In a damning verdict on the state of life for the masses in England, the UN this morning launched a report on extreme poverty following a decade of austerity imposed by the Tory government.
“Although the United Kingdom is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty, and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Policies of austerity introduced in 2010 continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences. Close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.”
The Tories have “run” (a term we use rather loosely) the country since 2010 and immediately instigated austerity in an alleged attempt to reduce the national debt. That was following on from the 2008 financial crash.
From 5th-15th November 2018, Philip Alston (The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights) visited the UK for two weeks.
He discovered the Tory’s policies have created a chasm of inequality where the rich get much richer and the poor face total destitution.
The Tories continue to claim they’ve done nothing wrong, that everything is actually absolutely fantastic.
But that’s in stark contrast to a poltical party facing an apocalyptic crisis due to a shambolic failure to manage Brexit (which they, of course, managed to land on themselves to begin with).
The UN on Extreme Poverty in the UK
In 2016 then Prime Minister Dave Cameron teased the Brexit referendum to the nation, which unexpectedly resulted in a 52%/48% vote to leave the EU.
Three years after the vote the Tories have singularly failed to manage the negotiations (spending £500 million a week in the process), resulting in a disastrous situation where their party, and the UK’s citizens, face several national crises simultaneously.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s many withdrawal bill amends have all failed, the party want her out, yet she continues to try and negotiate having missed the March 2019 deadline to leave the EU.
Whilst much of the press—as in the right-wing tabloids—busy themselves with this nationalistic outrage (whilst fawning over the arrival of a new Royal baby), the harsh realities of Tory rule were revealed today in full for the first time.
Along with the total inability to control a nationwide housing crisis (the cost of housing is three times what it should be), the Tory party has imposed crippling budget cuts across various sectors.
Austerity has also ensured low wages, which alongside the cost of living crisis has led to severe stress for a large proportion of everyday citizens. The UN report:
“The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.”
After Alston’s visit in November 2018, the Tories denied all wrongdoing and claim to have brought about record levels of employment.
Yet that’s a dubious claim as well, as a person who works one hour a week on a zero hour contract is counted as “employed” in Tory Britain.
Whilst the Tories attempt to cling to any shred of credibility through propaganda and lies, it’s now starting to fall about due to the failures with Brexit. That’s forced many former hardline Tory supporters to abandon the party.
Brexit and the National Debt
What the Tories have done since 2010 is provide fantastic tax breaks for the wealthy, who love the political party for that generosity.
This has, naturally, opened an astonishing gulf in inequality, with low earners struggling to fight off homelessness, whilst the wealthy bask in overly generous opportunities.
Despite the Tory’s evident incompetence—and horrendous, callous disregard for younger generations, the disabled, and anyone less fortunate—it’s disturbed us that people not only defend the party, but continue to vote for it.
A weak Labour opposition headed by democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t helped, but the right-wing tabloid press also peddles hyperbole to its readers.
The misinformed have then, over the last decade, voted for the very thing making them so miserable – who’s to blame? The immigrants, of course, and liberals – feminism, LGTB rights, whatever you want – refuse to take accountability, blame it all on leftists.
And yet the UN report states:
“The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings.”
And that’s where normal life for everyday people has taken a thrashing. Bins left unemptied for months on end, libraries shut, crimewaves going ignored (May removed 21,000 police officers from the streets with the relentless budget cuts) and normal life is suddenly transformed.
As the UN report notes:
“A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”
And, indeed, the Tories are the biggest borrowers since 1946—the party has created two thirds of the UK’s national debt.
The UK is in chaos—it faces total political and economic crises.
Tory ineffectiveness has landed the party in serious trouble with voters—droves are finally abandoning their support and looking elsewhere.
This would be an ideal opportunity to have a general election and get Labour and Corbyn in—his anti-monarchy, socialistic leanings (in theory) are exactly what the country needs.
But his dawdling on the Brexit crisis means many voters have turned to pint swilling, nationalistic shouter Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party. Although support for the left wing Liberal Democrats has also shot up—following recent local elections—signalling some hope.
Meanwhile, the worrying trend with modern capitalism following the 2008 financial crash trundles along. Where circumstance, luck, and privilege abound—hard work is only enough to keep the majority from life homeless on the streets.
The useless advice we’ve received from older generations of, “if you’re poor, work harder” and “start a business” highlight how confused many people are about the situation.
Yet it is clear cut thanks to this UN report.
But the reality is many in the UK won’t read it, know of it, or will claim it’s left wing propaganda.
Classic denial and a refusal to take accountability for Tory actions will no doubt cover the the party’s response—sure enough, Amber Rudd is set to complain about it being “biased”. To which Alston responded with:
Rather than addressing the substance, the UK government has sought to distract from the troubling findings of this report by misrepresenting the process behind it. This is disappointing, if predictable. https://t.co/ZWNVHFv8bk
— Philip Alston (@Alston_UNSR) May 22, 2019
Alston is presenting his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June. It’s worth keeping the below report extract in mind as it summarises just what the Tories have done to the UK since 2010:
“Statistics alone cannot capture the full picture of poverty in the United Kingdom, much of it the direct result of government policies ... Official denials notwithstanding, it is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes. There has been a shocking increase in the number of food banks and major increases in homelessness and rough sleeping; a growing number of homeless families – 24,000 between April and June of 2018 – have been dispatched to live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated, thus shutting out large numbers of low-income persons from the once proud justice system. Government reforms have often denied benefits to people with severe disabilities and pushed them into unsuitable work, single mothers struggling to cope in very difficult circumstances have been left far worse off, care for those with mental illnesses has deteriorated dramatically, and teachers’ real salaries have been slashed.”
But, hey, if you’re poor you should work harder, right?
Or perhaps it’s time for the privileged and snobbish to acknowledge that greed and callous individualism—by-products of 1980s capitalism—ensure very few luck out and benefit, whilst the rest suffer. And often in silence.