The Coalition’s War Against The People

Never in the field of human existence have so many been robbed by so few.

It has been well documented how inequality is now at levels that we have never seen before. This time last year, the news broke that 85 people share a combined wealth that is equal to the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet. That is 85 individuals owning as much as 50% of the entire population of this earth.

A year on from such a startling announcement, things have got even better for those at the very top of the pyramid. Recent figures show that if current trends continue, the wealthiest 1% of people will own more than the remaining 99% of the world’s population by the year 2016.

That is the global context of the situation we find ourselves in. Quite literally the 99% are in a fight for their future, and in some cases, their very survival.

In the UK we have political leaders who seem content to see things this way. In fact, content would be the wrong word to use. A more appropriate word may be excited. Our political leaders feel excitement due to the current state of the world, because judging on where things are heading, it is about to get even better for them, and even worse for us. Just this week the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, stated that Boots – one of the UK’s largest tax avoiding companies – has a duty to its shareholders to pay as little tax as it can. His exact words: “These guys, I’m afraid, have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to minimise their obligations.”

Ever since the Liberal Democrats supplied the lubrication to get them in to office, the Conservatives have been waging a war against those less fortunate than themselves. Their weapons are sanctions, tax loopholes, and zero hour contracts. Their allies are bankers, big business, and the mainstream media. They are the oligarchs who run the UK, utterly out of touch with the average person and looking to put even more distance between us and them.

Now you may think my words are a little exaggerated, and that this is all hyperbole in order to get people on side, but that is where you are wrong. To say that the Tories have been waging a war on the poor is less fiction and more fact than they would dare to admit.

On the third of July the Guardian ran an article entitled “Coalition’s austerity policies are hitting the poor hardest…” 18 months later this fact was reaffirmed by the BBC when they reported that “Families and poor hit hardest by tax and spend changes.” This is proof that despite knowing their policies were hitting the poor the hardest, the government continued anyway. These were deliberate policy actions that followed a well-thought-out strategic plan. A continuation of the war they had started when they first came to power.

An A-Level history student can tell you that not all wars are fought with guns and tanks. There are cold wars, proxy wars, economic wars, propaganda wars, and there are wars that are waged by governments against their own people under the guise of policy. When government policy is directly responsible for the deaths of its nations citizens, and when the campaign is continued regardless of these deaths, we are left with no option but to call it a war.

David Clapson, 59, was found dead two weeks after his benefits were cut. Elaine Lowe, 53, committed suicide fearing her benefits would be cut. Mark Wood, 44, starved to death after his benefits were stopped. Paul Reekie, 48, committed suicide after his benefits were stopped. Karen Sherlock, 44, was found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. She died a month later. Tim Salter, 53, was declared fit to work by Atos despite being almost blind and a desperate agoraphobe. He hung himself when he was denied benefits and was facing eviction. Tragically, the list goes on, and on, and on.

These are just a handful of the victims of the war waged by the Coalition.

Figures from the 21st of February 2014, state that 104,200 disabled people had their benefits sanctioned in just 12 months. The total figure for the Coalition’s time in office far exceeds half a million. In 2013, in England alone, 112,070 people were declared homeless. A 26% increase from the figure four years previously. “In May 2013, a month after the “bedroom tax” was introduced, the Department for Work and Pensions(DWP) estimated that 660,000 people” would be affected by the policy. David Orr, of the National Housing Federation, said that it heaped “misery and hardship on already struggling families.”

Hundreds of thousands of unemployed jobseekers have to participate in workfare schemes, where as “work experience” you are forced, under threat of sanctions, to work for 30 hours a week in order to receive your meagre amount of benefits. Following the rise in university tuition fees, 24,000 less students enrolled on courses as they were priced out of education. Those that did decide to go to university are now saddled with a lifetime of debt, which means that the overwhelming majority will still owe as much as £30,000 when they reach the age of 50.

From April 2013 to April of the following year, The Trussel Trust, a food bank charity, said that it handed out 913,000 food parcels to people who could not afford to eat. This was a 51% increase from the 12 months previously. Child Action Poverty Group now believe that due to government policy the number of children living in poverty is on the rise. According to their figures, 3.5 million children live in poverty at present, and this number is set to increase by a further 600,000 in the next 12 months.

In stark contrast to this misery and suffering, the already privileged minority have been gradually improving their already vulgar fortunes. This is Money, the financial website of the year, reported in May 2014 that: “The fortunes of the 1,000 richest men and women in the UK rose by 15.4 per cent compared to last year.” Since 2009 the wealth of the top 1,000 people in the UK has doubled.

This means that whilst government policies are driving people to foodbanks, to the streets, or even to suicide, the elite members of society, the 1%, have had their most prosperous period in recent memory. Added to their rise in wealth was also the fact that the government lowered the amount of tax they had to pay on their earnings, meaning that even more money was retained at the very top of the pyramid.

The bleak society that we have come to reside in is no accident, the conditions for such poverty and desperation have been created by the Coalition as part of a planned and coherent political strategy. This war against the people has been raging for four years, and what is most troubling is that given the chance, the current government would intensify the conflict.

Even with my pacifist tendencies, this is one war I shall certainly be fighting in. A counter-offensive is essential and long overdue.

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The Illusion of Choice

This week brought the news that the leaders television debates on the BBC and ITV will have their format changed in order to accommodate other parties. Such a step is a necessary act if we are to truly believe in the ideals of democracy, but even with this change, we are too commonly presented with the illusion of choice instead of the reality of it.

For far too long in the country, both the media and the political parties have reinforced the feelings of a two party system. Similar to the United States whereby they have either Republican or Democrat, we in the UK have fallen hook, line and sinker for Labour or Conservative. These, we are told and we believe, are the only possibilities.

Labour and the Conservatives have been fighting one another for so long, a blur of red fists and blue fists, that they have began to look remarkably similar. With these two parties being the only choice for UK voters for decades, their policies were not incredibly dissimilar. Indeed they could not be, for fear of alienating the population, and therefore potentially losing votes. Both Conservatives and Labour voted in favour of invading Iraq in the early part of this century, and more recently both Conservative and Labour have voted to continue the policy of austerity.

With such friends, who needs enemies? And with such opposition, who needs support?

There are a multitude of reasons as to why the UK voter turnout has gradually decreased, but one of the reasons may well be that people have awoken to the fact that a vote, in this UK democratic system, is rather meaningless. There is light between Labour and the Conservatives, but for the large majority of people, that light is so slim that it may as well not be there. It does not surprise me that some disillusioned voters on the left now refer to Labour as “red Tories.”

The problem with having only two parties with any chance of forming a government is that an array of choice is not offered to the nations voters. The two parties pick their issues, Labour with the NHS, the Conservatives with the economy, and besides those, they agree on pretty much everything else. Even with the recent climb of UKIP, and the presence of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition, difference between parties is rare.

Two weeks ago the voters were told that the options were Labour, Conservative, UKIP, or the Liberal Democrats. All of these parties are headed by white, middle class males; all of these parties are committed to the idea of continuing austerity; and all of these parties have taken a controlled or anti-immigration stance.

There is choice at the general election when you look at the Big Four – as I shall call them here – but it is the same choice that you see when you walk into a shop and glance at the fridge to find Tango, Pepsi, Coke, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Lilt. There seems to be a choice of drinks, a wide variety of options that are open to you, but no matter what you buy, your money will only ever end up in the hands of a select few.

Cynically you may see Labour as Conservative-lite, or “red Tories”, an improvement on the Conservatives, but still too close to them for comfort. You may see Conservatives as Labour, but with more focus on economy and harsher views on immigration. UKIP have been dubbed “more Tory than the Tories”, and so they may be seen as Conservative-hard. And the Liberal Democrats? Well, they just seem to position themselves wherever they are more likely to pick up voters.

If the political landscape was a football pitch, the Big Four would occupy a space in the centre circle. The Tories and UKIP to the right of the centre spot, and Labour to the left slightly. With the entire pitch to play on though, where are the other parties, and why is nobody taking advantage of the space?

Within this centre circle of parties there are a number of issues which are just not discussed or even contemplated. Political slogans and re-election campaigns choose to focus very narrowly on single issues. Ed Miliband insists on tackling “the cost of living crisis” as well as the NHS. David Cameron is all about jobs, growth, and the economy. Nigel Farage, as everyone is well aware by now, has an issue with foreigners. Immigrants working, immigrants claiming benefits, immigrants causing congestion on the M4, and so forth. Nick Clegg just seems a little lost.

So these are the issues that the leaders have declared worthy of the public’s attention. These are what the general election will be won and lost on. The Big Four are your only option, and if you are to get change, it will only come about in a very narrow framework. Austerity, but Labour austerity. Anti-immigration policies, but Tory anti-immigration policies.

The breath of fresh air in European politics that is Syriza has only gone to further reaffirm the fact that real choice in the UK at election time, is thin on the ground. As I write this they are gearing up for the 2015 Greek general election, and if the polls are to be believed, they are to lead Greece come Monday morning. In a country mired in turmoil, and with its people deciding that centre circle politics will not be enough to save them this time, Syriza have finally given an opportunity for real change. Their 40-point programme looks at issues many parties would not even contemplate.

The UK needs a Syriza of its own, not because I believe a party like Syriza to be the best option, although that is true, the UK needs a Syriza of its own because such parties are necessary within democracies. In order for democracy to live up to its billing, you need a multitude of opinions and ideas. In essence you need choice, and for too long the UK has just not been getting that.

Where are the parties talking about nuclear missiles, and the renewal of Trident? Where are the parties that are opposed to the barbaric practices of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, who have long been allies of the UK? Where are the parties that recognise Israel as an enemy of freedom, an obstacle of human rights, and an apartheid state routinely conducting war crimes? Where are the parties who want to abolish UK tuition fees for University students? Where are the parties looking for a fairer method of voting, introducing proportional representation rather than the unsuitable and dated first past the post system? Where too are the parties opposed to UK military engagement overseas? Or the monarchy?

Democracy, like the Premier League, is larger than simply the Big Four. There are very real parties out there, with very valid policies. Many of which you would strongly support if only you knew about them.

Do not let mainstream media, and the mainstream political parties, blinker you into believing that there is only a choice between four. There is not, and it is time we showed them that.


Recommended links:

Scottish National Party – link to their homepage
Green Party – link to their homepage
Plaid Cymru – link to their homepage
National Health Action Party – link to their homepage
Socialist Party – link to their homepage
Socialist Workers Party – link to their homepage
Class War – link to their homepage

 

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