The Paralympic games in the UK brought about a very interesting contradiction within UK society. The games themselves proved that despite severe handicaps, human beings can achieve phenomenal things in sports. While people all over the globe praised the achievements of the Paralympic athletes and UK politicians opportunistically basked in their glory – behind the scenes UK politicians were secretly waging a war against the disabled.
The UK government in it’s desperate bid to cut the financial deficit of this country have gone on the offensive against the poorest members of our society. Government debt figures show that the UK is currently in around £1,278.2 Billion of debt, around 86% of GDP. The UK government’s response to this debt has been to cut public expenditure. It is in this spirit that the Conservative/Libe Dem coalition, have gone after the most vulnerable members of society. In the run up to the Paralympics the government were forcing disabled people to have re-assessments as to their eligibility to claim benefit. This has been conducted by Atos Healthcare, a company who are paid by the government to bring down benefit claims. Hardly surprising then to find that Atos have found a number of people who are claiming benefit being deemed suitable to work again. This has been done in some cases with little more than a 30 minute assessment and has found people with terminal illness deemed fit to work again. Job done, think the government. Sadly the figures show something much different. It turns out that on appeal, 40% of the people who were deemed capable of work again, have had their benefits re-instated. Unfortunately this didn’t come in time for Cecilia Burns, a 51 year old woman from Strabane, County Tyrone, who had her benefits cut, then reinstated on appeal, only to die before her benefits were re-instated.
Attacking some of the most vulnerable members of UK society represents exactly what is also going wrong in the UK economy and society as a whole. In as much as the UK populace lives in the midst of an economic system that simply doesn’t take into account people’s well-being in equal measure. The vast majority of the UK populace pay tax, they work the longest hours in Europe and their pay still lags behind the rate of inflation. While the majority of the UK have been slogging their guts out, they have been blissfully unaware that those in the financial sector have been gambling their money away with reckless abandon, privatising profits, mutualizing risk, sticking their money in tax havens away from the reach of the Inland Revenue and leaving the vast majority of us to pick up the tab when it all goes wrong.
Whilst the government pursues the disabled with the same amount of vigour that the puritans pursued “witches”, those at the top of society still ride roughshod over the rest of the UK. Take for instance the estimated £6 Billion tax waiver the UK government gave to Vodafone. Even if we got all the people who are claiming disability allowance back to work in the UK, is anyone seriously suggesting that the saving to the UK would be £6 Billion, or anything close to that figure? And that’s just Vodafone! Nicholas Shaxson in his book Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who stole the world, highlighted that 54 of the UK’s billionaires had paid between them a mere 14.7million in tax on their estimated combined fortune of £126 Billion. So while 54 people in the UK are making money hand over fist, they are giving a pittance back to this country, and sticking 2 fingers up to the rest of us. If you were a taxi driver, would you let someone ride in your cab, throw up in the back of it, then get you to clean the mess up and then charge you for the privilege of doing so? If the answer is no then the current political set up in the UK is intolerable and it has to change. It rolls out the red carpet for the rich and treats those who most need help with utter disdain.
The populace of the UK are assured that there is a financial crisis and that the country as a whole has to pull together to sort this mess out. But it seems that the facts point to something different. It seems that it isn’t a financial crisis, but rather it is a crisis in policy that skews its decisions in favour of a minority as opposed to taking in the interests of the population in equal measure.
How long this status quo can carry on is anyone’s guess. However history points to the fact that when social conditions become intolerable to the masses, the possibility of civil unrest is at its highest. (Arguably deteriorating social conditions were the underlying cause of the riots in the UK in 2011 and it was certainly the catalyst for the Arab spring.) There are now 8million people in the UK living on food vouchers and with food prices set to rise and respite from this so-called financial crisis unlikely, (I say “so-called”, because the money held in offshore tax havens that should have gone to the tax payer is estimated to be 3 times the amount of global GDP.) the amount of people lacking the basic provisions for life can surely only rise. Of course the UK would not be in this position if people were only paying their fair share and government policy was inclusive of all members of society. The waiver that was given to Vodafone proves that.
When Billionaires aren’t paying their fair share and doing so with impunity, but the poorest members are being pursued determinedly for the little they have, then it’s obvious that something is very wrong with the political set up in the UK. If the government’s purpose is to ensure the sound running of the country, then we need sound social policy that reflects that otherwise we have what we have now: opportunistic politicians, applauding the achievements of the disabled, whilst secretly carrying a knife behind their backs. If government’s refuse to take care of the vast majority of their citizens it poses a question: What exactly is their purpose ?