What has the UK become, how have we sunk so low? Poverty and food banks are now an everyday part of many communities.
I’m not religious in any way but the recent high profile BBC News story about what a Pastor and Priest have been doing to help the utterly desperate in Burnley disturbed me profoundly.
The fact that in one of the richest counties on earth they have to do it should shame us all. We’ve had government after government which are for the middle incomed and wealthy with the poor getting litte more than crumbs off their table. In recent times footballer Marcus Rashford has stepped up to call for change particularly with regard to feeding children but more benefits/increased benefits will only be yet another sticking plaster, it won’t deal with the core problem of poverty.
After 40 years in politics I am convinced that Universal Basic Income is the only real solution to poverty. Politicians, who oppose UBI whilst hiding behind a lack of willingness to find a way to fund it, are actually saying we will not be doing anything useful about poverty and are leaving those who can’t survive via our mean spirited benefits system for charities, volunteers and churches to look after.
Sadly, the Burnley story is being replicated across the UK whilst the well off and our leaders in Westminster spend time picking ridiculous trade fights with the EU over Brexit. But when we get all the independence, prosperity and opportunities promised by those who promoted and voted for Brexit how much of it will filter down to those most in need? If it’s little or nothing then what have we been fighting for; just to make the rich richer and poor poorer? Developing a society based on a significant percentage of that society having to live in abject poverty is hardly something we should be aspiring to yet it seems to be where we have arrived.
I am profoundly depressed by how we expect those with nothing to live off almost nothing. Growing an ever greater number of people who are destitute has been the result of political decisions and political indecision but we’ve been voting (or at least a significant number of us have) for politicians who have been in charge of this growing poverty crisis for many years now. Is it not time to chuck out those politicians who simply want to manage, ignore or even punish those in our society who are the most in need? Oh and please don’t assume that all the problem politicians are Tories because poverty is an issue that many politicians want to ignore and they get away with it bacause the poor often don’t or can’t vote.
I have often pondered on the dilemma that faces socialists in UK politics because they seem to find themselves in a cycle of hope and despair in equal measure.
At each general election they try to convince themselves that voting Labour and trying to get others to vote Labour will lead to socialism in government. Of course it never does as there are few if any real socialists in the Labour leadership these days. Indeed, to hear recent appalling statements from some leading Labour figures about those who are unfortunate to need to live on benefits makes you wince.
What I think that real socialists actually end up doing is voting negatively i.e. they vote Labour because they hope that in government Labour will be not as Tory or as bad as the Tories. A kinder form of capitalism is all they can hope for but with people like Rachel Reeves and Harriet Harman leading the Labour Party kinder capitalism, especially for those on benefits, hardly seems to be on Labour’s agenda in 2015.
And don’t get me wrong here I do respect genuine socialists even though I don’t agree with them. I suppose you can say that we see many of the same problems but have radically differing solutions to them. I say that after working for 25+ years in the trade union movement and seeing at first hand the agonies of socialists at the actions of Labour in Government pursuing such things as NHS privatisation, the war in Iraq and ID cards. Like me, socialists abhorred these Labour policies and they campaigned against them but when a general election comes along some of them then campaign for the very Labour Party they have been fighting against.
Some will say that they are not supporting the Labour Party but they do have a great respect for their local Labour MP who in their view is a true socialist. A worthy aim but it still potentially puts into government a Labour Party they will have to campaign against.
Others hope that one day true socialists will take over the Labour Party and it will once again become what it was when first formed out of the trade union movement all those years ago. They will of course be sadly disappointed.
I have noticed that some socialists are gravitating towards the Greens and you can see socialist authoritarianism creeping into the Greens as a consequence.
But what surprises me most is how some socialists can turn a blind eye and or a deaf ear when the Labour Party is promoting things like NHS privatisation, the Iraq war or these days more greater and deeper austerity cuts in public expenditure. If you genuinely oppose such things how can you campaign against them but then vote for the Party promoting them?
As I say a real dilemma for socialists who privately must be thinking about such matters regularly, especially near a general election.
Britain backs further welfare cuts
A poll for the Financial Times by Populus has suggested that George Osborne’s plan to make further cuts to Britain’s welfare bill has the support of 75% of voters, who still believe “too much money is being wasted on paying benefits to people who don’t need them”. Of the benefits a future chancellor might cut, there was most support for reducing child benefit, then working-age benefits and finally pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel allowance.
Many of us on the left of British politics have been taken aback by the ruthless way the Labour Party has been approaching welfare cuts, indeed their spokespeople have often tried to give the impression that Labour will cut benefits more than the Tories. This Populus poll certainly shows why they are doing it. They are brazenly chasing votes even though you would have expected the Labour Party to be far more cautious on welfare. People who are concerned about the welfare budget needing to be cut actually vote, people on benefits often don’t. Labour knows this too.
That the welfare budget needs to be brought under control is a given but watching Tories and Labour trying to outbid each other for the prize of who could cut welfare the most is no way to treat the poor in a civilised society.
With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this story.
Mark Pack has the story – see link above
Labour must think that by sounding ‘Tory’ over benefits and welfare that it will bring them votes but to me some of their utterances are getting to the point where even Tories must wince at their remarks.