Saturday, 28 December 2013

Incompetence, Fear and Loathing in the UK

'Calm down dear' hand language from the PM in Yalding

It hit me like a slap in the face, watching Cameraman on the news last night, 27 December. The over-fed PM in his open-necked shirt, warm jacket and welly boots had brought his press team by helicopter to wallow (yes I know) in the misery of Surrey and Kent residents cut off by floods. BBC News said he had come to ‘offer advice’. His advice was ‘call the Council, and the loss adjustors’; cue empathic face.
This prime ministerial advice was given to people who had been without heat, light or hot food for several days, whose homes and possessions were wrecked by the flood waters that came without proper warning and were possibly to return. These people had feared for their very lives but felt abandoned. Some hadn’t been offered any help, or even information, whatever, our wonderful but over-stretched emergency services forced to concentrate on the most vulnerable.

So where was the emergency planning, Prime Minister? Where was the mass evacuation to places of safety, warmth and food? Where were the Army, the Army Reserve, the Royal Engineers who have so often in the past pitched in to help in times of emergency?

This was, and is, a national emergency.

But it took the so-called Leader of the country three days even to drop in by helicopter and ‘offer advice’ of utter uselessness.

Of course, the Army is being ‘rationalised’, the fire brigade is ‘making essential economies’, the police force suffering ‘efficiencies’, and Council services are having the ‘fat trimmed’.

And our Prime Minister and his Cabinet of equally incompetent and uncaring ministers and the growing army of SPADs are sitting cosily at home, getting fat on our taxes.

Apologies all, I couldn’t muster a suitable heckle on seeing Michael Gove jogging off his Christmas dinner in the street yesterday. I'd be too ashamed to parade my over-indulgence in public, but then I'm not Gove.

The consequence of cutting services back to the bone and paying minimum wage was graphically illustrated in K&C a couple of years back, when we had suffered a massive snowfall. Wading through snow and ice on unsalted streets and pavements, I saw a lone street sweeper, Alan, elderly and with hands gnarled with arthritis, attempting to clear Ladbroke Grove with a broom, no gloves or protective warm clothing whatever. ‘Why are you on your own?’ I asked. ‘The others can’t get into the borough’, he told me. ‘Don’t they give you gloves?’, I asked. He just gave me a knowing look and returned to his impossible task. Living on minimum wage is nigh on impossible in Kensington and Chelsea, and this was the obvious and intolerable consequence. Alan retired soon after due to ill health, which was no surprise.

As Cameraman continues his inevitable journey to political obscurity, we see every day the presidential aura and tough-talk imposed by his overpaid advisor Lynton Crosby. His voice has changed, he uses different gestures and Alpha male language, in an effort to appear resolute and strong.

Cameraman talks austerity during five-course free meal

In October he was preaching a decade of austerity while wearing a white tie and scoffing a five-course meal, indulging himself in Sri Lanka with a ‘black-shirt’ visit (he always wears a black shirt in hot countries, whether to disguise his belly or look 'cool' is anyone's guess) to the brutalised Tamils who saw him as a god – oh the irony – then stopping off in the United Arab Emirates to sell Eurofighter typhoon fighter jets before returning to PMQs and his natural Flashman nastiness.

It’s not working mate; the little people are fighting back, the invisible are calling you to account. 

There is growing anger at frozen wages while food and fuel prices rise, the invisible people who serve your children’s school lunch, clean the streets, serve in shops, put out fires, deliver your post and shopping, tread the streets rounding up teenagers on the brink of criminality, who nurse, feed and mop up after elderly and disabled people, all these people who are invisible to you,  David William Donald Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party – all these and more are turning on you and your like. And we don’t mean the rich – so many of whom despise you - we mean the callous and self-interested and self-entitled, many of whom may be rich, but some of whom simply aspire to your level of greed. We mean those who trample on aspiration and stigmatise those less fortunate, and are content to encourage a totally unwarranted fear and loathing of immigration, of Muslims, of Roma, of young people, or any other convenient scapegoats, in the pursuit of political gain.

When the Pope speaks out against capitalism, it’s time to reflect. When the former Archbishop of Canterbury criticises Ian Duncan Smith’s comments on Food Banks, it’s time to take stock.

As the stakes get higher and Labour – or indeed any and all opposition - gets stronger, we can expect more ‘careless elitism’ (as Clegg called it, as if elitism is ok if done carefully). We can expect more Flashman from the green benches, more black-shirt visits and presidential swaggers, more tough-talk and unashamed hypocrisy. The coming local and parliamentary elections will be nasty.

While our national politicians continue to let us down, as local activists we can show the way with integrity and courage.

We have the megaphone. We must pass the megaphone to people who feel they have no voice, and hear what they say -

- or no one will vote for any of us, or think voting has any meaning.

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