Dear David Cameron,
If you continue to withdraw our wages and our welfare state, then we will withdraw our labour and our taxes. This is the very simple, and fair, message that needs to be communicated to the Cameron and his crony coalition.
For the sake of fairness, the message should be copied to the entire political class. Because what we are witnessing here is the end game of a neoliberal consensus that has gripped our political, academic and media institutions – and has even crept into our courts. This has been the work of every government since at least Margaret Thatcher from 1979, to the present day.
In the dying embers of World War II, a new social contract was drawn up in Britain. Freedom from poverty was made a right – a condition of citizenship. A person paid their national insurance and their taxes, and was safe in the knowledge that that they would not be made destitute by the vicissitudes of this so-called ‘market’. Furthermore, a person who was physically or mentally unable to participate in the jobs market, would not be abandoned to the mercy of philanthropy, but the responsibility of all.
It was never a pay as you go system on a transaction by transaction basis – I pay this, I get this. Instead, taxes and national insurance for all who could pay, was the price of living in a country where the gap between rich and poor was narrowed, where all children received a free and decent education, where every person had a safe and decent home, where any person was entitled to the best healthcare available when they were sick, regardless of their ability to pay, where you could expect a swift and just response from the police if you were the victim of crime, and a fair trial whether plaintiff or defendant, where roads, buses, trains and other forms of public transport were cost effective, safe and reliable. In short, the price of living in a civil society.
It was also understood that the natural ambitions of corporations to reduce costs and increase profits, versus the worker’s requirement to be fairly compensated for their work – meant an arbiter was needed to balance these conflicting needs. It was agreed that a working person living in poverty and destitution, was unacceptable in our society.
This was our social contract. But while the overwhelming majority of people are still honouring their side of the bargain – the political and corporate class (increasingly, actually the same people), are not.
Just days ago, 48 year old Terry McGarvey was rushed to hospital and died, after dragging himself to an Atos ‘work capability assessment’, through fear he would lose his benefits if he failed to attend. He joins 32 sick and disabled people who are dying each week, under these conditions.
The Justice Minister Chris Grayling, has slashed the Legal Aid budget which guaranteed an equal access justice system. That promise is over. On top of this, Grayling is planning on charging those convicted of a crime £600 for the court costs. The costs payable by a person convicted of a crime should be set by the judge and the legal system, not a politician. With the criminalisation of homelessness, the increase in poverty related crime and the rise of the workfare prison (where prisoners work a 40 hour week for as little as £11) – the coalition is creating conditions of poverty, and then creating ways to profit from it.
The NHS is being carved up into McDonald’s style franchises between the likes of Circle, Serco, Virgin Health and other private providers. Plans are in place for citizens to have the number of GP visits they make each year capped, and to pay £10 per visit. Crippled by the rising price of private loans, profiteering and privatisation – the NHS is buckling under the pressure. And wherever the cracks show, it is the service (the nurses and doctors attempting to keep people well and save lives amidst all this corruption) and not the vultures scoffing at its carcass that gets the blame.
Michael Gove is busy ripping apart the fabric of the national education system, promising greater localism and autonomy while moving powers from Local Education Authorities across the country, to his own office in Westminster.
Young people who leaving school are now faced with an average student debt of £63,000 to attend University, or a jobs market containing zero hours contracts, the fastest falling wages in the western world, a million young people out of work, and workfare.
There is a housing crisis, the result of the abandonment of the social housing policy of the post war period, which sees private landlords charging such exorbitant rents that only 1 in 8 Housing benefit claimants are unemployed. Nowhere is this more painful than the capital, with London rents now consuming more than 50% of people’s income.
I could go on. But I shouldn’t really need to. You know this is happening. It’s happening so quickly, that you can actually watch the pillars of your civil society being knocked down, one after the other. But we cannot simply stand here, mouths agape in horror. We cannot allow ourselves to be torn apart by age group, race, gender or whether we were born here or arrived here. We cannot keep our heads down and hope for ‘better one day’. This is not some sort of storm you can ride out. It is a war that you either join and fight, or acquiesce to, accepting the ever worsening conditions placed upon you by the victors. No. If the political class is no longer honouring the social contract, neither should we. It is time to withdraw the lifelines to this bloated, corrupt and cruel class – a class including men like Iain Duncan Smith; a man who refuses to spend £53 of public money on a person’s Job Seeker’s Allowance, while blowing £39 of public money on his own breakfast.
The system rests on our labour, our taxes and our consent. It is time to withdraw all three. It is time to force the political crisis that already exists into the sunlight. It is time.
Don’t get angry, get involved
Occupy London – get involved with direct action campaigns.
People’s Assembly – join the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and get involved in activism, discussion, education and political action.
None of the Above – join the campaign to vote None of the Above in 2015.
Wave of Action – join the Wave of Action
Do anything, but do something.