As the Conservative Party Conference begins in Birmingham, Cameron has set out his agenda of further benefit cuts and a focus on the ‘strivers’ in society.
Who are these ‘strivers’? They are people who ‘work hard and want to get on in life’.
The issue is that I believe Cameron’s definition both of ‘working hard’ and ‘getting on in life’ is probably vastly different to my reality and the realities I’ve seen at work.
The ‘benefit claimants’ v ‘hard worker’ dynamic is a very toxic one. The government has become very used to divide and rule and this is a further demonstration – and is particularly nefarious in a time of high unemployment and particularly high youth unemployment.
Cameron seems to work on the assumption that all people who have jobs ‘worked hard’ to get them and ‘work hard’ at them. I would challenge that. I wonder how ‘hard’ the Duchess of Cambridge works at her job.
And looking for work can be an exhausting, demoralising and exceptionally difficult piece of ‘work’. As can caring full time for a family member (with a paltry ‘carers allowance’). Are these people counted as ‘strivers’ in Cameron’s books? What about people who contribute to a community? What about people who overcome challenges and difficulties, including health-related ones for whom actually just getting through the day is an enormous challenge – are they ‘strivers’? Do they really not work as hard as some people who drive buses, work in social services offices, work in banks etc? There are hard jobs, of course, but there are also hard lives that exist outside jobs.
The best thing we can do is bat back this ‘striver’ agenda. I don’t want to live in a society that grinds down on those at the bottom without making further expectations of those who have been able to make a success of their lives – and I include myself in that.
Punishing people who don’t, can’t or aren’t able to work seems to be a populist agenda but one of the key things as a social worker I feel a need to challenge are the assumptions made from the safety of the Westminster village about the day to day effects that their policies and their discriminatory rhetoric has on the lives of those who DO strive. Strive desperately – but strive without economic recompense and strive for different goals.
Compassionate Conservatism? It was never anything but empty words.
I’ve been rather depressed lately about how little either Labour or the Tories have had to say about the poor, the sick or otherwise vulnerable at their respective conferences. It’s all about the downtrodden suffering middle classes.
There’s a very straightforward reason for. Vulnerable people frequently don’t vote, because they’re too busy trying to survive. So in political terms, they’re effectively unpersons and the government can do what they like to them.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 created non persons taking away any self determination of those that are often have views and wishes (and feelings) ignored on the basis of those in power deciding
a) they do not pass a test of ‘capacity’, because they might not express themselves as expected to pass ‘capacity’ tests made up by lawyers ;
b) have foisted on them what is supposedly in their best interests.
State power / control has replaced parent-family power/ control.
Expect more ‘unpersons’ those of you who have gone along with the changes that have taken away freedoms that the early Community Care legislation, although imperfect, gave to those once institutionalised by the state. What goes around comes around as they say.
The Mental Capacity Act requires clinicians to demonstrate that a person cannot make a rational decision before making that decision for them. Otherwise (and this is the norm) it requires clinicians to respect patients’ wishes even if said clinicians believe those wishes are not in the patient’s best interests. Consequently, it takes away the power of a clinician to label somebody non-compliant and/or discharge them because they don’t accept advice. The Court of Appeal has ruled that an exemption to this exists if the Mental Health Act applies. In that case, the MHA takes precedence over the MCA.
There’s a difference in emphasis between the Camerrhoid Party, the Boris Party and the Thatcher Revanchist Party but it all adds up to sucking up to the middle classes. The reality is, I suggest, that the middle classes do have needs which can be financed by such things as the proposed Mansion Tax proposed by the ConDem’d LibDems but squashed by the Big Con Party. Instead, the professionals and managers are set against the poor, divide and rule. One thing the Tories won’t/can’t do is upset the Truly Rich/themselves. BUT anyone thinking of becoming a Marxist or whatever needs to be aware that (the middle class) Marx and Engels show a great deal of contempt for the poor and disenfranchised in the ‘Communist Manifesto’. The ‘proletariat’ to them means the comparatively well-off skilled working class plus any member of the middle class who has no investments and therefore has no option but to work for ssomebody else – Cameron’s ‘strivers’. Now there’s an interesting thought, Cameron the Tory Marxist forsooth.
Perhaps, if as in many countries in the world, there were no universal benefits or social services systems and the role of the family- imperfect though it might be for many who think they are independent entities rather than interdependent ones- was the main social structure- however imperfect, we would not have these political speeches or quite so vocal public feelings against those that need our help.
The truth is that in the UK, especially noticeable over the last 20 or so years, the growth of very system(s) purporting to protect the most vulnerable and their families have become a sort of ‘tyranny’ to many- the vulnerable and those that demonise them alike.
LIfe was not quite like it is now- the young cannot know this- the UK has lost something important thanks to the last few governments. The every increasing laws that merely control bad behaviours but cannot stop them and the power given to public servants paid by the public purse who are unfit for the roles they have slotted into because they mirror the rest of society- so can hardly solve any problem they are part of themselves.
No point in complaining- you are the world too and you may think you create a better world but that in itself is the ultimate delusion. So are we different from the politicians? No I think not because we dare not stand alone- it is isolating to go against whatever we have psychologically aligned ourselves to and to really think.
.Thank you .In retirement I continue to work in the caring industry, I worry that my lovely colleagues believe it is easy and possible for skivers to access £30,000pa of benefits. These caring people are going to believe this rhetoric too, ably assisted by a certain type of newspaper and magazine which never mentions tax fraud. This approach /attitude is divisive stuff, distances people and damages the sense of community in small places. The Conservatives want us all divided and ruled so that we neither know nor care what is happening or who is striving against the odds or skiving whilst purporting to be working . Great piece as ever