Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Grand Remonstrance 2022

Do you remember that Oliver Cromwell quote I put on the blog a month ago? Truss may have gone but I still feel lower than low about this government and the trashing of the country over the 12 years since the Tories came into power. And this week I am shocked and saddened and sickened even further by the revelations about the treatment of asylum seekers in Kent - as the Times put it -  "the disease and despair at Manston migrant site that left chief inspector speechless."

Dave and I liked that Cromwell film starring Richard Harris that was released the year we were married (1970)  and we watched it recently more than once, because it is so invigorating to see a rancid parliament chucked out by an honest man.

Yesterday Dave said he was going to write a grand remonstrance to our MP, not because he thought it would do any good, but because she had to be told, and it would make him feel a little better to know he had told her.

He said it was fine to share the letter here, so here it is. I agree with it all.

Dear Sarah Dines

The reason for writing this letter is simply to let you know, as my representative, about my worries about the direction of travel taken by this and recent Tory governments.

It is twenty years this month since Theresa May stunned the Tory Party Conference by recognising that in opposition the Tories were thought of as the ‘nasty party’.

The majority of the intervening years since then have seen several Conservative governments, and sadly, the comment is as true today as then: the nasty party has embraced the label and is energetically pursuing policies of division, inhumanity, contempt for the poor, and injustice.

Policies are determinedly punitive and the concept of a ‘hostile environment’ seems to apply to an ever-widening number of fellow citizens, whose rights have been systematically kettled and deracinated. The government’s policies, and often its ministers, appear to lack common decency. Indeed, so hostile is the environment that the government too often feels like the enemy of the people.

It does not have to be like this. It is about choice, and the choice is about who we wish to be as a people; what kind of country we wish to be; and what our values actually are (if any).

I agree whole-heartedly with John Bright’s view that what is morally wrong cannot be politically right. The Conservative governments of recent years have steadfastly ignored moral considerations as inconvenient obstacles to policy.

All of us live in a society, not in an economy. We hope that a buoyant economy will support the way we live and benefit all, but the aching and ever-increasing gap between the rich elites and the numerous poor makes it clear that under the Tories, government aims to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor: an uncomfortably Dickensian picture.

Our country, we are told, is one of the richest on the planet. That remains the case even in times of global financial difficulties.

If we have such a wealthy country, how can it be right that:

The NHS has been starved of cash over many years and is clearly unable to provide even satisfactory care for all out citizens, who face intolerable conditions in hospitals everywhere, a useless ambulance service, poor social care, and unthinkable waiting lists. Recruiting and retaining high quality staff remains a problem, and despite vocational dedication, doctors, nurses and others cannot deliver the service they want, and that we all need.

Food banks are an endemic feature of towns and villages everywhere, and are frequently used by people currently in work. Too many children (children !) live in poverty and undernourishment is common.

Our system of coercive education internment throughout childhood signally fails to meet the needs of young people, causes them intense stress and rewards them unevenly and shabbily for their efforts. The narrow standards on which schools are judged warp the curriculum, and render invisible the teeming numbers of artists, dancers, musicians and eccentrics who lurk in every school without prospect of encouragement. What kind of balanced curriculum devotes almost half its time to English and maths, and half to everything else?

Benefits are punitive and inadequate, and are necessary for many who are in work as a result of precarious employment at rates which you and I would not even consider. The benefits system, far from helping people to live decent, fulfilling lives, seems instead to be positively abusive.

Civil rights – the right to protest being the latest casualty – have been eroded, and the unions are subject to an existential threat when they alone appear to be on the side of working people. Government dislikes any scrutiny or opposition and seeks to smother any sign of public dissent, however small and however justified.

The government has no concern at all for the welfare of the poorest groups who are hardest hit by rising prices – energy being an egregious example. It is reported this morning that those with pre-payment meters are the last to receive vouchers to off-set their bills. Surely a government with any concern for its citizens would ensure that the poorest were paid first, and that no payments could be made to the general population until the poorest had received theirs in full.

Our national reputation has been damaged by a consistently hostile approach to refugees and asylum seekers – an approach I feel sure that the government would be delighted to take with its own citizens if it could get away with it. Patel and Braverman are but two examples of individuals who seem to take a cruel and almost sadistic approach to some of the neediest people imaginable. The contrast between the population’s generous approach to providing for these people is in stark contrast to the government’s own favoured tack of cutting spending, trafficking people to Rwanda and behaving less like a good Samaritan and more like cheap thugs. There is here an absolutely chilling lack of humanity and decency.

Supporting Ukraine is clearly vital. But pouring weapons into the region is courting disaster, and begs the question of whether, had we invested similar amounts in the search for peace, there would have been no need to export death, to the obscene and profitable delight of the arms industry. The West squandered the changes in the former Soviet Union, and governments of all colours have preferred to profit from arms sales than to take a moral view of the quest for peace.

Climate change is so low on the agenda, despite being a serious threat to the planet that endangers the global population. Mr Sunak prefers to stay home rather than go to COP 27 and ignore the simple fact that domestic pressures pale into insignificance when compared with the destruction of the planet on which we all live.

The long-term reduction of support to local authorities has massively reduced public services. Examples are legion, and local authorities are no longer able to afford key services which were there to support the most needy. Properly funded social care would relieve pressure on hospitals to the benefit of all those hoping for better than third-world provision for their community.

Pensions are already among the lowest in the developed world, and the failure to commit to the triple lock to protect incomes of the elderly, whose life savings have been greatly diminished in the interests of the economy through rising prices, stinging interest rates, and the magic money tree itself: quantitative easing. In this country, what kind of retirement do pensioners have to look forward to under the Tories ?

The government seems entirely content if our rivers and seas are polluted without surcease with sewage and chemical effluents. Large companies simply continue to destroy the environment while the government turns a Nelsonian eye and reaches for Nero’s fiddle.

Really the list of dissatisfaction is endless. I am known as a relentlessly, often annoyingly positive person, but my grim dismay at the quality of our political direction is just unbounded. Every time a new rock bottom is achieved, the government starts to blast: a metaphor which is very apt.

Sadly the trend is for governments to govern for a minority of the population, and not for the whole. Too much is grotesquely dysfunctional, too much of our lives is broken, and we have successive governments which lack empathy, understanding, or even the willingness to listen.

We are all – every single one of us – citizens. We all have needs, we all ought to have rights. We just need governance that recognises that and acts accordingly. Tory governments since Cameron have stood for sustained austerity for the many, and opulence for the few. The ‘levelling up’ slogan (‘agenda’ would flatter it) is devoid of meaning, and unsupported by any effective action. It is government by soundbite, government by gaslighting.

I cannot expect any useful action from you or any of your colleagues, and there is no Cromwell to rid us of the plague of our government, which is characterised by a lack of humanity.

There is cold comfort in the hope that politicians in the permacrisis they are creating will suffer a Damascene explosion of unexpected decency and begin to govern as if people matter. People do matter. They matter now.



Anonymous said...

Dave says it like it is - and he speaks for the very many.

Dave Cromwell!

Thanks for publishing, Sue - we need to hear honest, decent voices more than ever now.

Thea xx

Lina said...

Sue Thank you for sharing this. Dave speaks for so many of us.

Anonymous said...

Great letter Dave!

Sue Hepworth said...

I’m glad you liked the letter. If only there was a way to change things for the better.