if you will, because the policies causing the uprisings are never mentioned. But the structure of the movie itself offers a possible explanation for the apolitical to rose-coloured view of key moments in Maggie’s premiership – what we are seeing is clearly Thatcher’s own memories, triggered by events/ things in the present. It could be that scriptwriter Abi Morgan deliberately invoked the unreliable narrator device here.

On a related note, the Iron Lady’s main weakness is that, unless you are a politico or know a lot about Thatcher herself, certain scenes won’t make sense. As I’ve mentioned above, her policies are unexplained; the words ‘trade unions’ and ‘mines’ each get said about once during the protest montages and that’s it. Another example is the opening scene where an elderly Maggie evades her keepers to purchase a pint of milk at her local shop. It’s clearly a reference to her infamous decision to cut free school milk while Education Secretary, leading to the popular refrain of “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher”, but how many people outside Britain or only familiar with Prime Minister Thatcher will be aware of the reference? Not many, I’d wager. And there’s the habit the film has of including key political figures without bothering to explain who they are or what position they hold. Thatcher’s Chancellor and the man who would start the avalanche leading to her downfall, Geoffrey Howe, is mentioned by first name only for the entire film and while he’s generally heard to be talking of things concerning money, it’s never explained that he is the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Overall, it’s definitely worth seeing on its merits as a drama. Just don’t go in expecting the definitive life story of a controversial, complex leader.

 

 

 

From New Labour To Hard Labour

In the row over public sector pensions which led to tens of thousands of workers going on strike today, the Tories have behaved as you’d expect: with threats and continuing to turn the word ‘fairness’ into newspeak. You would think, however, that the party whose roots are entrenched in the labour movement, hence the name ‘Labour’, would be sympathetic, if not supportive of the public workers’ battle to secure the pensions which compensate for poorer salaries than those in the private sector.

But alas, the Labour leadership has shown no sign of returning from the centre-right ground staked out by Tony Blair. For all the taunts of ‘Red Ed’ and suggestions of radicalism, Ed Miliband is not so much Marx as Milquetoast: an ineffective leader who put himself in the ridiculous position of attempting to bash the Government while offering absolutely no support to to the striking workers, calling the strikes ‘wrong':

Labour leader Ed Miliband has delivered a blunt message to striking teachers and council workers: “You’ve made a mistake.”

Addressing the Local Government Association conference at the ICC in Birmingham, Mr Miliband said: “I understand the anger of workers who feel they are being singled out by a provocative and reckless government.

“But I also believe this strike is wrong. Negotiations are on-going and it was a mistake to go on strike.”

And days earlier, Ed Balls adopted the mantle of concern troll by telling mutinous workers that striking would just play into the Tories hands, and so they shouldn’t strike:

Ed Balls has urged public sector workers not to strike over the government’s planned pension reforms saying: “The trade unions must not walk into the trap of giving George Osborne the confrontation he wants.”

Between the two of them, the Eds illustrate exactly why people did decide to take industrial action – because if they didn’t stand up and fight for their rights, who would? Certainly not this awful Labour Party that has never been less worthy of the name. Tony Blair created ‘New Labour’, perhaps the current incarnation should be called ‘Hard Labour’.

UPDATE: Paperback Rioter has a good piece up giving background to the whole sorry situation and showing what a crock the Tory and Miliband positions are,

Nadine Dorries: If Only Child Sex Victims Had Said No, They Might Not Have Been Molested

While wingnuttia’s never gotten a real foothold in Britain, it raises its ugly head often enough to remind us it exists. Nadine Dorries proves she’s just as stupid, and just as cruel as her counterparts across the pond by actually suggesting child abuse victims could have prevented their own molestation:

All is not well on Planet Dorries. Two weeks after the Mid Bedfordshire MP introduced a sexist private member’s bill which would teach only girls the virtue of sexual abstinence and “how to say no”, Nadine has helped to advance the myth that child sexual abuse is linked to the behaviour of children.

On Channel 5′s Vanessa show on Monday she opined:

“If a stronger ‘just say no’ message was given to children in school then there might be an impact on sex abuse … if we imbued this message in school we’d probably have less sex abuse.”

We see victim-blaming sadly far too often when it comes to sexual crimes, but blaming child victims of sexual assault has got to be an all time low. This makes my gorge rise, it’s so loathsome. Do I really need to point out that adults are EASILY, EASILY able to overpower and/or emotionally manipulate kids into being abused? That there is a reason society feels a particularly intense revulsion towards those who commit child rape?

And as a survivor of abuse myself (I guess I didn’t say no loudly enough!) I not-so-cordially invite Nadine Dorries to go fuck herself. To hear this from one of my elected representatives makes incredibly angry, revolted and not a little depressed.

House of Lords Reform: Another Better Chance For PR?

Though I’m pessimistic that this will pass the House of Commons, let alone the House of Lords who will naturally be opposed to any shake up, the current plans to reform the upper chamber, though sketchy and vague at present, seem to me to be an ideal way to pilot proportional representation.

A joint committee of 13 MPs and 13 peers to be set up in the next few months will consider plans for members of the new legislature to be elected for 15-year terms under the single transferable vote system.

Under the government’s plans, members would be elected on a staged basis – a third every five years – with the first elections for the new chamber to take place in 2015 – on the same day as the next general election.

By introducing an advanced form of PR (AV was really the least worst option) to vote in elections which have never been held before, thus requiring no messy, difficult switch, and for the subordinate House of Parliament, would be more likely to gain public support for the system. The other positive is that while backbenchers on both sides are making rather a lot of noise, this time the Tories and Lib Dems are in agreement that the House of Lords should be at least partly elected, so we are also likely to be spared the bitter infighting which marred the AV campaign.

The arguments for reform vastly outnumber the ones against. We are the only Western democracy which has an unelected chamber of government.  Given the fact the vast majority of the Lords are there not on merit but by various Prime Ministers rewarding cronies and seeking to stack the Lords in their party’s favour, the House of Lords as it is laughs in the face of democratic and meritocratic principles. Furthermore ,while I definitely would not want the Lords to become a replica of the US Senate – where the members can literally block everything passed by the House – neither am I comfortable with the current system in which the Lords are almost powerless to prevent laws eventually being passed, thanks to the Parliament Act. We need, to use the American description of its system of government, checks and balances. It would be great if Britain were to find a way to stake out a middle ground, and planning reform of the Lords provides us with a great opportunity to do so.

In Which I Tackle Clegg Derangement Syndrome

I’m very much in the minority of liberals in that I believe Nick Clegg is not even guilty of treason, much less deserving of being hung, drawn and quartered (and there are many people on the left who would volunteer for the job of executioner). Here is a chronological explanation of why Clegg has not actively betrayed Lib Dem supporters, but simply muddled along as best he could during the coalition and actually showing responsible leadership in the aftermath of the election in May 2010.

The results of the election meant Clegg had only one choice.  While no party ended up with a clear majority, the message sent was still clear: the British public did not want Labour in power any longer. Therefore, as the leader of the party holding the balance of power, Clegg was honour and duty bound to come to terms with the Tories, the party who received the largest share of seats in the House of Commons. Had he come to terms with Labour, he would have been rightly accused of propping up a moribund government against the clear wishes of the people (as understood under the FPTP system). He did the right thing.

Now, on to the coalition agreement. In their haste to make Clegg a hate figure, many people forget that the entire Lib Dem party voted on whether to approve the terms of the agreement and form a coalition with the Tories. They have been accused of settling for a pathetic number of concessions, but let us not forget that the Lib Dems actually lost seats in the election, and were fortunate to be in the position of having any clout at all. Striking a deal for the non-taxable allowance to be raised to £7500 was pretty good for half a loaf etting the Tories to agree to a referendum for AV was not mere breadcrumbs from their table; it was an impressive concession considering just how deeply opposed the Tories are to PR. As for the tuition fees fiasco – well, in that case Clegg and the Lib Dems’s sin was promising something they knew they could never deliver in making the wholly unrealistic ‘free tuition fees’ pledge part of their manifesto, and later pledging to fight any increases. The criticism they received on this issue was well deserved – if they had to do a U-turn on this, they should have at least demanded £6000 be the absolute cap and not allowed the £9000 loophole, which as anyone could and did predict, became the rule instead of the exception.

Plenty of Lib Dems have made screw ups and done unethical things (Chris Huhne being the latest), yet they have never received the opprobrium Clegg receives. Take David Laws, who, inexplicably, Lib Dem supporters fought a desperate rearguard action for despite the fact he was guilty of outrageous abuse of expenses.  His plea that he was desperate to keep his sexuality a secret was not only a poor excuse for his actions, but I felt it was also insulting to his partner. The whole distasteful affair seemed to me to suggest that Laws put his political career at the expense of his personal relationships, sadly typical behaviour for a politician. And then we have Vince Cable, who might very well have put the kibosh on the awful planned takeover of BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch if he had only kept his mouth shut. Whatever you think of the Telegraph’s sting – and I found it dishonest and a danger to constituents’ relationship with their MPs, and the PCC rapped it over the knuckles – it does not alter the fact that what Cable said was unforgivably stupid, and has now made the BSkyB takeover a near certainty.  So where were the torches and pitchforks? Where were the baying mobs screaming abuse at Cable for letting them down?

Blaming Clegg for the defeat of AV, while easy and no doubt satisfying, as it removes the need for introspection, is wrong.  The real reasons for AV’s defeat are gone over here, by myself and Paperback Rioter. It was hard not to pity the man, as he tried to fight for what he believed in only to be told “Go the fuck away! You’re not wanted here!” by almost the whole of liberaldom. Clegg can’t win – he gets pilloried for allegedly not fighting hard enough for Lib Dem policies by people who fail to grasp the realities and limitations of his position, and he gets pilloried for fighting for the Lib Dem’s Holy Grail – electoral reform.

Prior to the election, a popular Twitter hashtag was #nickcleggsfault. It was created in irony, after the right-wing media led by the Telegraph launched a blatant campaign to smear him when his popularity exploded after the 1st US-style debate. It seems now, that everything still is Nick Clegg’s fault, it’s just the people leading the attack have changed.

Cameron Adviser Sees NHS As Enemy To Be Destroyed

The ‘friendly neighbourhood Tory’ masks always come off in the end. Under that velvet glove of  ‘fairness’ is an iron fist of ideology:

A senior adviser to David Cameron says the NHS could be improved by charging patients and will be transformed into a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer” of care.

Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a “kitchen cabinet” advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives from the private sector that future reforms would show “no mercy” to the NHS and offer a “big opportunity” to the for-profit sector.

Our friends across the pond spent generations desperately trying to move away from the kind of system Britnell wants, and have since taken a big step in the direction of achieving that goal with the passage of the Affordable Care Act last year. One state in America, Vermont, is actually about to introduce single-payer healthcare of the kind we in Britain enjoy, and unfortunately take for granted. The American people didn’t like their for-profit system, where health care was based on ability to be insured and ability to pay. Yet senior Tories would take reverse over 60 years of progress and drag Britain’s healthcare system in the opposite direction to which every other Western country is going.  Britnell suggesting  “no mercy” should be given to the NHS is the conservative id laid bare – anything they don’t like must be utterly destroyed.

Note that Britnell is talking about ‘future reforms‘. This is irrefutable proof that despite Cameron’s insistence that he loves the NHS and his promises to preserve it, these odious ‘reforms’ are intended to be a stepping stone to eventual privatisation of the NHS. And as for said current ‘reforms’, no one in the Government has managed to satisfactorily explain why handing GPs the responsibility of running and allocating funding for health services would improve the current system. Even my own parents, who are dyed-in-the-wool Tories, don’t understand it and think it’s a stupid idea. Doctors are not substitutes for bureaucrats, and I have no doubt that giving them these additional powers would adversely affect the job they were trained and are meant to do – namely treat their patients. Indeed, one of the actual problems the NHS has is an excess of bureaucracy, and this plan would actually exacerbate it by creating a whole new pile of red tape.

As touched on above, the NHS is not perfect. Indeed, the length of waiting times have been and remain a serious problem, many hospitals are not up to the standards of efficiency, care and hygiene that they should be, and health costs are only going to increase with an aging population. So let NHS reforms be targeted at fixing those real, tangible problems, and not at transforming the institution because it doesn’t mesh with conservative ideology. Our system treats healthcare as a right, which is as it should be. Healthcare should be first and foremost universally available and free so that people do not have to bear what would be disastrous financial burdens for something they cannot help – getting sick or being injured.  And naturally, should people desire an alternative, the option should be there – as it is now with private health insurance providers such as BUPA. Because health care is a matter of life and death to people, it should not be turned into a money-making machine;  the idea that companies should be allowed to make money on the backs of the sick and injured is morally repugnant.

I could write an entirely separate blog post on the flaws of privatisation, but suffice to say anyone who has used private services that were once public will tell you it has not improved services, but merely made them more expensive. It has been proven over and over again to be a failed policy, and so it would be the definition of insanity to extend it to our healthcare system. We love our NHS the way it is, and if the Tories succeeded in turning into a soulless machine where human beings come a poor second to the pursuit of profit, they would be doomed to a much longer spell in the wilderness than the one following Tony Blair’s victory in 1997.

This Is What David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ Really Looks Like

A very disturbing article in the Guardian reveals that despite David Cameron’s grandiose and vague talk of a Tory utopia where everyone joins hands and works together for the common good, his actual policies are creating a nasty atmosphere of suspicion and resentment towards Britain’s most vulnerable:

Disabled people have faced greater hostility from the public since the government launched its controversial benefits reforms, according to a survey by a leading charity.

A majority said that they experienced hostility, discrimination and even physical attacks from strangers every week and more than a third claimed the position had worsened over the previous 12 months.

Victims blame ministers for portraying all people with disabilities as scroungers as they seek to cut the number of people on the disability living allowance, the benefit now given to 1.9 million people deemed physically unable to work.

Scoring cheap political points, alas, is not a victimless crime, and as the conservative MO in most countries is to stir up resentment among middle class voters against people on benefits (read: people who are receiving the help they desperately need) to get them to the polls, it’s hard not to think this is exactly what they were hoping for. Now we have people assuming those in wheelchairs are frauds, falsely believing that because disabled people can -shock! – leave their houses, they must be faking it, and are demanding that their fellow citizens show proof they are disabled to them, who have no right to demand any such thing from these unfortunate folk, or are reporting them to the council. This is not the country I want Britain to be.

As someone who was until very recently unemployed, I too feel resentment – towards those who used me as a pinata in order to generate support for their unfair, cruel policies towards those on benefits. While there are people who abuse the system, and people who do regard receiving benefits as a way of living, they are vastly outnumbered by the genuine cases of people needing support from the state while they attempt to find work, or are living with disabilities and so are incapable of working. And I always found it laughable – after seeing firsthand on jobsites that there were at least several dozen applicants for literally every job – that Iain Duncan Smith and company claimed that people on Jobseeker’s Allowance just needed more incentive to find work, as if that would cause jobs to magically spring out of the ground for them. There are simply not enough jobs to go round even in the best of times, but the Tories, most of whom have never had to fight for a job in their lives, still don’t understand that.