Back to the Future: where 1 in 4 makes a majority.

13 May

Governing for the one percent

Governing for the one percent

I haven’t blogged for ages: the 2015 General Election campaign was always going to provoke thought and action and I wanted to make sure I did stuff- deliver leaflets, canvassing etc – rather than write about what everyone else should be doing. So I did. Stuff. And it didn’t work.

Not only do we not have a Labour-led government, we have a Conservative Party which can govern alone and unhindered. The public lied to the pollsters, they bought into a dirty but ultimately effective campaign of smears and propaganda and thanks to 24% of the electorate – more on this later – we have a Tory government elected for the first time since early 1992.

And it hasn’t taken long for the mask to be removed, has it? David Cameron stood in Downing Street on 8 May and said ‘I want my party….and government to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost – the mantle of One Nation, one United Kingdom.’

Yet in the five days since he said those words, the smart-suited swivel-eyed ideologues have been let off the leash. Cameron looks and talks like a moderate, but he is as far to the right as any other Thatcherite.

You might have thought that with Scotland voting wholesale for nationalism and five million people voting green or UKIP that our Prime Minister would set out some ideas for bringing the nation together. Not a bit of it.
These, in chronological order, are the half-dozen policy ideals set out by the Conservative Party in six days.

1. Cutting the Access To Work scheme. This is the vehicle for assisting some disabled workers to stay in employment. It provides matched funding (half government/half employer) for things like transport, BSL interpreters, technological aids and other practical, useful ways of keeping disabled people in the workforce. Cutting this is an extraordinary act of cruelty and petty indifference.

2. Bringing back hanging. OK, this is only the slightly-deranged musings of Priti Patel, now a junior DWP Minister, but it does show an interesting sense of 21st century values…..

3. Abolishing the Human Rights Act. Yes, you did read that correctly. The Act is the means by which the European Convention on Human Rights is incorporated into UK law. You know, luxuries like the right to life, right to an education, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of association….. Apparently a priority of ‘the nation’ is to trash all this dangerous nonsense and replace it with something put together by people who can be trusted to look after our interests – viz Michael Gove, Teresa May, Eric Pickles and Iain Duncan-Smith.

4. Making industrial action illegal. Having spent a century opposing every right gained by people who work, the 21st century Tory party wants to roll us back to the 17th. Rather than ensure conflict doesn’t arise, the Tories just set the voting barrier so high that lawful industrial action becomes virtually impossible. And make it harder to vote, too. A 50% threshold, and then at least 80% of those voting ‘yes’ is also required, in order for a strike, an overtime ban or a work to contract to be legal. If I tell you more than half the Cabinet, including Business Minister Sajid Javed, didn’t achieve the 40% ‘yes’ in order to be elected as an MP, you get some idea of the hypocrisy and ideological malice involved.

5. Threatening the BBC with cuts to the licence fee. Not content with having the BBC cowering in the corner, afraid of its own shadow, the Tories want to keep it even more in line by appointing a BBC-hater, John Whittingdale, as Culture Minister. Those of us who watch BBC employed Tories like Nick Robinson, Andrew Neill, Chris Patten, John Pienaar, John Humphreys and Cameron’s school chum James Landale parade across our screens nightly will see some genuine gallows humour in the Tory mantra that the Beeb is some sort of Marxist hotbed. If only….

6. Changing the UK’s electoral boundaries. After what is widely seen as the most unrepresentative election in a generation, the Conservative Party answer is: ‘Let’s keep the system and make it even more unfair.’ Eh?

Any way you cut it, first-past-the-post is a farce. The Conservative Party has a absolute majority in Parliament with only 24% of the electorate voting for them. Yes, less than one in every four adults of voting age.

Even if you just count those who turned out to vote, two out of every three voters backed someone else. The SNP has almost all of the seats in Scotland with only half of the vote. Yet the DUP got 8 MPs with 160,000 votes, and UKIP got one MP with 4 million votes and the Green party got one MP with more than a million votes. It is now the case that our democracy isn’t democratic.

The Tories might think a wee bit of tinkering with constituency sizes is OK – perhaps no-one will notice that it coincidentally gives them 24 more seats next time? – but our society and the engagement of our citizens will be undermined by this inexcusable corruption. As I said, these parasites have less than 25% of the population behind them.

So, all in all, it is as bleak and brutal as we expected.

We have a government most of us don’t want in absolute power and showing no signs of doing anything other than act in their own class interest.

We can expect soft-peddling on tax dodgers, more cuts to disability benefits and more privatisation of our public services. Fewer rights at work, greater inequality, more cuts, more debt, a house price bubble (and crash), more zero hours contracts…… and a bloody financial and political mess as we do the hokey-cokey with Europe.

What is to be done?

I’ll cover that next time but right now, I just want to go lie down in a dark room.

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Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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