Broken Britain: Ending the Austerity Union

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A day at The Gathering in Glasgow is humbling after meeting third sector and community workers with tales from the frontline on the war against the poor. New figures show the highest number of sanctions against claimants since jobseeker’s allowance was introduced in 1996. One woman describes how someone was kicked off benefit for not applying for a job. “But I did, I got an interview, look!” they tell her holding up their letter. Failure to prove that they had applied trumped the success of actually gaining an interview. It’s IDS meets Kafka. Welcome to Tory Britain, where laws you didn’t vote for come from values you don’t support from a government you didn’t elect.

Welcome to the Austerity Union: where work fare, food banks, zero contact hours, tax cuts for the rich and a fresh round of massive bonuses for consistently failing bankers are on the rise. Where welfare cuts are described as a ‘moral mission’ and where an environment minister who doesn’t believe in climate change stays in post as the evidence laps up around his wellies.

In the Winter of Discontent in 1978 Labour was lambasted for rubbish lying uncollected in the streets due to strikes by bin-men. The vision haunted Labour for decades. Today they can’t bury the dead in Somerset. Some of the Tories mismanagement and propaganda’s slowly coming to light. Good to see the disgraceful black ops propaganda and disinformation of the high Tory command being found out, as in Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – for years a front for climate denial lies.

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As with climate denial so to with distortion of the truth about poverty and need. Like Lawson, Grant Shapps was also rebuked for making false claims, this time by the UK Statistics Authority (‘another Conservative is caught making it up’). The truth is you can’t disentangle social justice and environmental justice. You can’t suppress the climate crisis by pretending it doesn’t exist, just as you can’t end poverty by waging war on the poor.

Each day the grim reality becomes clearer. Extraordinary accounts of what’s being described as a “public health emergency” are emerging as Britain’s coalition government austerity measures begin to hit home. The real picture of this is only beginning to be leaked out. Charlie Cooper for the Independent writes (‘Public health emergency’ declared as one in six GPs was asked to refer a patient to food banks in the last year’):

A Scottish government report has identified “welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes” as the main drivers of demand. However, ministers in the UK government do not accept that changes to people’s benefits has increased the need for emergency food. The UK government’s own report on food banks has still not been published several months after it was completed, amid accusations that ministers have “suppressed” the findings.

British politics and social policy is dysfunctional on many levels, whether it’s the Hate Van Minister Mark who had to resign for employing an ‘illegal immigrant’ as a cleaner (people are find here as long as they are invisible) or the rising tide of UKIP farce – seeping into the mainstream dialogue. The mainstreaming of the far-right has been fantastically ridiculed (see below) but it’s got a far more sinister side as cheerleaders north of the border rub their hands in glee at the prospect of this narrative entering Scottish politics.

This pool of hatred, epitomised by Benefits Street and any daily tabloid you care to pick up, has its corollary in the vapid fame-porn of the tragically re-booted Big Brother format or the execrable  Apprentice or the weird phenomenon of The Secret Millionaire (how did people that stupid get to be so rich?). These programmes roll-around like some kind of newly-created media-based-seasonality.

Behind this gameshow Britain where endemic poverty stems from low pay not the feckless work-shy there’s a weird narrative about ‘enterprise’. In truth as the Resolution Foundation point out, although one million more people have become self-employed since 2000, their median earnings have dropped by a whopping 20 per cent in the years after 2006. This is the onset of precarity, where short-termism infects everything and a state of general unease undermines both social solidarity and resistance. It’s the political culture that nurtures Project Fear.

Back in non-tv reality, the new consensus of the New Coalition is clear. From Alistair Darling promise that if Labour is re-elected public spending cuts will be “tougher and deeper” than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher to Ed Miliband’s Hugo Young lecture citing Disraeli and the now deceased Lady, the consensus is clear. The Liberal Democrats, political sandbags to the Tories tsunami against the most vulnerable, are a political irrelevance, but they aren’t the only ones for whom a reckoning beckons.

As Alex Bell writes in the Scottish Review (‘The UK is Dead. Hope Crushed, it died last week’) :

…this is the deep immorality of the union. It thinks poverty and low ambition in Scotland, the north of England and the south-west are prices worth paying for the status of the powerful. It doesn’t see incompetence or thuggery as a handicap. It rejects democratic debate and rides roughshod over principle. But the floods have come, and now we need a new beginning.

Today is World Day of Social Justice. Let’s take the chance to make the case for a new country forged out of higher ambition, values of care and solidarity, creativity and hope.

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  1. yerkitbreeks says:

    Speak about non – TV reality, as yet the BBC has nothing on their website about the Survation poll – amazing.

  2. Ken MacColl says:

    All the above is undoubtedly true and yet earlier this week on a BBC Scotland Debate, when asked about “the nation she would like to belong to ” a young, supposedly bright, Labour MSP swithered and dithered for a while and then suggested that if she were starting with a blank piece of paper she would come up with something much along the lines of the present model.
    This probably gets her some credits from the Labour heirarchy but dear oh dear where is the vision and the ambition in that ?

  3. Catrìona says:

    In this country we can congratulate ourselves faintly for not having voted in any substantial numbers for the current incumbents in Westminster, but what on earth is wrong in England and Wales that so many people do? Whatever is wrong, that is their business and none of mine until their choices (not ours) start to worsen the lives of my neighbours, family and fellow citizens in this country. I am just holding on till September when we will have a chance to bid farewell to the politics of despair, poverty and servility, and hopefully try to rebuild the damage that has been deliberately imposed since the 1970s. If this UK is OK, there is a tragic lack of vision somewhere.

    1. bringiton says:

      One of the reasons there is no vision is that too many politicians see politics as a career path and not a vocation.Also too many people are disconnected from the process of governance which allows career politicians to select like minded people to be elected for office.
      This is particularly true of New Labour who have lost all contact with working people and the founding principles of that once great party.
      Hopefully,independence will allow us to wipe the slate clean and start again from the fundamental idea that politicians serve the public and not the other way round.

  4. Britnot says:

    Please dont blame the Welsh Catriona. The Tories rarely get above 20%, even though in my opinion that is 20% too many. Like you I hope Scotland votes for its freedom and that becomes a catalyst for the compete break-up of already broken britain. Britain is broken because of the neo liberal policies emanating from Westminster and its supporters. I can assure you we are suffering every bit as much as you are but sadly through apathy, ignorance and the daily propaganda from the Unionists, dont appear to realise that the Union is the cause rather than the solution.

    When Scotland votes YES that will be a defining moment for Britain. I hope it will force the people of Wales and the progressives in England, Kernow and Northern Ireland to realise that this most unequal of unions is well past its sell by date!

  5. A great blog to stir the brain into thought.But wait can tomorrow be cancelled due to lack of interest?

  6. Reblogged this on The Babel Fish and commented:
    A concise and damning critique of this dysfunctional union, and why we’d be mad not to get out of it.

  7. TheBabelFish says:

    That’s good. That’s very good. a great read. A concise and damning critique of the modern British dystopia, and why we’d be mad not to get out of it while we have the chance. Thanks, I’ll be sharing it widely.

  8. countess fi hong kong says:

    This strange utopian vision of a tory free land run by very nice people, moral to the core, is impressing no one and its time for yes to realise exactly what is holding their campaign back.

    Do we really believe that Indy is the main motivator for people here ?

    I don’t think so, you can almost taste the small minded lust for power going on here – most recently shown in alan bissetts little plan to become a university rector.

    Small minds don’t drive great nations forward and they certainly don’t win campaigns.

    There are too many in the yes campaign that are using it with self promotion in mind: read my poem, buy my book, see my play.

    Do you see them knocking on anyone’s doors ? Registering voters ? Driving them to polls ?

    1. andygm1 says:

      Well I’m as impressed as hell, so you’re wrong, right off the bat.

  9. TheBabelFish says:

    “This strange utopian vision of a tory free land run by very nice people…”

    That’s what you took out of it? Really? How odd. I read an all too familiar dystopian vision of a Tory-ridden (yes, Tory-free should have been hyphenated) modern Britain, run by corrupt, venal, uncaring sociopaths.

    “…is impressing no one and its time for yes to realise exactly what is holding their campaign back.”

    Oh yes? Funny, I had the impression it was going from strength to strength. Specifically every time a member of the Tory administration opens their mouth. If the rate of swing in the last six months continued for the next six, it would be a ‘Yes’ landslide.

    “Do we really believe that Indy is the main motivator for people here ?”

    People have many motivations, but unless they are determined to impoverish themselves and ruin the prospects of their offspring for generations, all those motivations will lead them to ‘Yes.’

    “Small minds don’t drive great nations forward and they certainly don’t win campaigns.”

    Hahahahaha. hahaha, hahaha. No. No they don’t. Hard luck on that one. 😉

    “Do you see them knocking on anyone’s doors ? Registering voters ? Driving them to polls ?”

    Well, yes. I’m hearing of lots of people knocking on doors, getting people to register to vote, persuading their friends, relatives and colleagues. It would be a bit early to be driving them to the polls, wouldn’t it?

    @andygm1 – you’re right, it’s an extremely impressive piece of writing. I’m a writer, some people think quite a good one, and I like to write entertaining, informative, articulate comments. As you can see from my uncharacteristically short earlier comment, I wasn’t going to compete with this one, it’s just too good.

  10. Eric Lawrence says:

    Cannot believe the self preservation lies and cowardice which pours out of labour MP’s. Expense fiddling still going on.They know they are safe as a second class associate member of the westminster club of evil. None dare to publicly tell the real truth about socalled public debt. Many of them are part of the biggest con trick which has been going on since greed became popular.

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