And so the House of Lords has rejected the UK Government’s proposals to dramatically reduce tax credits for the working poor in the United Kingdom. As a declaration, I no longer reside in the UK and no longer pay taxes to HM’s Treasury. Nevertheless, so long as I hold the right to vote and possess a British passport I also reserve the right to express a view, particularly as any political decision before the EU referendum has the knock-on effect of informing how people understand the debate surrounding Britain’s place in the European Union.
David Cameron’s government is the finest example of how ideology is alive, if not well, in government. The UK Government first won its modest electoral victory in 2010 having convinced the British public that they were one nation, or compassionate, conservatives. The public bought it only in so far as they made the backup choice that the Liberal Democrats should be right beside them in government to cast a restraining influence on the harder Tory elements.
After the 2015 election, we now have a party that is detached from the realities of what it means and what it costs to be disabled and poor in the United Kingdom. It is the stuff of bad dreams, a left-wing Tory scarecrow that’s come to life to be economically frugal and ideologically parochial all while never admitting the truth.
In fairness, you would be hard pressed to find anyone that believed that the United Kingdom was in a fit economic condition in 2010. Austerity, if not for this generation but the next, has been a necessary evil to ensure the debt anchor around the country’s neck is not dragged past the mid-21st century. Whether or not successive governments respect the Conservative government’s progress in this department is another matter.
What is contestable and what has proved to be a continued issue – one seldom articulated, particularly by the SNP or Labour – is that it’s where the cuts have fallen as opposed to them falling at all which is the real issue. The economic debate surrounding the renewal of Trident has not been serious and more resembles the pastiche so brilliantly put forward in Yes, Prime Minister. Instead, the government has focussed on welfare curbs and disability fitness tests that represent a stark bean-counting mentality that is neither compassionate or anywhere near close to the mantle of one nation conservatism.
The UK Government is instead trying to perfect the system in a reactionary manner rather than accepting that there is not one size fits all type of person who is either disabled or poor or both. Life is hard. It is not a new realisation for most. Yet the government has tapped into the annoyed vein – that most have people share – of how they feel when they see handouts going to people who are smug and lazy. Reforms have been implemented to curtail the exemplars inside a Daily Mail pillory with very little consideration given to those hard-working people who have fallen on hard times or perpetual difficulty if they suffer the difficulties associated with long-term illness or disability.
The tax credits debacle represents just another wrung in a series of policies and reforms that look good on paper but don’t take into consideration the brutality of losing income for families already stuck in tough times. This is the key point. When the government introduces reforms it would do well to honestly say that it is targeting your Daily Mail case-studies of opulent poverty with hardworking people in tough times cast aside as collateral.
The claim that this government is a one nation conservative administration would be laughable if it weren’t wrapped in a bubble of conceited, applauding conference soundbites. One nation conservatism holds at its ethos that reform when it happens, should keep the best and discard the worst of what it is you are changing. In this area, it is obvious that the government is throwing the baby out with the bathwater and there can be no good in demolishing a system designed to help people in the hope of targeting only a few that abuse the system. Such logic would see us dismantling capitalism tomorrow because a few bad eggs crippled us in 2007.
There cannot and should not be the dichotomy of poor and undeserving poor in this or any other country. We have come too far to artificially create a smug voyeurism of the middle class against the have-nots. If there is to be austerity, as there should be, then a mature discussion on the nature of our domestic provisions needs to begin with the concession that we can either be a leading provider for our people or a modestly powerful echelon in the defence of the Western world with all the weaponry and power that requires. We cannot afford both and we cannot pretend we can any longer.