Monday, 25 June 2012
The day the tories declared war on morality
I like to think of myself as a moral person. I try to live my life without hurting anyone else and showing consideration to others and, where possible, to put myself out of my way to help others. I like to think that I suceed most of the time and hopefully if there is some sort of judgement day then I'll have more in the black than in the red. It's quite an English thing actually. Live and let live, root for the underdog, etc. And, like most things in life, I can blame my parents for this. They raised me to be polite and considerate and to be independent and, most of all, fairly, with the result that I expect the world to be fair as well and get fairly irritated when I see unfairness taking place and no one doing anything to stop it. So that probably explains why I became interested in politics as well but that's a whole other story.
What I want to talk about today is Mr Cameron and his very clever plan (sarcasm) to stop housing benefit for under 25s if his party wins the next general election.
And my immediate response to that is who the hell does he think he is? And how bloody stupid and privileged is he? (The answer to those questions is, respectively "a tory" and "a lot").
Let me first of all just point out the practical problem with this proposal. It basically says to all young people that, regardless of their circumstances, they should live with their parents until they're 25. Now, aside from the fact that we don't really want a country where young people are still living with and still depending on their parents for another seven years after their 18th birthday, such an idea simply shows just how blindly privileged and thoughtless Cameron is in assuming that everyone even has the option of living with their parents.
What about young people leaving care? What about LGBT+ people who are kicked out of their homes by their parents just because of who they are? What about the people whose parents can't afford to look after their children, not to mention those who would struggle pay additional council tax for having an extra adult in the house? What about young people who are working every hour that god sends and yet still need housing benefit because rents are so high and because there's so little housing available?
The unspoken answer is, according to Mr Cameron's proposals, is that it's their own fault for not being born into a wealthier household. So, inevitably, what we would see if the tories ever manage to implement their policy (which should be never if the people of this country have any sense) is a massive spike in homelessness among young people. And when you're homeless it's very difficult to find a job, even when there are enough jobs to go around and which there aren't at the moment.
So what will happen to all these thousands of young people? People without jobs or homes or hopes of either? Well, inevitably, a lot of them will turn to crime. And a lot more of them will seethe with resentment as they're forced to live in poverty yet can see young people their own age, who were fortunate enough to be born into wealthier families, enjoying and taking for granted the kind of lifestyle that they could only dream of and knowing that the system is set up in such a way that they will never have any hope of aspiring to that. In short, if you want a repeat of the riots of last year then this one policy is perhaps the best way to do it.
All of which ignores the simple fact that most young people are taxpayers. And we pay our taxes, in part, to provide for the welfare state. I firmly believe that a civilised nation has a duty to make sure that none of its people go hungry, that none of them go homeless, that none of them go without warmth or shelter or any of the other basic necessities of life. And that's why I pay my taxes. I don't grumble about pensioners getting free bus passes or that they use the healthcare system more than I do because I know that one day I could end up depending on those things. And I don't begrudge benefit payments to the disabled or the unemployed because I know that, there but for the grace of god, go I - not to mention that I could very easily find myself in their position completely unexpectedly. In any event, the fact is that our benefit system is one of the stingiest in Europe and that we spend less than half on it today than we did in Thatcher's day. Yep, that's right, Thatcher spent more on more generous benefits than Messrs Blair, Brown and Cameron combined.
And so this begs the question as to why the hell Cameron is proposing this nonsense? And the answers simple. It won't affect the kind of people who vote tory. Young people are unlikely to vote anyway and those made homeless by the policy will struggle to even register to vote without even a permanent address. Meanwhile the kind of young people who do vote tory are the ones wealty enough to be unaffected. But, more importantly, it panders to the right wing of his party and to the kind of people who foam at the mouth constantly at the thought of pregnant teenagers being given support paid for by their taxes, and never bothering to think about all the young people who pay taxes so that they can enjoy a free health service which most young people don't use.
And that whole motivation there is what sums up the reason for my utter contempt of the tories. They are vermin. I have met some nice tories occasionally but as a party they are absolute scum who positively relish demonising and kicking those less fortunate than themselves. They represent the very worst of human nature and I would find it very hard to despise them more than I do now.
Because, fundamentally, the tories are immoral. They don't give a damn about letting other people live their lives. They don't give a damn about looking after or caring about other people as long as they can milk the system for as much as they can get for them and theirs and to hell with everyone else.
And, as a moral person (or at least someone who tries to be a moral person), I can tell you right now that this policy is wrong. It is immoral claptrap which won't achieve anything other than create a generation of homeless people and a crime wave and Lib Dems should not be afraid to say so.
This, more than anything, should be where we draw a clear dividing line between us, a party that stand for the many, and a tory party which only cares about the wealthy few and who are quite happy to ruin thousands of lives to "fix" a problem that exists mainly in their imagination.
Politics should be about morality. The vision that we have for society, a helping hand or an iron fist, should be at the heart of what politics is about. Liberalism should be a crusade for a better society, one where everyone can be sure that, no matter what happens, they will not be abandoned. One where no one is left behind. One where people show compassion and kindness and tolerance towards each other instead of the selfishness, intolerance and contempt for the unfortunate that the tories epitomise.
And, I can tell you right now, that if we don't pick up the torch on this, if we don't take up battle with the foe, with all those who would happily bring about the destruction of all that is best about England then we might as well give up on our principles and embrace the soulless machine politics of Labour. Because it's simply not enough and won't be enough for us just to argue against the technical points of the implementation of the policy, we need to be able to wage war, with fire in our bellies, for the heart and soul of our society and to tackle the tories head on on the very principle of the thing if we ever truly want to see a fair, free and open society.