We awaken to the dawn of a Tory majority for the next five years.
To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I had hoped, given the seismic changes that the UK political scene has undergone in the last 12-18 months to see something different. What, I’m not quite sure, but different, certainly.
But no. It seems that when we see change coming, most of us bolt for the comfort of what we already know, as if we already know the worst, and really, how much worse could it be?
Or we think: ‘I’m alright Jack.’ That grand Thatcherite attitude of, as long as I’ve got food on the table and money in the bank, everyone else can do one.
I have absolutely no problem with anyone who has the courage of their political convictions, even if they don’t agree with me. After all, I’ve spent my life with the majority of people not agreeing with me.
What I do have a problem with is a knee jerk, fear based reactionary vote that is not based on research or any real reading or understanding of the political landscape, and which seems, in large part, to be just about a fear of not wanting to give anyone anything if they haven’t lived up to your moral expectations of them.
I find that quite often this attitude is held by people who have always had reasonably cushy jobs, never experienced any serious illness either for themselves or their family members and who have never really had any hardship in their life. It is these people who do not have the imagination to understand that their situation is not actually all about how hard they have worked (although they might indeed have worked very hard), but it is actually about how lucky they have been in the lottery of life.
Well, here’s what I think about the ‘I’m alright Jack’ vote.
I’m truly delighted that you are alright. Really I am. I am alright too, and it feels good and comfortable that I have a nice house, money to pay my bills, food in the fridge and enough to tide my family over should any emergency (not too catastrophic an emergency – let’s say a medium sized one) happen.
But I am under no illusion that this state will last forever as long as I work hard, pay my taxes and toe the party line.
There have been times in my life when this hasn’t been the case. It’s not because I’m lazy. It’s not because I’m uneducated. It’s not because I didn’t try hard enough. It’s just because life is not always predictable and things haven’t always worked in my favour. There have been times when, if it hadn’t been for my family and my friends, I would literally have been starving, and on one occasion, without a roof over my head. I’m lucky I had family and friends there to support me. Others aren’t.
When those times come, you hope that because you have been a good citizen and kept your nose clean and done all the right things, that there might be some help available for you. After all, the papers make out every day that if you just walk into a benefits office that you will be handed wads of cash. It’s so easy to work the system, right?
If you really think that, I’d like to challenge you to go to your local benefits office and see what you can get, and when you inevitably find yourself laughed out of there, don’t tell me that it’s because you’ve got white skin and that it would be easier if you’d just washed up on a boat from Somalia, because that’s not true, or whatever comfortable lie you need to tell yourself that everyone who needs help is a feckless scrounger, so you don’t need to help them.
I think people who manage to defraud, or even just get what they are supposed to be able to access from the benefit system should be given jobs with international security firms or MI5 frankly, because the system is so arcane, impenetrable, unworkable and downright punitive that if you manage to get anything above subsistence level without having a nervous breakdown, hats off to you.
There are always scroungers and cheats, I am not a fool, but there are also desperately unlucky people who need a hand. Do you really think that your life is so blessed that you, or someone you care about won’t ever be in that situation? You’re way more optimistic than me.
Benefit cuts will continue. As it is, it is predicted that in the town my parents live in, over 50% of the population will be existing under subsistence levels within the next five years. Subsistence levels in the UK? FFS.
They voted in a Tory. Go figure. A Tory who has already been disgraced in the cash for questions crisis. A Tory who believes that astrology should be free under the NHS. Bugger getting more beds, better paid nurses etc. As long as Virgo is in the ascendant we will all be fine.
Yes. What about your health? You can work all you like, but what if, God forbid, one day you get cancer, or dementia, or some other terrifying disease that stops you working? Do you really want your drugs allocated through a lottery postcode? Do you really want your care to be split over so many authorities that you fall through the cracks? Do you really want to wait, and wait and wait for beds that aren’t available? Do you want your sickness allowance cut off every time you have a stay in hospital, (if you even qualify for any) even if you’ve got family at home depending on that money? Do you think that Cameron will save you, like he’s saved all those other poor sods for the last five years?
Worse even, do you want to pay for your care? You might think you do, but you have no idea. Believe me, unless you’re a Russian oligarch, you can’t afford it when the chips are really down. Well, the privatisation of the NHS continues, so you’d better start saving or marry really fucking well.
Let’s just talk about getting old for a minute. Do you have any idea how much even the worst nursing homes cost? I do. Do you realise how much of your hard won savings, that you hope you might pass on to your children will be eaten up by the government to subsidise the care you will get in those homes, until your money runs out, and then you’ll be sent to homes that don’t even deserve the word ‘worst’. Maybe you think your children will look after you. What if they can’t?
Let’s not even think about pensions. They’ve gone. Spent. Nothing left. If I get a state pension by the time I retire it will be an actual, bona fide miracle. Let’s hope there’s still equity in the house, eh?
Finally, let’s talk about education. Maybe your kids are in a good school. Maybe they’ve left school so you don’t have to think about it at all, which is nice for you. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to you that the children in schools now will be the adults looking after you when you’re old. Those are the children who are going into secondary schools unable to read, unable to spell, barely able to comprehend sentences they struggle to string together. I’m not exaggerating here. I’ve been in schools. This is what is happening. Not to every child, but to enough children for it to be a real worry, and not just for me.
These children are the future of our country, and instead of doing anything positive, the Tories are hacking the education system into bite sized pieces of incomprehensible jingoistic nonsense and shutting all the libraries down.
Did you know that literacy in children is the greatest indicator of being able to climb the socio economic ladder? The figures come from the WHO organisation by the way. The libraries will still close.
What about if you want to work, but you’ve got kids and you’re juggling part time jobs and zero hours contracts and your child care is eating up every spare penny you have? What if you work and work and work and it’s still not enough, because not all of us can have great jobs that pay a living wage? Some of us have to stack shelves, clean toilets and do all the jobs nobody else wants to do for money nobody else would consider.
What about those people who are already reduced to using food banks. Nobody wants to use a fucking food bank for Christ’s sake. Nobody thinks that’s a good thing. Nobody rejoices that this week they’re going to have to live off tinned tomatoes and cheap sliced bread again because that’s what they got handed out of pity.
Do you think that’ll never happen to you?
Or maybe you think it’s alright because the defence budget is pretty robust, and as long as we can afford more Trident missiles we’ll be fine.
Except, oh yes, the Tories are cutting the numbers in the armed forces too, so who’s going to launch the bloody things when the zombie apocalypse hoves into view?
Maybe you just don’t look. Maybe you just don’t think. Maybe you’re afraid. Maybe you think, ‘Why should I help?’ Maybe you think, ‘Who’s helping me?’
Maybe one day, and I hope this day never comes, but it might, you’ll have to ask: ‘Will somebody help me?’
I hope for your sake that someone will be kind enough to say ‘yes’, even though you didn’t.