A nation dispossessed

In his speech at the Tory Conference last month, Cameron referred to the need to create an ‘aspiration nation’. This would be achieved by declaring war against the great evils of ‘unfairness and injustice’ with the aim of addressing poverty and stimulating economic recovery. Cameron’s ‘aspiration nation’ would be built upon ‘hard work, strong families and taking responsibility.’  Cameron argues that an aspiration nation will be driven by individual ambition – the “doers, the risk-takers…”

But it is really enough to aspire?

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggests that a lot of people find themselves unwillingly out of work. They aspire to work but cannot get employment. Underemployment also has major affects on aspiration. There are six million people who aspire to work more but are currently underemployed.

Cameron’s notion of aspiration is nothing new, it has long existed within our society, within our communities. But those hopes and aspirations and perhaps expectations of getting a secure job at a fair wage are becoming decreasingly fewer. The hopes of our young people are being stripped by the reality of reducing funding for higher education and a lack of employment prospects. Those claiming housing benefit are vilified as ‘a cause of great injustice’ when in fact, 93 percent of new claimants seeking housing benefit are in employment.

A society based on aspiration needs to be one that has opportunity. It is not aspiration or responsibility that is lacking…the rare element in this is opportunity.

If work is the only route out of poverty, what about those hard-working people who cannot make work pay? Under austerity, the economy is not creating the jobs that are needed nationwide. But those who find themselves unable to get work are portrayed as willing accomplices in work shy Britain or as a result of individual ‘poor choices’. Within this blaming game, responsibility is individualised thus absolving the government of any fault. It fails to portray the reality of the government’s failure to deliver just what it promised – the economic recovery. It also fails to take account of the deep-rooted structural problems within our economy that continue to create inequalities.

If Cameron and his fellow Tories get their way, within five years the UK will have a smaller public sector than any major developed nation. Its public services agenda will have fundamentally transformed the nature of the welfare state, shrinking it in a way that reduces these structures of support, resulting in the Government failing to fulfil its own responsibilities.

David Cameron’s mission to create a society of aspiration through the reduction of welfare dependency will fail unless he realises that the alternative to his idea of a more minimal state is not an over-burdensome bureaucracy.

What this government is doing to the economy, to public services and to people on benefits or in care is a disgrace. If you cut people’s pay, cut benefits, and cut the investment that creates jobs, you will not get growth. Without growth, you will not close the deficit.

£25 billion lost to the UK Treasury due to tax avoidance in 2008. £81 billion to be cut from the public sector over four years. (TUC/Tax Justice Network)

This Tory led government knows that that their model of austerity is not working and will not work but they will not be seen to be admitting defeat or to be making another U turn. Instead, they have unleashed an ideological attack against the public sector’s great civilising institutions of our society, and will privatise what remains. Under the pretence of dealing with a financial crisis, they will cut and sell off whatever they can to the highest bidder.

After Osborne’s benefit cuts, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies says are almost without international precedent, he plans to take yet another £10bn from those with the least. Disability benefits are also next on the list for attack, as are worse cuts to the poorest households, while he eases top taxes for the people like himself and the other millionaires in Cameron’s cabinet.

When found travelling in first class rather than in standard class this week, Osborne chose to spend more than two and a half times what most unemployed people have to live on for a whole week, in order to upgrade his train ticket to London.

Nothing appears to have caused both Cameron or Osborne to divert from their great enterprise – to build a model of austerity to wither the state and harrow the ground where it once stood.

#Oct20 saw hundreds of thousands of men and women who have lost employment, communities who have lost local services and young people who have had their dreams and aspirations taken away from them marched on the streets in London, Belfast and Glasgow for “A Future That Works” and to protest against the Tory driven policy of austerity.

A real show of solidarity and of collective action….but unfortunately the message is most likely to fall on deaf ears.

Cameron wishes for a nation of inspiration but has only achieved in creating a nation dispossessed.

Marching against austerity


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