It´s well known that George Osborne and David Cameron are great admirers of the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. It´s less well known perhaps, that George Osborne is a supporter of gay marriage and equal opportunities for ethnic minorities but that does not mean that a different and dangerous minority group can pull the wool over his eyes.
Because, as you may remember, there was a global financial collapse in 2008 which as today´s budget will testify, had nothing to do with banks, dodgy deals in the City or inflated house prices in the United States, but everything to do with disabled people in Britain, without a thought for the global implications, getting handrails or walking sticks and other aids that, you see, they don´t really need.
For the centerpiece of austerity in George´s budget today will be stopping up to 500,000 disabled people getting money to buy things that really they can manage without having, like…. grab rails, shower stools, walking sticks, commodes, electric/reclining beds, screen readers, amplified telephones, infrared hearing systems, adapted cutlery…….the list surely speaks for itself. Absolutely necessary savings. There´s no way the ninth richest country in the world can afford to provide such things.
At first glance, I admit, it may seem that in comparison Mrs Thatcher had more worthy, powerful opponents, like the Print Unions or the Miners. Osborne and Cameron have only the sick and the lame, but then you can´t choose your enemies, can you? And the disabled simply are more to blame for the black hole in the nation´s books than bankers, city brokers, tax exiles, tax avoiding corporations or expenses fiddling MPs. They must be because if George has said it once he´s said it a thousand times, the broadest shoulders will bear the biggest burden. So let it never be said they lacked, or lack, the moral courage to give them a right good pasting.
Indeed George has been particularly courageous given the stubborn refusal of any disabled group or large charity (and there`s over 50 of them!) to say anything good about what he´s done. And he´s done a lot.
For example research into the effect of all the ‘necessary savings’ made by the last government indicate that purely because disabled people are on average poorer than able bodied people (…hard to credit I know given their crucial role in undermining the nation´s finances, but still….), then they have got what they deserve being undoubtedly the single hardest hit of all groups in society by the cuts, sorry, the necessary savings.
George will have been particularly pleased with the effect of the bedroom tax that also disproportionately hits the disabled. Claiming they need an extra room ´cos they need a special bed, or specialist equipment say, for example, to breathe, is, after all, just so much, well, hot air.
A centerpiece of this courageous facing down of people we might refer to (with our clear sighted friends in the oligarch press) as shirkers and scroungers was, of course, the re-assessment by non-medically qualified people of thousands of the sick and disabled as fit for work, overturning assessments by medically qualified, but it seems not entirely trustworthy, professionals. And if in the years 2011-2014 2,380 self declared sick and disabled people were found fit for work shortly before they died, well, seeing their benefits cut as they came to face their own mortality probably did them no real harm.
And admiration for George and David simply knows no bounds when they´ve steadfastly refused to allow any independent assessment of the impact of all these changes on the disabled. The boys are not for turning. Maggie would be proud….wouldn´t she?
And they haven´t been slow already to let the disabled know in this parliament that they´ve still got them in their sights. So in the last couple of weeks the Work Support Allowance has been forced through a strangely reluctant, lily livered House of Lords, and appallingly, also against the opposition of some of their own Tory MPs, meaning a thirty quid reduction in the weekly benefit of disabled people who have been found fit for work. The rebel MPs fell for the argument that the new law would simply make the disabled poorer, and otherwise do nothing. As one Tory rebel put it,
“It is clear this is not acceptable as just a cost saving measure,”
And although there is no evidence that the change does actually do anything else, surely David and George are entitled to reply…
“…. and the problem with that is what exactly?”
Given the intrinsic merit of these attacks on the disabled and sick though, it seems strange to remember that in the election campaign, while David and George were both clear there would be cuts, amounting to billions of pounds, they didn´t state who in particular they would be taking money from. False modesty, perhaps?
And don´t entertain for a second the thought that actually what it´s all about is the step by step destruction of the welfare state and returning us plebs to the squalor, want and ignorance from which the welfare state freed us. No, no, no. Perish the thought. After all it´s not as if people are going hungry and the weak are going to the wall……
Please speak up with and for the sick and disabled. Do everything you can, even if its just talking to friends and neighbours, liking and sharing on facebook posts that are supportive of the disabled, tweeting, etc, so that this budget is remembered as the one which pushed the intrinsic decency and kindness of British people too far and that we all say, for the sake of common decency and the common good, enough is enough.
For more info on the relative effects of austerity and how it disproportionately affects the disabled and women. See. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/austerity-women-ethnic-minorities-disabled-tax-welfare
On the fight to defend the disabled see.