STOP PRESS: The Recusant has come across an exceptionally apposite and comprehensive feature by James Meek in this month's London Review of Books which details at length the regressive evolution of British housing policy over the past few decades; in particular, the devastating effects, felt abjectly today, of the scabrous 'Right to Buy' sell off of council housing stock in the Thatcher era, which has led to the current catastrophic rental crisis. We recommend TR readers taking time out to absorb this brilliantly informative exposé, which is reproduced in full at the LRB website here. This is a definitive piece on the subject and really is deserving of thorough ploughing for anyone passionate about the subject.
Darkness Visible in Osborne’s Ebon Eyes
Psychopathic Chancellor George Osborne has summoned in the New Year by announcing today (6 January 2014) yet more malicious cuts from the already massively depleted, near-vestigial welfare budget, predicting that 2014 will be “the year of hard truths”. And how apt a term that may well prove to be, though he would have been more accurate to have phrased it as “yet another year of hard truths”, this being the fourth in a row now under his fascistic fiscal dictatorship: for not only will 2014 no doubt prove yet another catastrophically pauperising one for those millions in poorly waged jobs and/or reliant on some form of state assistance or the auspices of our new alfresco welfare state (i.e. soup kitchens and food banks) in order to keep up with hiking rents, energy bills and food prices in the face of continuing caps and cuts to their insultingly proscriptive ‘benefits’, but 2014 may well –with any luck– also prove one of “hard truths” for the likes of the Chancellor himself, given certain toxic connections of his questionable past. I’m sure we’d all be very interested to know why precisely Mr Osborne petitioned so vigorously for puppet-prime minister Cameron to appoint one Mr Coulson as Government spin doctor, for instance…!?
Insanely, or rather, pathologically – and only the day after the news of buy-to-let empire builders the Wilsons (owners of an obscene portfolio of 1,000 properties in Kent) declared publicly that they are in the process of sending out notices of eviction to 200 of their tenants simply for being in receipt of LHA – Cameron contrapuntally supported his ethically sick Chancellor by banging on yet again about exorbitantly high housing benefit expenditure! Not satisfied with 80,000 families being trapped in temporary accommodation due to benefit caps and bedroom taxes, nor with the mushrooming of street homelessness and associated premature deaths due to exposure, or suicides due to despair, Cameron is calling on yet more cuts to housing benefits, and the Chancer of the Exchequer hasn’t hesitated to swoop in with a truly despicable proposal to start targeting housing benefits for the under-25s, forgetting that, unlike himself, not every young person in the UK today has a mansion, Irish estate and baronetcy for them to fall back on.
So not only are the under-25s already permanently disenfranchised educationally, thanks to the trebling of tuition fees, and humiliated by being forced to do unpaid labour in return for a pathetically low rate of JSA –but now, on top of all this, they are facing the prospect of being unable to even rent a room to keep them off the streets in the future, if the Tories’ Malthusian strategy ever actually sees the disinfecting light of day. Their highly disingenuous ‘argument’ that young people can remain at home with their parents, stay in their childhood bedrooms, and work and save money so they can afford to move out and rent later on, does rather ignore the huge number of young people who come from broken homes, homes too small to accommodate them beyond a certain age, or orphanages! Whither their “bank of mum and dad”? And, quite possibly in the future, whither even that old Tory folk-devil, the “nanny state”…? Not so much a case of “Generation Rent” as ‘Generation Tent’, it would seem!
The ever-incisive Rev. Giles Fraser wrote a brilliant little piece in The Guardian on the distinctly devilish political ‘personality’ of George Osborne, juxtaposing his venally self-serving, avaricious and ultra-acquisitive brand of Conservatism with the uncannily adumbrating anti-values of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost –and the quote Fraser appositely excerpts from said epic poem really could be used verbatim by the Conservative Party as part of its mission statement (bar the very last clause, since Tories do love their patriotic and royalist knees ups):
'[…] Let us not then persue […] our state
Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek
Our own good from ourselves, and from our own
Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess,
Free, and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile pomp...'
The only thing Fraser doesn’t pick up on in his piece is that, ironically, Milton, being a Puritan, was himself unfortunately party to the then-newly emerging mercantilism, particularly prominent among the propertied members of the Parliamentarian side in the English Civil War and its subsequent Commonwealth, which, as famously hypothesised by Max Weber in his The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, led to the development of free market capitalism. Scholars tend to claim that Milton was indeed satirising the Roundhead revolt, led by Oliver Cromwell, through his dialectical characterisation of Satan revolting against God –and so, therefore, in this sense, Milton was also, perhaps unconsciously, satirising the seeds of his own ideological convictions (thus William Blake’s famous aphorism that, to paraphrase, Milton was unknowingly on the side of the devils in Paradise Lost). However, there is a further meta-textual leap one might take with Milton’s most famous work: that the Satan figure actually represents not Cromwell but King Charles I, whose almost despotic conviction in the Divine Right of Kings could be perceived as in itself a form of high egoistic self-amplification on a par with Satan’s claim to rival the authority of God (taking this line, Cromwell, then, could be perceived more as the Christ figure in Paradise Regained, who comes to bring final resolution through a salvific counter-revolution).
Whatever one’s interpretation of Milton’s text, there is little doubt of the clear Conservative sentiments coming straight from the hoofed one’s mouth via Milton’s verse-ventriloquism. Certainly, if one is to grasp the Manichean branch of thought, our lives here on earth are in the hands of meddling and malevolent demiurges, and if any one figure in this nation today is quite obviously contender for the devil incarnate, it is undoubtedly the vampiric, blood-sucking, ebon-eyed Master of Ballentaylor, Count Osborne. For what else can one reasonably call his brand of Conservatism and fiscal brutality against the poorest and most vulnerable in our society (other than ‘fiscal fascism’) but economic Diabolism? There is, without a shadow of doubt, a truly and deeply disturbing ‘darkness visible’ in the cold and calculating eyes of this most Satanic of Chancellors.
A.M. 6 January 2014
Britain at the Start of 2014: New Year Honour for a Pensioner-Refrigerating Energy Mogul; the Big Suiciety: British Youth At The End of Their Tether; Desmond’s Daily Pseudologia Does It Again!
It might not entirely surprise readers that The Recusant’s New Year’s resolution: to continue in polemical and poetic opposition and resistance to the Tory atomisation of our society and democracy, and partly to meet the huge ‘demand’ for such oppositional writing in the chasmal absence of any true oppositional spirit or activism in the mainstream at this time, in spite of us now being into the fourth year of the most socially and fiscally draconian government since the Stanley Baldwin National Government of the equally Depressed, nerve-grinding, spirit-whittling Thirties (when there was at least a politically robust literary scene, particularly in poetry, which stands in polar contrast to today’s bloodlessly ‘bourgeois’ and ermine-skirting poetry ‘elites’).
The Recusant noted some traditionally risible choices in the Ruritanian nonsense that is the annual New Year Honours List. Of particular note was a Tory donor who also happened to once be high up at EDF Energy (but whom, allegedly, has been contributing much to charity work and thus is being ‘recognised’ for “philanthropy”) – a firm, let us not forget, among those “Big Six”, which hiked their already exorbitant energy charges just in time to ensure that tens of thousands of impoverished elderly citizens froze their way through the festive season, under piles of jumpers (courtesy of Tory advice); and that tens of thousands of impoverished, wage-frozen and/or benefit-capped families could play the now traditional festive game of “heating or eating” (‘traditional’, that is, since Xmas 2010). So, little surprise to see, as ever, a heady combination of the opportunistic, self-serving, greedy and mediocre all receive some little medals and ribbons from the perpetual grimace that we call “the Queen”.
The Big Suiciety: British Youth At The End of Their Tether
Meanwhile, we can welcome in 2014 with the latest results from one of David Cameron’s backfiring ‘happiness surveys’ (actually, in truth, a YouGov poll –but the motives are arguably indistinguishable), which has found the following (courtesy of today’s Guardian):
Hundreds of thousands of young people feel they have nothing to live for, with the long-term unemployed being particularly pessimistic about their prospects, a youth charity has warned.
The warning is based on the findings of a YouGov poll for the Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index, which also reports that 40% of jobless young people have experienced symptoms of mental illness, such as suicidal thoughts, or feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks, due to their unemployment.
Of those polled, 9% said they did not "have anything to live for". This statistic, if applied to the population as a whole, equates to 750,000 people aged between 16 and 25…
So, happy fourth birthday to your ‘Bingo Society’ Mr Cameron: it’s certainly achieved some “big” social changes, with tens of thousands of abjectly impoverished families having to rely on food banks; 80,000 children trapped in ‘temporary’ accommodation thanks to the welfare caps and bedroom taxes; street homelessness escalating to the highest levels since the days of Thatcher’s “Cardboard City”; a crisis in mental health services due to mass cutting of beds and resources plus escalating breakdowns and suicidal ideation among the austerity-bashed populace; and now 750,000 unemployed young people presently contemplating suicide…
One can suppose that, in a very different sense to that which Mr Cameron intended it, his former trope that his “Big Society” is “the kind of society that Christ would recognise” does hold some truth: a society, as our current one, in which the poor, weak and vulnerable are rhetorically and fiscally persecuted, where 'brother' is pitted 'against brother', where greed, property and mammon are worshipped and revered above human worth, and where every third child born to poor families will automatically lose any 'entitlement' to state assistance (or what might be termed 'the baby cap', or 'the Herod Clause') is certainly one which Christ would indeed recognise, much to his chagrin and general disgust, if he was around today in Cameron's 'Big Stick Society'. He would also no doubt -and this is not meant in any way disrespectfully- be rapidly utilised by the Trussell Trust to help the charity transubstantiate millions more food coupons into bread! But on speaking out, no matter how parabolically, against the moral scandal of so many hungry people in such a wealthy country as ours, He would then no doubt be accused by the pharisaical likes of Iain 'Pilate' Smith of betraying his "left-wing" partisan attitudes and media-whoring "scaremongering" -but not simply socialism, Mr Smith, but actual practical Christianity, a faith-system you, deludedly and duplicitously claim to follow yourself...!?
More Disingenuous Scaremongering from Desmond’s Daily Pseudologia
Finally, no surprise that in today’s attitudinally fascistic Britain (cue also our current cultural shadow-projection of anti-welfarism, or what this writer terms ‘Scroungerology’), the prime tabloid exponent of said attitudes, the Daily Express –a truly reprehensible, extreme right-wing ‘hate’ paper which The Recusant has continually opposed and attempted to hold to account over the past few years, including actual petitions and complaints to the toothless Press Complaints Commission), has just splashed with another of its habitually spurious and scaremongering front page headlines (something of a modern day British anti-institution) by claiming that ‘15% of Romanians’ currently living in the UK ‘don’t have a job’ (as if, in any case, being unemployed in somehow an automatic criminal offence!). The true statistics are actually that 95% of Romanians currently living in the UK are ‘in work’! Clearly numerically challenged, the Express can’t even do its statistical subversion properly, since logically, if it wanted to flip-over the statistics, its own claim should be that 5%, not 15%, of Romanians are, according to its chronically inaccurate ‘sources’, allegedly, unemployed –where, precisely, did it get the figure of 15%? Straight out of a magic top hat, one suspects! Perhaps billionaire owner of the Express, Mr Richard Desmond, should rename his paper the Daily Mythomaniac…? Or maybe go the full hog, for a more educationally ‘up market’ readership, with Desmond's Daily Pseudologia…?
The Express really needs to watch itself as it has deeply specious form for having disingenuously ‘massaged’ already invalid, Atos-doctored ‘figures’ relating to the alleged numbers of those on sickness benefits being “fit to work” in times past, and is steadily catching up with –if not overtaking– the serial statistical fraud of Iain Duncan Smith! It is truly a sign of our times that anti-fascist and anti-racist petition campaign group Hope Not Hate is now launching a petition against a mainstream British tabloid –other than the historically pro-fascist Daily Mail– for its inciting racial hatred and encouraging racial discrimination among the British populace against an ethnic minority. This is the truly sad and deplorable low to which this nation has sunk after only three and a half years of anti-immigration, anti-Europe, Hard Right Tory rhetoric and policy. But we know from history that when capitalism is failing, it employs aspects of fascist rhetoric and fiscal-social policy in order to rein in the economy by effectively just cutting lose and abandoning what it perceives as the ‘economically unproductive’ sections of society (i.e. the unemployed, poor, homeless, sick and disabled), using remorseless rhetoric of discrimination, scapegoating and persecution to ‘justify’ such inhumane policies to the general public. That, in short, is the true legacy of this moral abomination of a government.
For all those wishing to support Hope Not Hate’s timely petition, click here.
Finally, The Recusant wishes all readers a Happy New Year, as much as that is humanly possible under such a vicious and socially divisive government; or, more aptly perhaps, to another year of Happy Opposition and Campaigning against the enemies of fairness and democracy –they being, all fascist groups (and remember, according to a recent survey, Britain’s biggest contribution to the world at today is having the most amount of fascist political groups of any other country!), or more particularly, the BNP, the EDL, UKIP and the Conservative Party.
A.M. 2 January 2014
STOP PRESS: The Recusant wishes to pay tribute to the late, prolific and hugely influential writer and philosopher, Colin Wilson, who passed away on 5 December, aged 83. Wilson (b. 1931) was most famous for his first book, The Outsider (1956), a 'classic' of autodidactic philosophical discourse, which catapulted him into overnight literary fame and proclamations of "genius" at only 24 years old -unfortunately this instant acclaim proved in the long-run something of a pyrrhic victory given the rather swift and less enthusiastic re-evaluation of said work by those who had initially lauded it, in supplemental public. But Wilson, undaunted, ploughed on and produced over 100 books in his lifetime, including many novels (such as the Dostoevskian Ritual In The Dark, 1960), and a deluge of factual books on such varying subjects as existentialism, crime, music (Brandy of the Damned, 1964; later expanded and retitled Chords and Discords/Colin Wilson On Music), mysticism and the paranormal (including the doorstopper, The Occult, 1971). This editor once met Wilson, albeit briefly, through a mutual literary acquaintance, just after he had given a public speech in Brighton, and was surprised -given his famous tendency to a degree of authorial self-aggrandizement- to find him quite modest, reserved and warmly receptive, in person. Shortly after this meeting, I had the privilege to interview him for a Q&A feature, which was subsequently published in Philosophy Now (here is the link), originally under my own title of 'Inside The Outsider'. Though there was little either philosophically or politically with which this editor personally agreed with Wilson, he did enjoy a period of correspondence with him, and respected his wide erudition. An obituary in The Guardian noted that Wilson was a labour voter (in part due to his lifelong admiration of the writing of George Bernard Shaw); however, it did not pick up on the fact from the Seventies onwards -mostly due to disillusion with the Harold Wilson government), Wilson turned to Conservatism, as he mentions towards the end of my interview with him (also citing his approval of Tony Blair, 'because he is a good conservative'). The Recusant hopes that following his passing, Colin Wilson is finally having some of his lifelong philosophical quandaries, at least in part, illuminated.
More Cameronian Duplicity: Prime Hypocrite's Christmas Message Revives 'Big Society' As Living Up To Teachings of Christ!
"Many of these people are Christians who live out to the letter that verse in Acts, that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'..." -
Thus speaks David 'Cartesian' Cameron as his disingenuous and specious words directly contradict his actual actions, policies, attitudes and poisonous rhetoric of condemnation of the poor, unemployed and dispossessed for over the past three years of non-stop fiscal and attitudinal persecution of the most vulnerable people in our society. For all the 'sense' and 'ethical consistency' of his 'say one thing/ do the opposite' rhetoric, Cameron might as well be speaking in Tongues (distinctly brown Tongues at that).
So, according to Cameron, stripping the poorest in our society of their most basic means to live with any dignity, or even survive altogether, through the vindictive welfare caps and bedroom tax, and reducing tens of thousands of families to the indignity of of food bank charity and food vouchers, is in some twistedly convoluted sense demonstrative of 'giving' rather than 'receiving'. Oh, no doubt his emphasis on 'giving' is better than 'receiving' is aimed purely at the unemployed, whom he has shamefully stigmatised as wanting "something for nothing", to go out and volunteer in the big society, in spite of abject poverty and energy-sapping hunger...?!
Because, according to Cameron, the precepts of Christian charity only apply to those most in need of it themselves!? That's the 'Big Stick Society' all over: get the beggars to go out and give their time and what little energy they have left contributing to a society which has reduced them to beggary in the first place, and on top of that, hounded them out from pavement pitch and squat, persecuting them as "scroungers" and 'parasites'! Yes, very 'Christian' this 'Big Society' of Cameron's, isn't it?
Interesting, too, how no doubt most of those who do give their time and energies to volunteer and try and cushion the devastation wrought by Tory dismantlement of the welfare state (the truest Christian social construct) through charities and food banks, would be the first to stand up and blast this despicable anti-Christian Government of callous abandonment of the poor and vulnerable -as is, incontrovertibly, the case.
Oh, and the new Tory announcement of a benefit cap on every third child born to poor and/or unemployed parents (ring any biblical bells? 'Fiscal massacre of the innocents', anyone? -or at least, 'abortion of the innocents'?), effortlessly deconstructed for the neo-eugenics social Malthusianism that it is by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian recently, is indeed more than reminiscent, in rhetorical terms at least, of Herodism. Someone needs to point out to Cameron and Iain 'Dunk Them In It' Smith that Herod was actually one of the villains of the Bible, not one of its heroes.
Why, even one of Cameron's old 'Big Society' evangelists, Andrew Cooper -long since ostracised from No. 10 since the new poor-bashing propaganda regime of the 'Dark Lord from Down Under', Lynton Crosby, moved in- knows the distinction between Christianity and Herodism, or, less biblically, and more in terms of tones of Conservatism, the One Nation Toryism of Disraeli or Macmillan, and the 'Three Nation' Thatcherite atomism of Osbornomics. As does a close associate of his, Ryan Shorthouse, head of liberal-Conservative thinktank Bright Blue, whose markedly compassionate rhetoric marks him out instantly as someone who has a commendable but completely unrealistic ambition to transform Conservatism into, bluntly, something by its intrinsic nature it simply isn't (i.e. a socially conscious ideology) nor is capable of becoming, or at least, massage out from it a new pedigree of noblesse oblige, has spoken out at length (in The Guardian) against the "negative" campaigning of Cameron's polemics, and, arguments that the Tories "can't out-UKIP UKIP" in terms of demonising immigrants, most surprisingly of all (and every bit as vocal, if not even more so, in this regard than most of the Labour front bench at this time!) hits out at our current engrained culture of 'Scroungerology', as well as, interestingly, swiping at IDS's Herodic policy of 'baby caps':
"Every time I read the papers at the moment it's a clampdown – someone from the No. 10 policy board has been talking about reducing benefits for people with more than two children and then there is clamping down on new immigrants... It is a very unbalanced negative message and we didn't come into politics to clamp down on vulnerable people and benefit claimants, for instance, or to lay traps for Labour."
Would that were the case! But it is commendable -and hugely significant- that a Tory, albeit a 'soft Tory', has openly decried the benefit claimant-bashing climate so brutishly and spuriously hyped up by the likes of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and Crosby to the point of fever pitch today, all to 'justify' in the public mind the fiscal blitz on and near-dismantlement of the welfare state.
And just to show that references of 'eugenics'-thinking isn't exclusive to The Recusant's customary tone, do mark that cautionary gradualist Polly Toynbee has openly used the term "eugenics" to describe the direction of Tory thought -and even policy- at this time. Just look, too, on the Guardian Society page at this Christmas, littered with articles, columns and opinion pieces about the parlous state of our 'food bank' society, the escalating homelessness statistics and the national social crisis in coping with it, and this very pertinent piece by Jack Monroe whose Change.org petition against the shocking rise in the need for food banks received so many signatures that it had to be debated in Parliament last week -only to be pettifogged and jeered-at by the egregious goblins on the Government benches of course! Here's the link to Monroe's piece: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/18/food-banks-parliamentary-debate-scandal
But what really is the true nature of Cameron's 'Big Society' -in a biblical context? Well, just imagine, too, if you will, if Joseph and Mary returned today and were seeking shelter for the night in our 'Big Society', as they once tried to, to little avail, in ancient Judea. This 'Big Society' which Cameron claims is so actively 'Christian' would give precisely the same short shrift to Christ's shelterless parents as was the case at the original Nativity -in fact, it would be even more unforgiving: since the anti-"squatting" legislation came in, it would now not even be possible for the Holy parents to even shelter for the night in an empty abandoned 'stable'. If they did, they'd be prosecuted in the morning, Joseph and Mary flung into prison cellls, and the Christchild probably put into care.
So, yes, very 'Christian', this 'Big Society' of yours Mr Cameron!
It's not much of a 'giving' society really is it, when over 80,000 children are enduring impoverished and unsafe Christmases in temporary accommodation or B&Bs thanks to the welfare caps and bedroom tax.
But I suppose Cameron thinks at least through the Atos regimen for the sick and disabled of the past few years, his government has facilitated an industrial-scale 'miracle cure' farm to rival Lourdes on its best seasons, having managed to administratively 'heal' countless of the incapacitated -though, as yet, not quite up to resurrecting the countless casualties and suicides of its pernicious auspices as Christ once did Lazarus.
Interesting too how Cameron pays tribute to the new Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis -both of whom have publicly spoken out against the greed, venality and social judgementalism of the current poor-bashing capitalist culture of the West, both championing the poor and dispossessed and calling on governments to do much more to help them. In short, using precisely the opposite -and truly Christian- rhetoric to counteract the draconian neo-Calvinist 'deserving/undeserving' rhetoric of the political Right (our homegrown Tories among their loudest hailers). Does Cameron honestly think that either Welby or Pope Francis is in any way remotely impressed by his so-called 'Big Society' (or rather 'Hellfare State'), or see it as in any even vague sense living up to Christian principles? Disturbingly, in some deeply distorted sense, one suspects he actually does!
Caneron adds that his Anglican 'faith' "comes and goes" -well it certainly does doesn't it? It 'comes' for just one posturing day a year and then goes for the remaining 364 days during which he chucks the halo away for the crown of King Herod!
‘Duplicity’ Cameron: Prime Hypocrite
No doubt many of you reading this were as cloyed and sickened as this writer by the sheer moral hypocrisy of our corporate puppet of a prime minister, David Cameron, eulogising in tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, a man truly deserving of encomiums, a man who stood up for the poor and oppressed of his nation, and of course to the evil of Apartheid, when Cameron himself has spent the past three years or more establishing the most divisive and brutalising form of Conservatism since Margaret Thatcher (who, let us not forget, refused to impose sanctions on Apartheid South Africa in the Eighties when most other European countries did, and who also once referred to Nelson Mandela and the ANC as “terrorists”!), which has in itself rooted perilously deep into our already woefully unequal society a new form of ‘social apartheid’ which, bluntly, in every rhetorical respect, not to say in some literal aspects, is a new insidious form of ‘fiscal/social fascism’. [Both phrases were used by this writer in his polemical foreword to Emergency Verse, way back in June 2010, and dismissed at the time in some quarters as the comments of unreasoning “rage” –though since proven, along with practically all his other predictions of the likely character of the then-incoming Tory-led government, disturbingly accurate]. 'Social' or 'fiscal fascism' is a new mutant strain of draconian politics which one might term, oxymoronically, ‘democratic authoritarianism’, which seems able to operate and amplify itself within an ostensibly ‘democratic’ parliamentary framework by its propagators ruthlessly and relentlessly manipulating language and subverting rudimentary moral dialectics in order to ‘justify’, in the eyes of an ever frankly credulous and mean-spirited majority of the British population, what are in actuality extremist social policies of a Malthusian character that verge, rhetorically and attitudinally, on Thirties’ social eugenics theories.
The benefit cap being placed on unemployed parents’ third child onwards is quite simply Malthusianism is action –and even some of the toughest critics of the Tories, prior to their return to power in 2010, didn’t even predict that even they would stoop to such inhumane and pernicious policies at the drop of a hat. It is also very telling to note that this egregious government’s most agenda-dominating policies –the part-privatisation of the NHS and the near-dismantlement of the welfare state– of the past three and a half years were only notable by the near-absolute absence from their pre-election manifesto and policy pronouncements.
This is a government which, arguably more than any other before it, premeditatedly wormed and lied its way into power on a false mandate and criminally deceitful manifestos (in both parties’ cases). Nevertheless, so proficient and ubiquitous is its spin-machine of divide-and-rule brinkmanship, anti-unionism and ‘scroungerological’ propaganda, that it finds it almost effortless, too, to frame its unacceptably atomistic social policies in the Humpty-Dumpty-speak of subverted ethics: so, once again, “greed is good” (courtesy of Boris the Bonce’s recent recapitulation of the old Thatcherite mantra), ‘being poor is all your own fault’ (and nothing to do with the deep social injustice and unfairness of a class-ridden culture with an astronomical wealth divide where all power and opportunities are monopolised by a small plutocratic elite), ‘all benefits claimants are workshy scroungers’, ‘all hard-working taxpayers are plaster saints’, ‘public is bad’, ‘private is good’, and anyone who is ‘economically unproductive’ is as good as vermin, ‘undeserving’ of our sympathy, empathy or compassion, and only ‘deserving’ of even further poverty, persecution, stigmatisation and punishment. And the hypocrisy and duplicity pours thick and fast from the two-faced mouths of ministers when posturing publicly on British ‘philanthropy’ towards the poor and oppressed of the world, while themselves actively creating deeper poverty and misery in their own country.
So, on the very same day that the great South African passed away, Cameron’s fellow inherited multimillionaire blue-blood, Chancellor Osborne, was reading out his latest attack on the poor and defenceless of this nation in yet another atomistic Autumn Statement designed to strike yet more fear and despair into the impoverished of this nation, all to the bloodthirsty howls of his fellow ravenous Tory wolves; in particular, the Satanic announcement that his way of dealing with the “cost of living crisis” will be to cap the already savagely depleted welfare budget still further, and permanently, thereby, insanely, hitting those MOST affected by the cost of living the hardest! Though, of course, as we know, this Chancellor is only for what he glibly and disingenuously calls “hardworking people”, whereas anyone unfortunate enough to be out of work at this time, and in almost all cases, through no fault of their own whatsoever, is once again attitudinally and fiscally ostracised from the rest of the human club and left to fend for themselves. How apt a way for this travesty of a government to demonstrate just how utterly out of touch they are, not only with basic social morality, but also with everything a man such as Nelson Mandela stood and fought for, on the very day of his passing.
In spite of all this, of course, no force on earth is sufficient to stop the ceaseless cooing of rhetorical hypocrisy that issues out from the mouth of our pigeon-faced prime minister. So on top of the tragic loss of one of the most compassionate leaders on the planet, we also have to contend with the prattling duplicity of Cameron’s encomium. This prime minister, spineless in the face of the rich and powerful, but bullish in the cowering face of the poor and powerless, who has created his own new and probably irreparable brand of social apartheid in the UK, pays homage to a “hero of our times” who spent his life fighting racial apartheid in South Africa. Cameron praises Mandela –again, rightly– as someone who “brought people together” and “united” them in the face of adversity, when our prime minister himself has spent the first three and a half years of his premiership pursuing the most socially divisive since Thatcher, by deliberately, cynically and ruthlessly pitting taxpayers against benefit claimants (or, in Toryese, “strivers” versus “skivers”), business against unions, private against public sectors, and just about every other possible type of societal internecine division he and his unconscionably unprincipled and opportunistic spin doctors –Coulson and Crosby– could think up.
So, yet again, for the third year running, David Cameron wins The Recusant’s Pathological Hypocrite Award. Moreover, he has managed a double whammy win by only this week having had the sheer temerity to openly speak of Britain leading the world in its generous donations of aid to the starving and freezing child refugees of Syria and posturing on how we shouldn’t buck our “responsibility to the poorest of the world”, when with the other hand he and his government is denying any of those refugees sanctuary on British shores, and is also simultaneously starving the poorest of its own society into abject penury on the domestic front and very brutally bucking its own responsibility the poorest of its own country. Or, in the words of Labour MEP Richard Howitt: “taking food out of the mouths of the hungry… in time for Christmas”. [To which, please do click on the image on front page of TR to read a recent Daily Mirror expose on the full facts and figures behind the rising demand in food banks, or on the icon to donate towards the Mirror Group/Trussell Trust/Unite Union’s allied appeal for donations towards food banks this Xmas].
Also just in time for Xmas is the Government’s latest parliamentarily expedited piece of xenophobic policy-making by imposing a new three-month probationary period to next year’s phantom-projected influx of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants –or, in delusional Tory-ese, “benefits tourists” (and who in their right mind would want to come and do a tour of our ‘all stick and no carrot’ Tory-brutalised welfare system?) of a “soft touch” Britain, renowned, as we know, throughout the globe for being so “soft” on “scroungers” as to the daily vilify and stigmatise all benefit claimants regardless of circumstances, strip them of entitlements on specious whims, coerce them into forced unpaid labour, and bully sick and disabled claimants through Atos assessments!!!– before any of them can claim state assistance, even if they can prove they are actively looking for work in the UK (which in itself contravenes the fundamental precepts of the European Union and the Treaty of Rome, as well as making a mockery of free movement of labour, and so is very probably illegal, not to say yet another infringement of human and labour rights on citizens who are supposed to be after all members of the same trans-national economic community); plus the announcement that, in spite of country currently still being in a serious economic crisis and there being “no money left”, hence the need, according to Cameron and Osborne, of “permanent austerity” (e.g. more cuts to welfare, basically), MPs will be getting a (in spite of numerous leading politicians’ lip-service as to wishing to prevent this, only 46 MPs have so far publicly opposed its implementation!).
Of course, one cannot reasonably expect such an intellectual lightweight as Cameron to ever join the dots of his own prolific ethical contradictions; and in any case, he’s already proven himself to be the most nauseating hypocrite of a prime minister this nation has arguably ever known –unprincipled, opportunistic, spineless, arrogant, and pathologically incapable of EVER actually ANSWERING a single question put to him by the Opposition at the now chronic misnomer of a weekly session which is still laughingly called ‘Prime Minister’s Question Time’. At almost every level conceivable, Cameron is a moral hypocrite and political charlatan of the first rank; a man who believes in compassion and leniency for his friends and electoral target groups, but in condemnation and punishment for just about anyone else; whose sense of empathy extends no further than his own direct circles, family, personal interests and experiences, but suddenly peters out entirely when it comes to addressing the problems and struggles of others.
This is a man who thinks that constantly hammering the poorest and most vulnerable in our society somehow equates to some sort of “fairness”; who has the sheer audacity and arrogance to express how he “profoundly disagrees” with any and every Church leader, from the Archbishop(s) of Canterbury (both Williams and Welby), to the head of the British Catholic Church, to Pope Francis himself, whenever they –frequently– speak up against his moral abomination of a government and its truly despicable social policies of benefits-stigmatisation, welfare caps and Atos attrition against the disabled; who urges us all to sympathise with the terrible plight of the starving children of Syria (which is completely right in itself), while simultaneously condemning tens of thousand of children of poor and/or unemployed parents to malnourishment at home, to food banks and fainting fits in the classroom, and a recently reported 80,000 plus British children to the purgatory of temporary accommodation in B&Bs (again, click on the front page image/link to read a new Daily Mirror expose on the full scandalous truth about the escalating need for food banks in the UK at this time, and on the icon link to donate to the Mirror Group’s Xmas food bank appeal) as a direct result of his government’s reprehensible bedroom tax, and benefit cuts, particularly those to LHA (and in spite of Tory-run Kent County Council frantically trying to suppress a recent report proving how DWP policies have directly created this new whirlpool of abject poverty and destitution in said area, which was, thankfully, leaked just in the nick of time to The Guardian before it was put into the shredder); who praises pro-democracy and human rights campaigns in the Middle East, but then actively restricts democracy and human rights in his own country, through such anti-democratic measures as the gagging law, and such fiscal atrocities as the bedroom tax and the criminalisation of “squatters” (i.e. those street homeless who dare to seek shelter from the winter cold in derelict empty properties); who, basically, says one thing one minute, then does the absolute opposite the next.
But The Recusant senses that time is running out for this hollow promise of a prime minister, and his –and Osborne’s– highly dubious prior-‘connections’ will sooner or later catch up with him and, if there is any justice left in this world, pull the rug of power from under his Bullingdon-buffed shoes.
The Recusant wishes to pay its own respects to the late and great Nelson Mandela, a man who not only dedicated but ultimately part-sacrificed his adult life to the cause of racial emancipation in South Africa and who demonstrated a truly uncommon and enduring bravery against the fascist forces of white Apartheid; crucially, for this writer, Mandela led by example all his life, and his true moral authority rests essentially on his demonstrable adherence to the principle of forgiveness and reconciliation over revenge and retribution, once he had become President of South Africa, following his release from prison all those years ago.
Given his great sacrifices throughout his life for the emancipation of his people, it is only fitting that his death should be marked by significant coverage and tributes. However, today’s bluntly ‘obsessive’ media has, as ever, gone into overdrive in terms of coverage of Mandela’s passing, almost to such a degree as to become nauseous in terms of gushing, duplicitous sanctimony. So far no one who has paid public tribute to the great African human rights crusader appears to have demonstrably learnt anything whatsoever as yet from his legacy; moreover, the likes of David Cameron, as always, opportunistically prominent among the eulogists, is the very type of political leader who represents everything someone of Mandela’s moral calibre would have opposed and rebelled against –chiefly, of course, Cameron’s deliberately socially divisive politics, and, most blatantly, his and his recidivist party’s unnatural antipathy towards EU Human Rights.
The spectacle, then, of our sycophantic prime minister posing for what is termed a “selfie” alongside the Danish prime minister (who is also, disturbingly, Neil Kinnock’s daughter-in-law!) and the increasingly inscrutable President Obama, at Mandela’s funeral service, was sickening and wholly inappropriate, not to say arguably disrespectful, to say the least. Ultimately, Mandela himself, judging by his demonstrable character and conduct throughout his epic life, would have among the first public figures to have stood up and said that the coverage of his death was far too all-pervasive and taking up too much media time when there were far more pressing issues to be covered at that point –and that, indeed, is the whole point of Nelson Mandela, both as a person, and in what he stood for and fought for all his life: the welfare of others, not the aggrandizement of himself.
In these senses, Mandela not only spoke but also behaved as a true Christian, not to say one of the most important humanitarians of our age. Would that so many of those who currently rush to heap –wholly deserved– praise on this truly great man stopped to think for just one minute as to whether they themselves are pursuing the kind of compassionate politics of which Mandela would have approved; would that our political leaders, especially those in our country at this time, actually learn from the legacy of the man they swoop into so gushingly eulogise, rather than simply paying lip-service to someone whose incontrovertible goodness, compassion and altruism they, demonstrably, have absolutely no intention whatsoever of ever trying to emulate themselves –pursuing, as our current Tory leaders are, the very type of socially divisive and vicious policies that, in an admittedly more openly brutal form, the white Afrikaanas of Apartheid South Africa were pursuing before Mandela’s belated release from prison and ascendance to presidency.
For all Cameron’s encomiums as to the great and compassionate qualities of Nelson Mandela, his own judgements are about as far removed from the great man as Pontius Pilate’s were from Christ’s. Indeed, the absurd spectacle of perhaps the most morally hypocritical, duplicitous and opportunistic prime minister in British history praising one of the most morally upright and courageous people of our time is indeed very much like Pontius Pilate publicly praising Jesus. But such is the habitual hypocrisy of our Pharisaic prime minister, and I suppose by now we should have got used to it. But every time the mealy-mouthed Etonian upstart opens his mouth to spout another platitude, one’s blood just boils all over again. Of course, we can all be hypocrites, and this editor freely admits that he himself cannot, at least at this present time, given the hellish state of our society under Tory rule, find it in himself to follow Mandela’s example and show forgiveness for the likes of Cameron, Osborne and the idiotic but no less odious Iain Duncan Smith, for their rapacious persecution of the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled.
And in any case, even if he could, one suspects that the aforementioned Fiddlers Three are already beyond any moral redemption. Indeed, IDS, who seems to labour under the delusion that he is some sort of ‘Christian’, nay ‘Roman Catholic’ to boot, but whose entire anti-Damascene ‘philosophy’ on life and how to treat one fellow beings is completely at odds with the socialistic and distinctly anti-capitalist compassion of the current Pope Francis, who has spiritedly proclaimed himself, in a plutocratic age, to be “the Pope of the Poor”, and at a time when Western received wisdom is that the poor are to blame for their poverty, has been nominated by one angry Guardian commentator for Excommunication from the Catholic Church on the grounds of his ‘crimes against the poor, sick and disabled’. While eternal damnation might be going a bit far, even for Tories, nonetheless, all three of these tyrants of our time damn themselves whenever they speak at the despatch-box –IDS may never literally be “cast out” of either the Catholic community, or anything else of this earth, but he and his kind will always be, to all decent and compassionate human beings who believe in helping others less fortunate rather than condemning and punishing them, “anathema”. The trouble is, in the mean time, on in this world, it is the poor and the vulnerable that have been cast out and stigmatised as anathema by our Tory taskmasters.
Tories Put the Boot In To the Poor Again By Refusing an Offer for Further Financial Subsidy to Food Banks from the European Aid to the Most Deprived
To which, national shame of the increasing needs for food banks throughout the UK in order to try and feed the tens of thousands of families –both out of work and in work– reduced to abject poverty and malnutrition by the ongoing scourge of this Government’s egregious benefit caps and bedroom tax notwithstanding, only yesterday the DWP rejected the offer of £22 million annual financial assistance from the European Aid to the Most Deprived to go towards subsidising said food banks, instead of the burden for providing a ‘shadow welfare state’ being kept entirely on the shoulders of charities such as the Trussell Trust.
This rejection would appear to indicate one of two things: that either this Government is in complete denial as to the devastating effects on the poorest in the country of its fiscal blitzkrieg on the welfare budget, or, alternately, that this Government truly does wish to see the eventual material extinction of the poorest in the country, or rather, of what it no doubt perceives to be its ‘social residuum’. So seemingly conscienceless as to the mass misery and abject poverty its’ so-called “welfare reforms” are wreaking on the poorest in society, even, in spite of its’ fiscal crimes against the most vulnerable of its citizens, still unrepentantly contemptuous towards their plight, this pathological plague-promulgator of a government will not even accept foreign money to go towards feeding its hungry. Moreover, it is no doubt also embarrassed that the EU, which it holds in such xenophobic contempt, should highlight the UK, so publicly, as being in urgent need of a £22m-a-year top-up in order to its public expenditure in order to mop up the social overspill of abject poverty created and spread by its own Malthusian policies.
But this is no real surprise to those long-versed in the moral sickness that is Toryism; its’ apparently insatiable appetite for social persecution of the poor, unemployed, and all those deemed ‘economically unproductive’; and its’ almost limitless capacity for ideological ‘shadow-projection’ of its own misanthropic and sociopathic tendencies onto those whose sheer financial and material defencelessness makes them so easy to judge, persecute and punish. What’s more, sanctimonious charlatan ‘Christians’ such as Iain Danke Schmit only give Christianity a bad name by feebly attempting to attach some twisted interpretation of ‘Christian ethic’ to the, oppositely, more Herodic fiscal persecutions they maliciously inflict on the weakest members of our society.
Judging by the DWP’s allusion to being more committed to providing “immaterial” than “material” assistance to the poor, unemployed and homeless –meaning an emphasis on “counselling” and “budget maintenance” rather than on the most fundamental necessities of sleeping bags, shelter and food banks– one can only deduce that, yet again, Iain anti-Damascene Smith has wilfully misinterpreted another biblical aphorism: “Man cannot live by bread alone”. That’s as maybe; and The Recusant, socialist, but not secular, would also argue that every person, whether poor or otherwise, needs ‘immaterial’ (or spiritual) as well as material nourishment in order to approach any true form of fulfilment (something which it does not see as in any sense contradictory with essential socialist aspiration for full human flourishing), the fact remains that Man cannot live without ANY bread at all! It’s no good trying to get empty bellies “back into work”, because they’ll not have the energy, let alone the mental ‘drive’, to be able to perform any. Fill the belly first; then start expecting some form of work from people –otherwise such an approach really is expecting “something for nothing”, right from the outset.
The Recusant pays tribute to one Jack Monroe whose Food Bank petition started on Change.org raised 142,000 signatures (this editor’s and no doubt many TR contributors’ included) thus forcing a debate in Parliament. The debate took place earlier this week. 60 Labour MPs spoke about the appalling hunger pangs of legion of their constituents coming up to Xmas, and it was indeed an impassioned and tempestuous debate, underscored, of course, by bluntly psychopathic Tory howls of antipathy to what that venal breed no doubt shrug off as so many ‘sob stories’ aimed to spoil their enjoyment of their port and pudding at Xmas. Typically, the usually cantankerous and sanctimonious IDS, on an occasion when even his capacity at self-deception and figures-massaging disingenuousness could do little to hide the abject poverty inflicted by his brutalising benefits blitzkrieg, crept out of the Chamber not long after having crept in.
Meanwhile, stamping her mark on the pages of Hansard as indubitably yet another heartlessly reality-denying Work and Pensions Minister –in a long line of Malthusian ladder-crawlers, including Shapps and Grayling– Esther McVey contributed the following risibly glib non-sequitur: “it is right to say that more people are visiting foodbanks, as we would expect” –‘it is right’, apparently, is it? Right that in the seventh richest country on the planet over 330,000 people are going hungry and having to rely on tins from food banks just to survive? Right strictly in the ideological sense of the term: right-wing, yes. But no doubt this is all an indication that Cameron’s malodorous phantom menace of the “Big Society” is finally fully in action: ‘Big Stick Society’ more like. The Tories really have protracted this chillingly authentic Dickensian bicentenary beyond the bounds of recognised tribute –but such mass re-enactment of that age of slums and workhouses is not only rather missing the point, but also overdoing the ‘missed point’ a bit. Next we’ll be seeing pauperised child pickpockets being slapped with ASBOs.
But of course the Tories will argue that poverty all comes down to “bad life choices” (cue Gradgrind Gove’s despicable ‘one strike and you’re out’ put down of those going to food banks) and some sort of innate genetic behavioural predisposition (which the Tories are apparently attempting to recondition via its Orwellian “nudge units” –almost always ‘nudging’ the poor into deeper poverty). The Tories’ demonstrable fixation with the idea that it is behaviour and attitudes which need to be ‘assisted’, or rather, ‘reconditioned’, rather than providing basic state provision in order to alleviate the immediate effects of poverty and unemployment, does seem to indicate, unnervingly, that said party truly does believe that poverty is the product of some kind of ‘moral disease’ among certain sections of society, and that, like any other disease, or ‘contagion’, requires isolating and neutralising before it spreads any further. Clearly the Tories perceive poverty not as a ‘cold’ but as a ‘fever’, hence their conviction that its carriers must be literally ‘starved’ into a cure. We all know IDS claims to be a ‘practising Catholic’, but apart from the fact that his own mutant strain of Christian interpretation has far more in common with antinomian Calvinism in its harsh judgement of the underprivileged, there is detectably something of the anchoritic in his extra-projected philosophical flagellations against the poor and unemployed, through a continuing material and dietary besiegement of their bodies and minds, or rather, regimen of bodily denial and mental misery.
But the fact remains that at this time, drawing towards Christmas 2013, the UK’s two chief –and most heinous– national distinctions to be seen clearly by the rest of Europe (one EU official recently referring to Britain as turning into “a nasty country”) are, that is has the most fascist political organisations of any other country in the world (according to a recent world survey previously highlighted on The Recusant), and is also now becoming the first major European nation to openly transform itself from Welfare State to Food Bank Charity Case. The UK is today, at the end of 2013, and after only three years of Tory-led government, winner of the epithet of “Food Bank Britain” –truly the “Sick man of Europe”, but in a very new and very much darker sense of the phrase: it is “Sick” because its political leaders and media moguls deem it perfectly acceptable and “fair” for the poorest in society to be punished –remorselessly and indefinitely– for the financial crimes and malfeasance of the City speculators who singularly brought our economy to its knees.
[Update: This just in The Guardian of 29 December, a brilliant piece by Nick Cohen on the scandal of food banks and how, to add insult to mass-injury, the Government, or more particularly, Secretary to the Department of Whiphands and Punishments, Inane Duncan Smith, is now in a 'strop' about the fact that many Church charities facilitating the food banks throughout the land -and thus literally enacting the much-trumpeted 'principles' (if that's the right word!) of the 'Big Society- are becoming more outspoken about the moral abomination of the seventh richest country on Earth having tens of thousands of hungry citizens -IDS, as ever, has stamped his Little Hitlerish feet accusing these armies of volunteers of being politically partisan and anti-'welfare reform'! Well what does he expect? These altruistic people are seeing at first hand the terrible truth of desperately struggling families, both in and out of work, trying to put food on the table each day in the face of escalating food prices, rents and energy bills! It is then, demonstrably, not any tacit form of 'socialism' which IDS so objects to, but practical Christianity, a faith to which he, laughably, claims to adhere! Would he and his Tory cronies prefer it that the Trussell Trust shut up shop for good and just let the poor starve? Given this Government's transparently Malthusian approach to the problem of unemployment and poverty, no doubt they would. Anyhow, here is Mr Cohen's excellent exposé in full:
I went to the Trussell Trust food bank round the corner from The Observer's offices just before Christmas. If I hadn't been reading the papers, I would have assumed it represented everything Conservatives admire. As at every other food bank, volunteers who are overwhelmingly churchgoers ran it and organised charitable donations from the public.
What could be closer to Edmund Burke's vision of the best of England that David Cameron says inspired his "big society"? You will remember that in his philippic against the French revolution, Burke said his contemporaries should reject its dangerously grandiose ambitions , and learn that "to love the little platoons we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ, as it were) of public affections". Yet when confronted with displays of public affection – not in 1790 but in 2013 – the coalition turns its big guns on the little platoons.
It would have been easy for the government to say that it was concerned that so many had become so desperate. This was Britain, minsters might have argued, not some sun-beaten African kleptocracy. Regardless of politics, it was a matter of common decency and national pride that Britain should not be a land where hundreds of thousands cannot afford to eat. The coalition might not have meant every word or indeed any word. But it would have been in its self-interest to emit a few soothing expressions of concern, and offer a few tweaks to an inhumanely inefficient benefits system, if only to allay public concern about the rotten state of the nation.
But the coalition is not even prepared to play the hypocrite. Iain Duncan Smith showed why he never won the VC when he was in the Scots Guards when he refused to face the Labour benches as the Commons debated food banks on 18 December. He pushed forward his deputy, one Esther McVey, a former "TV personality". All she could say was that hunger was Labour's fault for wrecking the economy. She gave no hint that her government had been in power for three years during which the number attending food banks had risen from 41,000 in 2010 to more than 500,000. Her remedy was for the coalition to help more people into work.
If she had bothered talking to the Trussell Trust, it would have told her that low-paid work is no answer. Its 1,000 or so distribution points serve working families, who have no money left for food once they have paid exorbitant rent and fuel bills.
But then no one in power wants to talk to the trust. As The Observer revealed, Chris Mould, its director, wrote to Duncan Smith asking if they could discuss cheap ways of reducing hunger: speeding up appeals against benefit cuts; or stopping the endemic little Hitlerism in job centres, which results in unjust punishments for trivial transgressions. In other words, a Christian charity, which was turning the "big society" from waffle into a practical reality, was making a civil request. Duncan Smith responded with abuse. The charity's claims to be "non-partisan" were a sham, he said. The Trussell Trust was filled with "scaremongering" media whores, desperate to keep their names in the papers. But he had their measure.
Oh, yes. "I understand that a feature of your business model must require you to continuously achieve publicity, but I'm concerned that you are now seeking to do this by making your political opposition to welfare reform overtly clear."
Ministers will not confess to making a mistake for fear of damaging their careers. But it is not only their reputations but an entire world view that is at stake. Put bluntly, the Conservatives hope to scrape the 2015 election by convincing a large enough minority that welfare scroungers are stealing their money. They cannot admit that a real fear of hunger afflicts hundreds of thousands. Hence, Lord Freud, the government's adviser on welfare reform, had to explain away food banks by saying: "There is an almost infinite demand for a free good."
My visit to the food bank showed that our leaders' ignorance has become a deliberate refusal to face a social crisis. Of course, the volunteers help working families and students as well as the unemployed and pensioners. Everyone apart from ministers knows about in-work poverty. As preposterous is the Tory notion that the banks are filled with freeloaders.
You cannot just swan in. You get nothing unless a charity or public agency has assessed your need and given you a voucher. The trust is at pains to make sure that the beggars – for hundreds of thousands of beggars is what Britain now has – receive a balanced diet. To feed a couple for five days, it gives: one medium pack of cereal, 80 teabags, a carton of milk, two cans apiece of soup, beans, tomatoes and vegetables, two portions of meat and fish, fruit, rice pudding, sugar, pasta and juice. That this is hardly a feast is confirmed by the short list of "treats", which, "when available", consist of "one bar of chocolate and one jar of jam".
Sharon Cumberbatch, who runs the centre, tells me that she is so worried that shame will deter her potential clients that she packages food in supermarket bags so no one need know its source. The clients, when I met them, reinforced her point that they were not the brazen freeloaders of Tory nightmare. They trembled when they told me how they did not know how they would make it into the new year.
Most of all, it was the volunteers who were a living reproof to a coalition that can cannot correct its errors. They not only distribute food but collect it. They stand outside supermarkets all day asking strangers to buy the tinned food they need or hand out leaflets in the streets or plead with businesses to help. Sharon Cumberbatch is unemployed but she works to help others for nothing. Her colleagues said they manned the bank because hunger in modern Britain was a sign of a country that was falling apart. Or as one volunteer, Richard Moorhead, put it to me: "I am gobsmacked that people are going hungry. I'm ashamed."
The coalition can call such attitudes political if it wants – in the broadest sense they are. But they are also patriotic, neighbourly, charitable and kind. They come from people who represent a Britain the Conservative party once claimed a kinship with, and now cannot bring itself to talk to.
Hear, hear! Only the Tories could be capable of -to paraphrase the common expression- 'biting the hand that feeds those they starve'!].
'Help To Rent Scheme' Anyone?
Not only that, but Britain –“Open for Business” apparently, along with prejudice– is currently yet again a swarming ground for the parasitic property speculators thanks to Chancellor von Osborne’s inflation of the housing market via “Help to Buy (to-Let, in many cases)”, which in turn of course is artificially stimulating the economy to make it look as if, on paper, the UK is finally seeing some “green shoots” of recovery in the run up to the 2015 election (then when we hit another big financial crisis caused again by a false housing boom, Baron von Osborne will no doubt come out at the despatch box post-2015 to announce the ‘necessity’ of further billions being siphoned out of the already massively depleted welfare budget as the only ‘solution’ to plugging the resurgent deficit). Perhaps he might start thinking of another stimulus scheme to counteract the devastating effects of the current property boom which is counterproductively, not to say, despicably, resulting in pricing hundreds of thousands of would-be tenants out of the rental market, let alone the mortgage game –how about a new “Help to Rent” scheme?
Because according to latest statistics, private rents have continued to rise year on year since the Tories –sorry, and Lib Dems, apparently– started up their austerity drive in 2010 (now, so we’re told, pretty much a permanent economic strategy –for the 99% that is, not the 1% who maintain their gratuitous monopolies), and according to a recent Guardian article, have literally DOUBLED, while wages have flat lined, in the last year alone [http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/dec/20/rents-rise-twice-as-much-as-earnings?commentpage=1]. This is quite a different vicissitude to that so smugly predicted by ex-Housing Minister Grant Shapps back in 2010/11, when he was constantly arguing, insanely, that by capping housing benefits, somehow private landlords would suddenly and miraculously start to lower their rents accordingly, and not, as in fact they are now currently doing (and this writer predicted in Emergency Verse back in 2010), actually continuing to hike them up, in response to the rise in demand for rental properties due to millions being priced out of home ownership. Funnily enough, not one single Tory minister has yet come out and even acknowledged this polar opposite repercussion of their scabrous housing benefit caps and bedroom tax to that which they ‘predicted’ back in 2010. Whither the “invisible hand” of capitalism? Well, it is invisible for a reason: because it doesn’t exist.
So, as we head towards 2014, this nation can now announce that is ‘Open for Misery’ for the vast majority of citizens, particularly the younger generation, or "Generation Rent" as they are now known, and will no doubt mostly remain for the rest of their lives, unless the Tory pauperisation of British society is belatedly truncated at the next election (to which, having moved recently from Hove back to Brighton, this writer is pleased to now know that he is safely within Caroline Lucas’s constituency, so can vote Green in 2015 without any niggling quandary as to whether he should have voted tactically for Labour to try and kick Mike ‘Keep Them Out In All Weathers’ Weatherley of the Tories out; he is also gratified to learn that Brighton’s Green Council is among the first in the country to reject the ‘Gaggling Law’, even if one of its local MPs, the same Mr Weatherley, has yet to confirm whether he will be bothering to attend an upcoming public debate on the issue in Brighton. No surprise there then –and after all, who’d want to have go out in the biting coastal winter winds of Brighton if they can instead stay in the warm in their slippers, safe in the knowledge that all empty properties in the locality are now safe to stand in disrepair without being “squatted” in by any of the legion local street homeless…?).
But not only has the housing benefit cap encouraged private landlords to hike up their rents to capitalise on rising demand –and letting agents to hike up their unfathomable ‘fees’ for credit and guarantor checks, plus deposits and first month’s rents in advance, etc.– but has also had a chilling effect in the rental market in terms of how many private landlords are now prepared to take on Local Housing Allowance tenants (which incorporates not only the unemployed, sick and disabled, but also many people in work but on low wages) due to greater uncertainties as to whether the newly capped LHA rates will tally with average rents in the area –which on the whole they don’t know, thanks to the cap, but fall some way under rent averages– plus growing disgruntlement of private landlords towards how promptly and reliably local councils seem capable of paying housing benefits to them on behalf of their tenants.
So at every single level imaginable, the housing benefit caps have proven an unmitigated disaster, particularly for tenants who are now faced with ever increasing uncertainty as to how long they can stay in a rental property, or even whether they can secure one in the first place, or instead face very likely homelessness, ‘permanently’ temporary accommodation, or the streets. In Brighton and Hove, for example, many letting agents at this time are apparently complaining off-the-record as to the fact that they are being put off renting out flats –many of which are often disproportionately high-rent cramped and damp studios, bedsits, or bluntly hovels, in any case– to LHA claimants because their ‘clients’ (i.e. private landlords, invariably, buy-to-let ones) are constantly complaining about the fact that when it comes to rental arrears and other tenancy disputes, “the Council’s taking the side of the tenant” –Oh, how outrageous! Heaven forbid that there should be some natural justice in this sceptred isle, whereby an authority takes the side of the poor and vulnerable against the propertied and powerful! These agents and landlords also privately complain about the fact that the Green Council advises LHA tenants threatened with eviction for arrears or other reasons to hold out until the three month grace period before legal eviction can take place is up –again, Heaven forbid that an authority in this nation should have the temerity to actually uphold the Law in favour of the poor and vulnerable! Apparently these parasitic private property speculators and letting agents expect tenancy law to be flouted in their favour, simply because they represent propertied interests!?
The Recusant has only high praise for the Brighton & Hove Green Council –also in particular for its vigorous campaign to absorb the potential Diaspora of tenancies threatened by the unconscionable bedroom tax, by trying to stump up enough funds to help the most vulnerable tenants cover the shortfalls in their reduced LHA payments. But the trouble is, as is the way with the free market which ever adjusts itself to its own craven interests, since the tenancy laws were tilted more in tenants’ favour (though it’s hard to see how this has actually been the case for anyone who actually has rented or does currently, which is a hell of a lot of us of course), and now the housing benefit caps are sledge-hammered in, private landlords, with the full complicity of letting agents, are currently, at least in Brighton and Hove, conspiring in a tacit, passive-aggressive alliance against prospective LHA tenants, by simply increasing the already perennial ‘NO DSS’ embargo for their rental properties from what was a few years ago probably around 50% of available flats to what is now more like 90%.
On top of this, the letting agents are also hiking up their deposit charges and fees, in order to make it just that little bit more impossible for impoverished people to be able to take up what paltry few ‘Will Consider LHA’ tenancies are available. So not only are most people in the UK today priced out from the housing market; but an increasingly enormous number of the most impoverished and vulnerable citizens are now being either priced out of the rental market, or even just simply barred from it altogether simply because they claim some LHA to help pay the sky-high rents. And with no sign yet of any even vague nod towards a future Council or Social Housing building programme, this ‘perfect storm’ of a situation looks set to turn into a tsunami into 2014 unless something truly radical is done to alleviate it. Like, for instance, reintroducing private rent controls…!? (And there’s hardly much ‘radical’ about that, seeing as most of Europe has them, and even the regulation-lite, state-hating USA has them! So why not us?).
How pitiful and deplorable it is that in the UK today, so low have aspirations been driven by the Tories’ “race to the bottom” culture that many young people today forced into temporary shelters, B&Bs, sofa-surfing or street homelessness, are now wistfully hoping to one day be able to “rent their own place” –far be it from any such youngsters, who have no family home or “bank of mum and dad” to fall back on (plus also now being threatened by the Department for Workfare Psychopaths with a future withdrawal of either JSA or housing benefits eligibility up to 25!), to ever think themselves so “entitled” as to even dream of ever actually owning their own homes!
Whatever the UK has become, it is certainly not a nation for the young anymore –least of all for the children of the poor. How shameful it is that in Britain of the 21st century tens of thousands of children will not even be having a decent Xmas dinner, let alone any presents, and spending the festive season in cramped, damp and unsafe temporary accommodation throughout the country while their parents try to scrimp some kind of Xmas substitute comestibles at their local Trussell Trust food banks. If it snows this Xmas we might as well call it Narnia in the absence of Aslan.
Thirties Redux: How Today’s ‘Coalition’ Government Is Using the Template of the Ruthless Austerity Policies of the 1930s Stanley Baldwin ‘National’ Government to Make the Poorest Pay Again for the Crimes of the Rich
This editor has recently been reading Wal Hannington’s brilliant polemic, The Problem of the Distressed Areas (Left Book Club/ Victor Gollancz, 1937), as part of his research towards completing his latest epic polemical poem (exclusively available online), Odour of Devon Violet (click on the link on front page of TR –this is a work in progress and is not yet completed). Reading Hannington’s exceptional expose of the punishing ‘austerity’ policies of the 1930s Stanley Baldwin ‘National Government’ (essentially Tories and Liberals) in response to the first Great Depression has proven both illuminating and, in itself, deeply distressing, in terms of comparing and contrasting with the equally socially divisive and draconian policies of our current Tory-Lib Dem ‘Coalition’ Government of today’s second Great Depression. In short, what this reading has revealed to him is that quite clearly Cameron’s Government has used Stanley Baldwin’s prior fiscally draconic economic and social policies as a template for his own administration’s attempts to resuscitate a failing capitalist system during one of its cyclic breakdowns –indeed, the policy parallels are uncanny, since almost every extreme social policy Cameron’s government is pursuing was foreshadowed by Baldwin’s. Just as Cameron is doing today, Baldwin, in the mid to late Thirties, imposed the following:
Massive cuts to unemployment assistance in what was then a proto-welfare state (which is precisely what Cameron and Osborne are now returning us to, relieving government and ‘taxpayer’ of much subsidy towards benefits and instead dumping much of the social responsibility onto charities such as the Trussell Trust, which, along with soup kitchens, represent our new ‘alfresco welfare state’)
Imposition of tough sanctions, penalties and general humiliations of assessment via the Means Test (means-testing being a principle Cameron is currently re-instilling into the welfare state)
Massive cuts to welfare in spite of soaring inflation and cost of living
Imposition of forced unpaid labour on the long-term unemployed (including the use of ‘labour camps’ –and a recent leaked DWP document shows that Iain Duncan Smith is currently contemplating trying to introduce some form of ‘work camps’ if the Tories secure a second term majority government; hence those predictions of future returns to the workhouse among some of us may prove disturbingly accurate!)
Replacement of some cash assistance for the long-term unemployed with food vouchers
These parallels are of course far too marked be mere coincidence: someone, presumably, at the heart of the Cameron-Osborne-Duncan Smith regime must have at some point suggested this current Government use Stanley Baldwin’s as a blueprint for how it is to tackle the country’s current “deficit” and near-bankruptcy, since, after all, not only was Baldwin a Tory leader/prime minister (and a similarly hard line right-wing one at that), but he was also in charge of the country during the first Great Depression, precursor to our current second one. So it would make perfect sense to a Tory leadership to call in the spectres of past ideological-ancestral political strategies through which to tackle a very similar economic crisis (as well as too, demonstrably, also take some inspiration from a certain other extreme right-wing regime of the Thirties, that one over in Germany, in terms of its remorseless campaign of persecutory rhetoric against the poor, unemployed, sick, disabled, homeless and destitute, and associated punishing policies of welfare cuts and forced unpaid labour –for Make Work Pay read Work Makes You Free!?). What brutally bad luck it is that during two of the worst recessions in our history, on both occasions, we have had right-wing Tory-led administrations coming into power to “clean up the mess” and, as is their ideologically draconic character, not hesitating to wield the axe at the weakest and easiest victims: the poor and unemployed.
Poets at the Palace –Some, In Spite of ‘Republican’ Principles
Talking of unemployment, we come to the recent royal patronage of the contemporary poetry world. This writer will keep this part of the polemic as painlessly brief as possible. Suffice it to say he was less than surprised to learn that recently 300 of the biggest ‘movers and shakers’ in this nation’s increasingly solipsistic and austerity-blind ‘poetry scene’ were cordially invited to grovel and tug forelocks before Her Maj and Phil the Greek at Buckingham Palace. Oh, and Culture Minister Marie Miller was also in attendance -that's the same Marie Millier who was formerly Disability Minister and thus had a very significant role to play in the 'Atos axis', alongside fellow Malthusians Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith... But what do such odious associations matter when poets can have an opportunity to shake hands with the Queen and, with any luck, catch her eye for possible future honours, or even one of her Gold Medals...?
That most of those 300 ‘VIPs’ (‘Very Important Poets/Publishers’) ended up attending the ermine-fawning event, in spite of some of their apparent subsequent ‘republican/anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist’ self-recriminations, says quite a lot about today’s establishment-steeped and politically complacent poetry hierarchies, and is really nothing so unexpected. Depressing, yes, but not surprisingly so; after all, it was only a couple of years ago that so many self-proclaimed ‘socially conscious’ and/or ‘left-wing’ and/or ‘republican’ poets erupted into gushing poetic nuptials, under the Poet Laureate’s tutelage, for a Guardian verse-feature celebrating the Royal Wedding.
Nevertheless, there was apparently a Twitter-storm (or what one might term a ‘Twoot’!) among many disgruntled poets about this rather pathetic little PR pageant of poetic one-upmanship, incorporating both howls of outrage by those poets not invited but who, for some inexplicable reason, wanted to be, and those poets who felt disappointed by some fellow poet-invitees who had hitherto proclaimed either political and/or republican opposition to the “that moth-eaten brocade” (to apply Larkin’s aphorism on religion to the royalty) that is the hoary and wholly anti-democratic institution of the British Monarchy.
The ever recalcitrant Niall McDevitt, at International Times, wrote a simmering polemic to mark this drearily irrelevant occasion, rightly swiping at any self-proclaimed ‘republican’ poets who attended in spite of their principles, while otherwise admonishing anyone who might still try to convince themselves that the constitutionally obsolete and deeply undemocratic monarchy has either any true purpose or ethical justification to continue existing. As ever, this was vintage McDevitt dialectic, acerbic but apposite and entirely appropriate, and his suggestion that those poets who oppose the institution of monarchy, and, most of all, any hint of its patronage of poetry itself, should perhaps get together in future to hold an alternative poetry event emphasizing many poets’ opposition to monarchy. (As indicated in our previous coverage of the Queen's Jubilee, readers will not be surprised to learn that The Recusant is not only socialist but as republican in its convictions). This writer suggested to him the possibility of establishing an annual Republican Poetry event to said purpose. He will keep readers posted on any progression in this direction.
A.M. 19 December 2013