David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’: What a tasteless joke.
This was his big idea, when he forced himself on us in 2010: His Coalition government was going to thin out the public sector, sure, but don’t worry! The private sector would leap in, to fill the gap, and charities would be a major part of this.
Four years later we get this, from Pride’s Purge: Man dies after homeless[ness] charity makes him homeless
So much for charities stepping into the breach. What about the public sector, then?
As luck would have it, within hours of the Tom Pride article’s appearance, the above image flashed onto Facebook, along with the following message:
“SIGN OUR PETITION AND DEMAND CHANGE: www.crisis.org.uk/nooneturnedaway-fbook
“Simon isn’t the only one to be turned away when he asked for help. Our team of undercover researchers tested council homelessness services across England. In 50 out of 87 visits, they were turned away with little or no help.
“This is nothing short of a scandal. Homelessness is devastating and shouldn’t happen to anyone. The average age of death for a homeless person is just 47.
“Sign our petition to demand politicians review the help single homeless people get under the law in England. Because no one should be turned away when they ask for help.
The first thing to do with this is realise and accept that publicly-funded local authorities are also turfing people onto the streets. Second is to accept that this is another charity, so they can’t all be bad. Third is to accept what this charity is saying – that it cannot cope with the numbers of people being made homeless by local authorities and other charities, and that this means something is badly wrong with the way the law says the State should deal with the problem.
Laws are enacted by the government. David Cameron leads the current government. We know that his changes have created the current situation.
It has to end, before any other bodies wash up on our beaches. So we come to the fourth thing, which is to ask yourself:
Face the facts: David Cameron has been sucking up to Hindus, Jews and now Christians because he wants religious people to vote for his Conservatives – in the same way Satan, the great deceiver, tries to lure the righteous into sin. If he worships any religious figure, it is Mammon, the personification of greed.
Perhaps he’s had a breakdown in the wake of the Maria Miller scandal.
Visiting Christian leaders were no doubt amazed to hear the leader of the most evil British government in decades telling them he has been doing “God’s work”.
David Cameron told them his Big Society concept – the vain attempt to get volunteers to do for free what public sector workers did before he sacked them all – was invented by Jesus of Nazareth, in Roman-era Israel.
If you think that’s a warped vision of Christianity, try this: He said, “Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world. We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”
Trying to start another war, David?
He won’t be fighting the Jews, it seems. Only last month he delivered a strongly pro-Jewish speech to the Israeli Knesset (their Parliament), supporting the religious slaughter of animals to make Kosher meat (in the face of calls for more humane methods) and rejecting calls to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements like the occupied West Bank.
He even mentioned the fact that he had a Jewish great-great grandfather, although the Daily Mail reported, “he made no mention of reports that he may be descended from Moses”.
Cameron has also prostituted himself for the Hindu vote.
But let’s get back to his claim that his policies come from Christ himself. On the day Cameron finally accepted Mrs Miller’s resignation, he had nothing to say about the choice of music accompanying his Easter reception in Downing Street (Ave Maria). Instead, he told Church leaders that, if they believe there are obstacles preventing them from doing more to support his failed pet project, they should think of him as “a giant Dyno-Rod”.
And why not?
If anything in this country deserves to be flung down a drain, it’s David Cameron.
Vox Political deplores the manipulation of religion for political ends
… but we need YOUR help to do so.
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions. Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
Public opinion on lobbyists: Note the proximity of the words “corrupt”, “cheats” and “influential”. [Picture stolen from PR Week]
A Parliamentary Bill designed to prevent free speech by gagging political commentators, and to enable the ‘blacklisting’ of trade union members by having their names registered, has won the favour of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs this evening.
They voted to allow the inappropriately-titled ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’ to proceed to its committee stage after a debate today (Tuesday).
That stage will last for only a few days, during which it will be examined by a ‘committee of the whole House’ – in other words, the Bill is being guillotined; hurried through Parliament in order to get it onto the statute books after the least possible scrutiny. It seems that the government has something to hide.
Could it be the fact that the Electoral Commission, the organisation that would enforce the Bill’s provisions if it is passed into law, has made it perfectly clear that it is an attempt to stifle political commentary from organisations and individuals: “The Bill creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues in the year before the…general election, and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations”?
Could it be the fact that new regulations for trade unions mean members could be blacklisted – denied jobs simply because of their membership?
Could it be the fact that the measures against lobbyists – the Bill’s apparent reason for existing – are expected to do nothing to hinder Big Money’s access to politicians, and in fact is likely to accelerate the process, turning Parliamentarians into corporate poodles?
If so, then the attempt has failed, because all of these, and more, were discussed in today’s debate.
But don’t worry – we have the assurances of Andrew Lansley, Leader of the House of Commons, to keep us from losing sleep over it. The man who asked us to believe his so-called reform of the National Health Service would not lead to wholesale privatisation – and look at it now – took a telling question from Glenda Jackson, early in his opening speech.
She said the Bill “has created almost a fire-storm in my constituency. My constituents are appalled at what they regard as a gagging Bill. They wish to see a list of lobbyists that is transparent to ensure that Government cannot be bought — even though that is a debatable issue. They know that the Bill as it stands would prevent democratic voices from being heard.”
Mr Lansley’s response: “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity after today’s debate to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”
Let’s hold him to that, shall we? Bear in mind that lying to Parliament is an expulsion offence, even if this particular government does not enforce it. David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have already defied Parliamentary convention by telling appalling untruths to their fellow MPs and walking back to their jobs; now it seems likely Mr Lansley may have done the same.
High on the list of opposition MPs’ concerns was the fact that the Bill does nothing to prevent lobbyists working directly for commercial concerns from approaching government ministers and trying to influence them.
“Recent freedom of information requests reveal that Treasury officials met fracking industry representatives 19 times in the last 10 months about their generous tax breaks, yet the public are denied any further details of that lobbying on the grounds that it could prejudice commercial interests,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas. “Is the Leader of the House not ashamed that this Bill will drastically curtail the ability of charities to campaign in the public interest on issues such as fuel poverty and energy but do nothing to curb such secretive corporate influencing?”
And Labour’s Chris Bryant had a query of his own: “Every single member of the public affairs team in-house at BSkyB will be able to visit as many Ministers as they want and every single lawyer employed by BSkyB to advance its case will be able to do so without any need to register. The only person who would have to register would be an independent consultant in a company that solely lobbies. How does that possibly afford greater transparency?”
Mr Lansley’s response: “It promotes transparency because if a representative of Sky visits a Minister in order to discuss that business, it is transparent that they are doing so in order to represent the interests of Sky. However, if somebody from ‘XYZ Corporation’, a consultant lobbying firm, visits a Minister in order to discuss somebody else’s business but it is not transparent through the ministerial diary publication who they are representing, that is not transparent. We propose to remedy that by making it transparent.”
Oh, well that’s all right then.
No it isn’t! It’s the complete opposite of all right! Where the public wanted a curb on corporations corruptly influencing the government, it is instead offering to rub that influence in our faces!
“This is one of the worst Bills that I have seen any Government produce in a very long time,” said Lansley’s shadow, Angela Eagle. The last Bill this bad might even have been the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the Leader of the House of Commons had his fingerprints all over that one, too… This Bill is hurried, badly drafted and an agglomeration of the inadequate, the sinister and the partisan. From a Government who solemnly promised that they would fix our broken politics, the Bill will do the complete opposite.
“The Bill can best be summed up as furious displacement activity by a Government who hope that the public will not notice their problems with lobbying… they are trying to ram through their gag on charities and campaigners… so that they are silenced in time for the next general election, and they are trying to avoid the scrutiny that will show the public what a disgrace the Bill is.”
She said: “Three and a half years ago the Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, told us that lobbying was the next big scandal waiting to happen. He did not tell us then that he was going to do nothing about it for over three years but survive a series of lobbying scandals and then produce a Bill so flawed that it would actually make things worse.
“Under the Government’s definition, someone will count as a lobbyist only if they lobby, directly, Ministers or permanent secretaries and if their business is mainly for the purposes of lobbying. It is estimated that that will cover less than one-fifth of those people currently working in the £2 billion lobbying industry, and the Association of Professional Political Consultants estimates that only one per cent of ministerial meetings organised by lobbyists would be covered.
“It would be extremely easy to rearrange how such lobbying is conducted to evade the need to appear on the new register at all. The Bill is so narrow that it would fail to cover not only the lobbyist currently barnacle-scraping at the heart of Number 10 [Lynton Crosby], but any of the lobbying scandals that have beset the Prime Minister in this Parliament.
“There is a real risk that the proposals will make lobbying less transparent than it is now. The Government’s proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing, voluntary, register run by the UK Public Affairs Council.”
Moving on to part two of the Bill, she said, “In one of the most sinister bits of legislation that I have seen in some time, this Bill twists the rules on third-party campaigning to scare charities and campaigners away from speaking out. It is an assault on the Big Society that the Prime Minister once claimed to revere… It is clear that these changes will have wide-ranging implications for many hundreds of charities and campaigners, local and national, large and small.
“Some of them have told us that they will have to pull back from almost all engagement in debates on public policy in the year before the election. These changes have created massive uncertainty for those who may fall within the regulations in a way that the Electoral Commission has deplored.
“The changes will mean that third-party campaigning will be restricted even if it was not intended to affect the outcome of an election — for example, engaging in public policy debate. Staff costs and overheads will also have to be included in what has to be declared — something that does not apply in this way to political parties. The Electoral Commission has said that these changes could have a ‘dampening effect’ on public debate. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said that the changes will ‘have the result of muting charities and groups of all sorts and sizes on the issues that matter most to them and the people that they support’.”
And on part three, which centres on trade union membership records, she said, “There appears to be no policy motive for the introduction of this new law other than as a vehicle for cheap, partisan attacks on the trade unions, of which only a minority are actually affiliated to the Labour party.
“Officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been totally unable to explain the problem that this part of the Bill is designed to solve. During a belated consultation meeting with the TUC — it took place after the Bill had been published — BIS officials could cast no light on why part three exists at all. Nor were they able to explain the origin of these proposals beyond their oft-repeated mantra that the provisions contained in part three ‘came out of a high level meeting between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister’. I think that revelation tells us all we need to know about the grubby, partisan nature of the measures.
“These proposals seem deliberately designed to burden trade unions with additional cost and bureaucracy from a Government who claim they are against red tape. This is despite the fact that unions already have a statutory duty to maintain registers of members. I understand from the TUC that neither the certification officer nor ACAS has made any representations to suggest that that was not already sufficient. The Government have to date failed to provide any evidence or rationale for these changes, so I can only conclude that this is a deliberate attempt to hamper unions with red tape because a minority of them have the temerity to support the Labour party.”
And she said: “I have serious concerns about the implications of these changes for the security of membership data. We all know that the blacklisting of trade union members may well still exist in our country. Blacklisting has ruined many lives and these changes could have some very dangerous implications, especially in the construction industry, where many are afraid to declare their membership of a trade union openly for fear of the repercussions.”
And Graham Allen, Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, lambasted the Bill. He said: “If someone wanted to do O-level politics on how to produce or not to produce a Bill, I am sorry, but this Bill would be an F — a fail, big time.
“Read the evidence from the Electoral Commission when I publish it in 48 hours’ time. It is damning evidence from people who should really all be on the same side to ensure this provision will happen.
“We should listen to people. Let us have some consultation; let Parliament do its job, smoke out some of the issues and attempt to resolve them. I have a fantastic all-party committee and we could do that job for Parliament, yet those things have been resolutely held at arm’s length.
“Perversely, we are trying to make a Bill that divides rather than keeps people together.”
It isn’t perverse at all. That is precisely the point of it.
Isn’t it a shame that in the season of goodwill, the Prime Minister cannot extend any to those who are worst-off in his bold Big Society?
Instead, all they’ve been given are bad statistics and platitudes.
I’m referring, of course, to his performance in the last Prime Minister’s Questions of 2012, when he was asked to explain why there has been a sixfold increase in the number of food banks in the UK during the last three years – the time since Mr Cameron’s Coalition government took over.
A food bank, for those who don’t know the exact definition, is simply a place where food is contributed and made available to those in need. In the UK, there are currently 13 million people living below the poverty line (according to the Trussell Trust, which is the authority on food banks in this country). These include working people, whose income does not cover their costs; the unemployed, who are finding they do not have enough money to buy food due to the vicious and unwarranted benefit cuts thrust upon them by the Coalition; and of course the homeless, a sector of society that is due to grow exponentially, again due to the many cuts inflicted by the bloodthirsty Conservatives.
As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.
“The problem is that it is working people who are turning to food banks,” said Ed Miliband at PMQs. “One head teacher of a school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, Vic Goddard, says that even children with a parent or parents in work are often struggling with the choice of heating their homes, buying their children clothes or buying them food. A report last week from the Children’s Society said that two-thirds of teachers knew of staff providing pupils with food or money to prevent them from going hungry.”
This rings true. There is a reason that working people have been receiving benefits, and it is that they are being paid too little. It is a ridiculous situation, in the seventh largest economy on this planet, but one that has been perpetuated by successive governments – including, I’m sorry to say, Labour – since the 1970s. In contrast, executive pay has shot through the roof. If the minimum wage had risen in line with executive pay – just since it was introduced in 1998 – it would be more than £18 today, three times the actual level of £6.19.
The comedy Prime Minister responded with nothing of substance. He said the most important thing was “to get on top of inflation, and inflation is coming down”. How out-of-touch! It is true that inflation must be controlled, but his comedy chancellor, Gideon George Osborne, has decided that benefits – including those for people in work – will rise by less than the rate of inflation for the next three years, and Cameron himself has indicated that poor economic indicators may see him increase this to six years. The longer this rule stays in place, the further into poverty low-waged working people will go.
“The most important thing is to get more people into work and out of poverty,” said Cameron. This is not the same thing. We have seen that working people in the lowest-paid jobs are being plunged into poverty and forced to the indignity of seeking help from food banks – and remember, those starting in work will be the lowest-paid.
“And we see 600,000 more private sector jobs this year,” added Cameron, failing once again to admit that this figure includes around 200,000 that were already-existing public sector jobs, re-categorised as private in order to boost the Coalition’s statistics.
“We are helping […] families by freezing the council tax,” he said, neglecting to add that he is forcing people with limited cash to – from April – pay at least 10 per cent of it where they would have received council tax benefit before. “And making sure that we help families with the cost of living,” he droned on. This comment is meaningless other than as a complete fabrication. How can he expect to be believed when he is mercilessly forcing them into poverty?
“We have lifted the personal tax allowance and taken two million of the lowest-paid people out of tax altogether,” he said. But they still have to use their own money to make up the huge losses in benefits that are coming. This government gives with one hand but takes with the other.
“Because of the decisions that we made in this Government to increase the child tax credit by £390 ahead of inflation, we have helped those families with their bills and we will continue to do more in the future.” How? Child tax credit will be abolished when Universal Credit is brought in across the UK.
Cameron’s denouement was his declaration that Labour had nothing to offer, “except for the same old something-for-nothing culture that got us in this mess in the first place”. We all know that this is not true. Until the banking crisis, Labour ran a lower deficit than any Conservative government of the previous 30 years. The Conservatives had supported greater deregulation of the banks right up until the crisis hit, meaning that it would have been much worse if they had been in power at the time. And they supported Labour’s actions to solve that crisis – meaning that, if we are in a mess now, the Conservatives should take as much responsibility for it as Labour. They would have done no different.
Possibly the most astonishing moment was when David Cameron said volunteers in food banks were part of his Big Society idea, “to help those in need”. The stated aim of the Big Society was to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, taking power away from politicians and giving it to people. Now, here, Mr Cameron seemed to be saying the opposite – that it is about taking so much away from people that they are forced to rely on charity to survive. It seems, therefore, that the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was correct when he labelled it “aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable.”
His words were, to some extent, echoed by Ed Miliband at PMQs: “I never thought that the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain. The reality is that in the third year of the Prime Minister’s Government, more children are going hungry and more families are relying on food banks.
“Is it not the clearest indictment of his Government’s values that while lower and middle-income families are being hit, at the same time he is giving an average of a £107,000 tax cut to people earning over £1 million a year?”
And those were the truest words spoken on the subject.
‘The leader knows best.’ Denis Skinner’s sarcasm pulls the wool away from our eyes; despite invoking the fight against Hitler, David Cameron becomes more like him every day.
It’s funny how Tories like to say the Labour Party would have us all doing as “Comrade (at the moment) Ed” tells us – and then gets back to whittling away our democratic rights, sometimes by huge chunks at a time.
Today the BBC is reporting that our right to challenge government policies is to be limited. Planning is the area that is singled out for closer examination but my reading of this is that any branch of government may use this stick to beat the plebs.
Opponents will have less time than the current three months to apply for judicial review of policies they oppose, will face higher fees (so that means most of us won’t have a chance), and will have our chances of appealing against a decision halved from four to two.
Cameron is trying to tell us this is to prevent time-wasting and boost the economy, but gave himself away when he said “We urgently need to get a grip on this” – he means he wants to tighten his grip on democracy and choke it hard.
The Beeb tells us Downing Street figures showed that more than 11,000 applications for judicial review were made in 2011, compared with 160 in 1975. Around one in six applications was granted. One-sixth of 11,000 is 1,833, which implies – to me – that more than 11 times as many judicial reviews are successful now as in 1975. That’s good for democracy. The people get to have their say.
Cameron wants to stop this.
Is this really the action of the Party of Freedom and of Choice?
Of course not.
It is appalling that he has chosen to compare the present day with the fight against Hitler – when he himself is behaving more like the German dictator every day.
He was expected to tell the Confederation of British Industry today (Monday) that “Whitehall underwent a revolution” in wartime. “We need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ – and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.”
But we are not living in wartime, no matter how much he might like to push that on us. We aren’t even living in hard times, when you consider how he has handed more than £30 billion in tax breaks to the rich and large corporations, while talking about economic crisis to justify victimising the poor, the sick and disabled.
The changes he cites were reversed after the war ended. And his mention of Hitler is Tory doubletalk. He’s hoping that, by using the fight against one of history’s vilest dictators as his comparison, we won’t realise he’s attacking democracy, not increasing it.
What a miserable little underhanded goblin he is.
The reaction on Twitter is negative, of course. “Be wary of any government which wants to remove the legal means of you challenging its decisions and abuses of power. Worrying,” tweeted David Green (aka Jack of Kent).
Tom Doran agreed: “It’s a strange kind of small-government philosophy that makes it harder, not easier, to appeal government decisions.”
And Denis Skinner, who provided the picture for this article, tweeted sarcastically: “Whitehall “circumvented”, crackdown on “time wasting” legal challenges to planning decisions. The leader knows best.”
We can all see that, even if he does know what’s best, he’s ignoring it in favour of his obsession with shrinking the state. Fewer appeals means smaller government. The trouble – for us – is that the nation as a whole will suffer from hastily-made, ill-judged decisions based on a drive for short-term profit. It’s practically written into his CBI speech.
Cameron is not a prime minister for the nation – he’s a puppet for big business. We’ve seen that most prominently in his all-out attack on the National Health Service in England, which is now just a big sack of blood on which the corporate vampires are happily sucking.
Other cutbacks are hacking British society into a bloody mess as well. As state services withdraw, my understanding is that the people are expected to take up the slack. That’s Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ in action. But ordinary people don’t know how those state services work – they were never taught it at school and they can’t be expected to absorb it by osmosis.
So services are lost, entropy sets in and chaos increases. I predict an increase in frustration and stress, leading to a rise in lawlessness. The police – another target for cuts – will not be able to cope. What will Cameron do then? Martial law?
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.