My Homepage

Cameron, the Family Man

Cameron has a poor record of breaking election pledges, of promising one thing, and delivering something very different. Occasionally the promise was of an issue that was so important, that played such a key role in British life, that reneging was nothing short of scandalous. A perfect example of this was the coalition pledge that there would be "no more pointless top-down reorganisations" of the NHS. The coalition has not he rely imposed a "top-down reorganisation" of the NHS, it has almost destroyed our national health service. It is just a matter of time before the many isolated privatisations of hospitals and services make that destruction blindingly obvious. To make a promise before an election is to tell the nation what one's platform will be, what one will do in exchange for the citizens vote. To betray that promise is one of the worst abuses of democracy that a politician can commit.
And if the coalition has one consistent pattern, it has been the breaking of promises. Cameron has admitted that "parents and children are too often overlooked and sometimes left worse off by government reforms." (Oliver Wright. The Independent. Monday August 18 2014.) Of course, in this context "reforms" means government schemes that are presented as being beneficial for the entire nation, but in fact are either of small benefit for the already wealthy, or will have a major negative impact on the lives of society's most vulnerable individuals. So it is no surprise that "parents and children are too often" made worse off by government policy. What is a surprise is that someone in the coalition is talking about improving the situation. Although, at the time of writing, it is just talk. We should not mistake yet another delightful, altruistic and genuinely heart-warming intention for an actual policy. It is, so far, just words, but in the remote possibility that Cameron will actually try and stop his own party's policies damaging the poor, the jobless and the disabled, it may be worth looking at the government's track record so far. It is presumably a recent realisation, so perhaps it would be unfair to criticise the coalition too harshly for the harm done by its early policies. Also, most members of the government were politically inexperienced and lacked the insight to be aware of the secondary effects of their policies. More importantly, it takes time for the effects of policies to feed through from Whitehall to the Clapham omnibus. It might take a year for the impact to hit and then another year for the damage and the causal link to become quite obvious. So in an attempt to be fair to the coalition, I shall only use examples from 2014. By that time, the blowback from its early policies should have become blatantly obvious, and more sensitivity should have been applied to all future plans.
For example, in imposing sanctions on those on welfare benefits, a Secretary of State for Work and Pensions might think that those on benefits are not rich and perhaps lack a financial cushion to fall back on, so that the sanctions should not be imposed suddenly, without discussion or involve a complete block on payments. As simply missing an appointment can result in benefits being cut off, there should be some attempt to ensure that the claimant can manage - that is, at a minimum, survive. This is not what happens on Iain Duncan Smith's watch.
David Clapson, an ex-soldier, could have died of starvation. All he had left to eat in his flat was, "six tea bags, an out-of-date tin of sardines and a can of tomato soup." (Amelia Gentleman. The Guardian. August 4 2014.) An autopsy found that his stomach was empty. I say he could have died of starvation; in fact, because he had diabetes, he died from diabetic shock. He had been unable to pay for electricity so his fridge was not working. So he had nowhere to keep his insulin chilled. He had no money because officials at the Jobcentre did not believe he was taking his search for work seriously, so they sanctioned him, "cutting off his benefit payments entirely, as a punishment for his failure to attend two appointments." (Amelia Gentleman. The Guardian. August 4 2014.)
It should not be possible to cut off someone's only source of income merely because of a belief that they had not obeyed all the rules. At the very minimum the officials should have to know with certainty that the rules had been broken, and that the person had the required wherewithal to survive until the next payment. Anything less would be irresponsible, if not downright criminal.
The coalition is a facade, indeed a facade democracy. The idea that any member of the Conservative-led government feels any compassion for any of the ordinary citizens that the coalition so inaccurately woos for its votes. And there is no sign whatsoever that any member of the government feels any special concern for the families of those ordinary people. To care about families you have to care about people, and there is no sign that Cameron cares about anything other than being Prime Minister.
David Simmons is also the author of, The Lie of the Land (available on Kindle), Visit to see other books written by him.