There are numerous issues which I have and will continue to bring up, which show this Tory government as a brutal and vindictive body, who are only out to represent the wealthy. However, one of the most important of this issues is Tory treatment of disabled. Whether it is the removal of the independent living fund, which disabled people need to live and work in their communities, or the sheer number of disabled people that have died after being found ‘fit for work’, the Tory’s always seem to find a way to shift the country’s problems onto the backs of society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. It should come as no surprise then that in this year’s budget, amongst George Osbourne’s usual rhetoric about how he is making the economy stronger, was a plan to make sick and disabled people £30 pound a week poorer, by slashing social security payments to them by over £1,500 pound per year. While no one from any other party voted for this disgusting piece of legislation it was backed overwhelmingly by the Tory’s, who voted on masse, by 309 tory MPs, to impoverish sick and disabled people. They did this, while simultaneously deliberately wrecking a plan to conduct an impact assessment on the cuts and giving Hugh tax cuts to corporations. However, this time this are not so simple, the disability cuts have been met with a range of reactions from various parties, all of which are completely exposing the self-interest at the heart of the conservative party.
Another failed Budget
While George Osborne’s budget contained the odd bit of glitter such as the sugar tax and cutting the cost of the Severn bridge toll, this was simply used to detract from the fact that he has once again missed every single one of his economic targets since becoming chancellor. Remember that time in 2010 when George Osborne promised to have the deficit eliminated by the end of that parliament, well the fact is that he has been chancellor for nearly six years, and the deficit has not even been halved. Surely if austerity was a feasible economic solution, we would not have to be in a situation in 2016, when we are still slashing social security for societies most vulnerable.
The fact that these cuts were proposed in the first place shows that Osborne either does not understand, or does not want to understand, that the majority of people tend to spend a greater percentage of their income on essentials, thus fuelling demand, while the rich tend to stash their money in tax havens. Nor does Osborne understand that tactical investment in infustructure has the potential to create jobs, and enable for the securing of returns on that investment. While Jeremy Corbyn is essentially right to label the budget as having ‘unfairness at his very core’, we should seek to look for and create alternatives to austerity, of which there are many. Otherwise, the conservatives will continue to persecute societies most vulnerable, in nobody’s interest but their own.
Zac Goldsmith, backbench rebels and Tory double standards
The Tory Justification for slashing social security payments to disabled people is the pathetic argument that it would somehow compel disabled people to look for and find work. Not only has this argument been completely rejected by opposition MPs and disability charities, but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is true. If anything, these cuts will make disabled people less likely to find work, as they will obviously have less money to pay for basic necessities, such as decent clothing and travel costs, which are requirements for anybody looking for a good job.
Amongst the conservative MPs perpetrating this myth is their candidate for London mayor Zac Goldsmith. Ironically, until very recently Goldsmith was chief patron of London based disabity charity Richmond AID. This was until, a few days following his vote he rightfully received a letter calling for his resignation. Here is the charities explanation:
“... Zac's decision is a complete conflict with our social model and ethos ... Having voted for this brutal cut we believe that Zac Goldsmiths' position as patron is no longer tenable.”
While this should act as a massive blow to Goldsmith’s credibility to lead a city, where a number of disability charities are based, the real issue here is the hypocrisy and self-interest at the heart of Goldsmith’s decision. He can talk all he likes about how much he cares about his constituents but the truth is that when he should have stood up for disabled people, he towed the party line and voted to impoverish them. The same can be said for some backbench MPs such as Kit Malthouse who was also sacked as head of a disability charity this week, for helping to push through this legislation. If you know of any MPs who voted for this cut, you should attempt to make your voice heard by telling them your thoughts and protesting their decision, so no person has to suffer as a result of their own self-interest.
While some people at this point may be compelled to point out the backbench MPs who voted against the cut, it is highly likely that this is also mostly powered by self-interest. Having seen the backlash against conservative MPs who have attempted to push through such legislation in the past, they most likely voted against the cut for the sake of retaining a relatively good reputation. Alternatively, such MPs could be attempting to support the war against the conservative leadership, which has very recently emerged from within the party itself…
Ian Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson and yet more self Interest
Not only is there an inherent self-interest at the heart of the neoliberal capitalist ideology, driven by the conservative party, but there have also emerged an unrest between different factions of the conservative party, fighting to represent their views. These include divisions over the European Union referendum and divisions over who is best to lead the conservatives into the 2020 general election. However what we may be seeing at the moment by the likes of ‘old school conservatives’ like Boris Johnson is a full scale political coup.
The squabble within the conservative party first broke into the limelight when head of the department of work and pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, announced that he was resigning from the role. With the letter came an extremely (sincere or not) attack on the Tory’s austerity programme. Here is an extract from that letter:
“I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest,”
Now, considering the fact that Ian Duncan smith has been so vicious in his attacks on the disabled throughout his time in his role, it is extremely unlikely that he had a sudden attack of conscience, and decided to start advocating for their rights. As such, it is far more useful to view this resignation as a direct attack on the conservative leadership. Due to the fact that the Cameron/Osbourne wing of the conservative party have been doing all they can to campaign to stay in Europe, including smearing the Brexit backers of Boris Johnson and Ian Duncan Smith, this resignation clearly represents the start of a huge backlash. Since this development, the Tory’s have not only shelved the disability cuts, but said they are not yet prepared to introduce any cuts to replace it.
While this is good news for disabled people, it is important not to see the ideology of Boris Johnson or Ian Duncan smith as one that is in any way compassionate. While if he does become conservative leader Johnson may drop the ‘let’s cut our way to growth’ myth that we have got so used to over the past five years, it is still highly likely that a Boris led administration would seek to impose a neo Thatcherite economic order, by pursuing the large scale privatisation of public services, and keeping society in place through authoritarian policing and surveillance laws. Rather, as I have said before, we should seek to create an economy based on public control over their communities first by fighting right wing, self-interest politics at the ballot box, and more importantly by fighting it on the streets.
Overall, the Tory’s attempt to cut disability benefits have done nothing but expose the selfish nature both with pro austerity conservatives, and with those that have doubts about the conservatives leadership. Now that George Osbourne’s failed budget has utterly unravelled before our eyes, hopefully we will begin to see the wider unravelling of right wing politics. If you advocate for the rights of disabled people however, we should not just seek to scrap cuts to their benefits but to address the wider problems facing disabled people in everyday life, only then can we say that we are a caring and compassionate society.