comprehensive spending review

This blogpost is the last part of a four part series.

A Lib Dem sign with a

Liberal Democrat polling is at its worst for 13 years.

I have now devoted some 4000 words to why I have left the Liberal Democrats and how the coalition government is literally a matter of life and death for some people. The response I have had from my decision has been massive, but a significant part of it has been suggestions of other parties that I might be interested in joining. So I thought I would write a little bit on why I don’t think that is a good idea.

For all that I have said previously, I’m not going to say that there aren’t things I do quite like about the Coalition over their predecessors. The scrapping of the National Identity Register (though not for foreign nationals…). The scrapping of ContactPoint. Supporting the autonomy of home educators. Not spending £800 on a Christmas tree. Telling the EU to get stuffed when it asks for more money. That’s cool.

But do you remember the part where people are going to die…? Is a higher personal tax threshold really worth the increased poverty of millions? Please, coalition supporters, tell me how you can live with yourselves, because I am stumped. Would I give up my £700 a year to keep my friends with mental health issues on community support programmes and out of psychiatric wards, hospitals and graveyards? I’d give it up in seconds.

Many people have suggested that I join the Labour Party. Several of my friends have now done so in the wake of the election and the black-haired Mr. Milband taking the leadership. However, to those who seem to think that the Labour Party will save us all from the clutches of the scissor-wielding George Osborne, I can say only one thing: have you forgotten?

A tank burns after a ambush in Iraq.

A tank burns after a ambush in Iraq.

Have you forgotten Iraq, death of David Kelly, the millions of Iraqi dead, the protests of a million people ignored? Have you forgotten 90 day detention, 42 day detention, detention without trial, control orders, extraordinary rendition? The National Identity Register, the ContactPoint database, the Forward Intelligence Team, the Independant Safeguarding Authority, NHS spine? Tuition fees, academies, the slow but steady abolition of special schools? The expansion of prisons, prison sentences, and reactive legislation (Labour created one new offence a day, every day, for 13 years)? The privatisation of everything they could possibly justify, including health, transport, education, and the post office? The handover of sovereignty of Europe and refusal to hold a referendum that they promised us? The emphasis on political expediency over evidence-based policy (drug policy, introduction of “alternative therapies” on the NHS)? That whole deregulation of the banking sector thing?

Post office workers on strike.

What has happened that no-one found it odd that the post office union had to strike under a Labour government in order to protect their jobs and prevent privatisation?

Have you forgotten just why Labour lost its majority? It’s because they did the Tories’ work for them. How can anyone tell me that Labour are the answer when they were the problem until May this year? Do you seriously believe that a man who has been at the heart of government since 1997 and who has a cabinet made up of people *responsible* for the creation and implementation of these policies are suddenly going to become lovely, fluffy social democrats without a war-mongering, authoritarian, privatising bone in their body? I don’t think so. People tell me to join the Labour Party – I can only reply that they have very, very short memories.

The Green Party logo.

Hi! Vote green for fiscal irresponsibility based on middle-class outrage!

People who want me to join the Green Party, however, are assuming that what I am looking for is an even whiter, even more middle class organisation. But while I care about the environment, I’m not prepared to deal with “the welfare problem” by putting everyone on it, giving everyone in the country £5000 a year and shutting down all private alternatives to public services. Here be authoritarian paternalism… The Green Party’s major priority seems to be, not spreading their message or persuading others of their policies, but getting the voting system reformed so their party can get more people elected. Somehow, I find that rather suspect. And what is up with that banning stem stell research thing?

A screenshot of Life of Brian.

Brian from the CPGB tries to explain why supporting war credits in Germany in 1914 is *crucial* to current revolutionary struggles...

I’m not joining any of the spectrum of the right wing parties on account of the fact that they are cheerleading on the kinds of policies that made me quit the Liberal Democrats in the first place. Been there, done that, sold out people worse off than myself. The left-wing parties I think are more thoughtful, but useless. I appreciate that socialists and communists are fundamentally concerned with human beings rather than money, but on the other hand I have far better things to do with my time than argue over the shades of theories of documents written in 1926 (you think I’m kidding…). No revolutionary system can be that detailed because no-one’s going to agree to implement it.

As for me, I think I am largely done with party politics now. But right now I’m pretty open-minded on where I go next, so feel free to leave a comment if you adhere to a brand of politics worth looking into. And by that, I mean one that doesn’t shrug at the potential death toll of thousands of people in favour of some vague idea of “fairness” that stops being meaningful the second you have the chance to do something about it.

See also:

Who’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 3

Death to the Liberal Democrats! Or, Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 1

What’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 2

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This blogpost is the third of a four part series, and the fourth part will be published tomorrow.

So, my friends, we established yesterday that the systems are going to be taking something of a hit as a result of coalition government. What about the people who depend on the state? What has the coalition government got in store for them?

By the way, I was going to cover students as well, but a) they aren’t at risk of death, tuition fees just piss me off and b), this article is long already. So it’s just the elderly and disabled being murdered today. But frankly, I think that’s horrendous enough really. See my analysis of the Browne Review on tuition fees if you are especially interested.

Who wants to support disabled people? Why can’t they just get a job?

A homeless person asleep in a doorway.

A floor marker for people with disabilities.

People with severe impairments or disabilities are rarely able to live without government support. 3/4 of disabled people live below the poverty line (which is a meaningless statistic in reality given the way the poverty line is calculated but should give you some idea of how much disabled people are disadvantaged in society currently, let alone in the near future). Changes that affect disabled people specifically are:

“‘Time limiting contributory Employment Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group to one year. This is aimed to cut £2 billion a year by 2014-15.’

Disabled people will be subject to an arbitrary cut off point of a year. After that, whatever their circumstances, they will not get any ESA income. This will be in the context of sharply increasing unemployment and while entrenched discriminatory barriers to employment remain in place, and indeed will probably grow as a result of the overall impact of the government’s policy.

Nearly a million people may lose ESA worth £91.40 a week as a result.”

Now, maybe you think that £90 is pretty high, but it’s really not if you have personal assistants to pay for and extra travel costs. Worse:

“This change will apply side by side with the government’s reassessment of all Incapacity Benefit/ESA claimants. People ‘assessed as fully capable for work will be moved onto Jobseekers’ Allowance.”

Now, what they actually mean by “assessing” people is that they won’t trust your doctor anymore to assess themselves, but make you turn up on a specific day to see an assessor specially trained to certify as many people as non-disabled as possible. So if you have crippling arthritis which comes and goes, but which makes it impossible to hold down a job for the long-term, and your assessment date falls on a day when you can walk and open doors, the government will not be sympathetic. If you have blinding, searing headaches that make it impossible to concentrate for more than a few hours, they will not know nor care. This isn’t being a doomsday preaching, by the way, it’s what happens now:

“the ESA assessment process itself has been strongly criticised as being overly harsh and very badly designed. Many people are being wrongly denied ESA entirely or placed in the ‘work related activity’ group. This includes people receiving chemotherapy, whom the government claims are protected by guidelines.” Link.

Yes, people receiving chemotherapy are “fit for work”. I have, in fact, had an argument with someone who seriously argued that people with non-terminal cancer receiving chemotherapy are perfectly fit to work independantly. He was, unsurprisingly, a member of the Conservative Party. I’m glad he made an allowance for people with terminal cancer.

Moving on from work, what about disabled people who can’t work at all? What are they up to? Have a story:

“”Page 69 of the spending review explains that because of “the urgent need to tackle the culture of welfare dependency”, people in residential care will lose the mobility component of the disability living allowance in 18 months time.

My mother-in-law, Margaret, is 87 and had polio in 1953. She served as a Wren in the war and brought up her family from a wheelchair. She and my father-in-law worked tirelessly for the British Polio Fellowship. She moved in with us when she was widowed 23 years ago and was grittily determined to remain at home as long as possible. But her disability caught up with her and a year ago she had to move into a nursing home.

The one thing that has made this bearable for us all is that the mobility component of the DLA enables her to lease a wheelchair-adapted vehicle through the Motability scheme. So she can come home and join her family for lunch, can be taken on holiday or to the shops, to weddings and funerals, to celebrations and special occasions. She has been able remain part of the community and at the heart of her family. Without this specially adapted vehicle, she cannot travel.

If she loses her mobility allowance, her car goes with it and she will be stranded in the nursing home. This will have a catastrophic effect on the quality of her life, quite out of proportion with the amount of money it will save the country.” Link

Honestly, this doesn’t even begin to cover the many ways the disabled population is about to be penalised for being disabled. If these cuts go through, thousands of people who currently claim disability support from the government are going to be stranded. Some will be prevented from working at all, others will be trapped in their own homes unable to leave. Some will die. What does Inclusion London have to say about this?

“We reject George Osborne’s claim that these cuts are either fair or unavoidable. The spending plans represent a choice: a choice to make disabled people and others who are among the poorest in society, already facing enormous discrimination and inequality, pay for an approach to deficit reduction which is riddled with the risk of creating a double dip recession.”

Yeah, biatch.

Hey, elderly frail people! Get a job!

An elderly couple. In Romania.

An elderly couple. In Romania.

As people get older, our bodies age so that we find it harder to move about. It becomes harder to judge distances, to react quickly to danger, and to recover from illness and injury. I’m 21 years old and I know this. The government, despite being run by older white men considerably closer to death than I, does not, it would seem:

“[The Comprehensive Spending Review] calls into question the ability of councils to deliver simpler and relatively inexpensive interventions – a grab rail in a bathroom, for instance – that can make the difference between an elderly person continuing to live independently or falling and ending up in a care home.

In fact, social care generally is being cut by 30% over the next three years. Even the government’s usual suggestion of charging people is redundant here (even if people could pay):

“On the level of charges, average means-tested rates for home care are already of the order of £8-£10 an hour. Some councils are contemplating increases of as much as 50% in the hourly rate and/or the maximum weekly payment. But the hard truth is that a 40% cut in funding would be almost £6bn: at present, social care charges of all kinds bring in a total £2.2bn.”

Of course, you could just not provide home care for the elderly. Charities and families will fill the gap, won’t they? Elderly people will be fine. The government will save money, won’t it? That’s all it’s really about, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

“We recognise that councils are between a rock and a hard place,” said Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, which specialises in information and advice for elderly people and their carers. “But cutting access to care and supporting fewer older people will only cost more in the long run. Older people will be left to struggle on their own and more will end up being admitted to expensive and often inappropriate hospital and residential care.”

“This will be the key. With up to 40% of elderly people in hospital beds placed there unnecessarily, and as many as 70% staying too long, there is a huge incentive for the NHS to use its supposedly protected funds to help out social care in its hour of need.” Link

Duly costing the government a fortune in care for the people who make it to the hospital, and costing numerous elderly people their lives and their dignity as their support is withdrawn and they are left to fend for themselves. What do you do if you can’t get out of bed yourself? What do you do if your arthritis is so bad you can’t call for help? This is so obvious and so dangerous (and expensive) it seems hard to believe that no-one in the government stopped to think about it.

Finally, have you ever wondered why the government keeps saying that the cuts are progressive? What are they basing that on?

“The BBC’s Stephanie Flanders points out that the government’s analysis ‘excludes a third of the benefit changes planned by the government and does not go up to 2014-15. The changes excluded by this are clearly regressive – they have the greatest effect, relative to income, on people at the lower end of the income scale.” Link.

…sneaky. One does wonder if fiddling the statistics is how Nick Clegg comforts himself at night.

Several people have argued to me that the best response to the coalition government is to join the Labour Party. Tomorrow’s post will therefore point why that’s a short-sighted idea. Join me then. Don’t join the Labour Party. :)

See also:

Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 4: Other Parties Helped Them!

Who’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 3

What’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 2

Death to the Liberal Democrats! Or, Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 1

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Related Posts:

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What’s Affected by the Cuts?: Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 2

October 25, 2010

This blogpost is the second of a four part series, and the third part will be published tomorrow. Many Liberal Democrats drunken on power seem to be getting all misty-eyed over an AV referendum and the pupil premium and entirely forgetting about things like, say, the cutting of social care for the elderly by 30%. […]

5 comments Read the full article →

Death to the Liberal Democrats! Or, Why the Coalition is Going to Kill People Part 1

October 25, 2010

This blogpost is the first of a four part series, and the second part will be published tomorrow. Further to my rage-fuelled spontaneous combustion last week, I thought I would write a somewhat more thought-out explanation as to why I was planning to leave the Liberal Democrats even before I was so offended by the […]

6 comments Read the full article →