Today is a mighty achievement for Cameron and Osborne
Beware a young man with something to prove. That, surely, must be the lesson of today. As the next round of the government’s assault on the people of Britain comes into force, it is important to consider how much of an achievement this is for the Conservative party.
Others have summed up what’s happening today – ‘rocket boosters‘ under NHS privatisation will be switched on. The bedroom tax comes into force. Council tax benefit will be cut. Legal aid will be cut. Later in the month, the disability living allowance will be replaced. Benefits will, in real terms, be cut, as they once more fail to keep pace with inflation.
Almost everyone in Britain will be worse off – many will immediately suffer as the number of pounds in their pockets is cut. All of us who rely on the NHS will gradually suffer.
Osborne and Cameron have certainly proved what they are capable of. Less than three years in power, and they have changed the country more than Blair and Brown did in 13. And remember, this is what they always wanted.
It’s important not to forget the history. The Conservative Party brought down the People’s Budget – the first vestige of the welfare state – in 1909 because it included new taxes on the rich. They opposed the introduction of the NHS in 1947. In his brief history of its foundation, Andy McSmith explains:
“One of the fears underlying the Conservatives’ opposition to the NHS was that when treatment was free, the feckless poor would rush in to strip the chemist shops of every pill on the shelves, then head for the dentists’ surgeries to have their mouths filled with gold and silver.”
Their arguments then was as thin a veil as they are today.
In the ’40’s, one of their main allies in opposing the NHS was Sir Bernard Docker – a man profiting from the private medical companies it would replace. He described the coming NHS as a ”mechanism in which the patient will get caught and mangled’.
Today, it is no secret who will profit from the NHS sell off. Months before the 2010 election, The Daily Telegraph revealed that shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley’s private office was being bankrolled by private health provider Care UK. Their parent company, Bridge Point Capital, was (and still is) employing former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn. This week, they are richly rewarded.
Likewise, it is no secret who will benefit from the tax cuts for corporations, or from the 50p tax cut.
The cuts to legal aid tilt the scales of justice towards the rich. Land reform campaigner Andy Wightman’s latest book explains in its title how the rich took control of the land in Scotland: ‘The Poor Had No Lawyers’. And so it is again.
Family law and employment law are some of the areas hardest hit. It is important to remember that for every life ruined by this cut, there is a powerful man who has won: a husband whose wife cannot secure a divorce, an employer who can continue to abuse or sack their workers without fear.
Legal aid sounds boring. But like trades unions, like the right to protest, legal aid is a line of defence for the powerless against the powerful. And like the others, it is being removed.
Michael Meacher has rightly made it his business to, at every opportunity, point out how much the very richest have got richer in the past three years. This trend continues today.
It is easy to believe that Cameron and Osborne are idiots. ‘Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do’. But it is convenient how much their friends, the people who paid for there election, benefit from today’s measures. It is convenient how many things Tories initially opposed they are successfully sweeping away.
Today has nothing to do with a failed attempt to fix the economy. It is about Cameron and Osborne securing their place in history. Austerity is working, for the millionaires. And that’s what they care about. Beware a young man with something to prove, for he may just get what he wants.