Notes From the Margins…

In the Kingdom of Clarkson and Liddle

  • February 06, 2012
  • by

If anyone had any doubts which sectors of British society are bearing the brunt of the UK government’s ‘austerity’ measures, consider the following developments taken at random from the last month:

  • On 4 January a survey by Save the Children on the impact of rising fuel costs on low-income families found that ‘Hundreds of thousands of Britain’s poorest families are set to miss out on support with their energy  bills at a time when rising energy costs are forcing families to cut back on essentials and live in fear of  going into, or being pushed further into, debt.’  The report quoted one mother of two children, who described how ‘When it is cold in the house we wear a lot of coats, a lot of scarves, double layers,  blankets, quilts anything you can put on really. You can”t have the heating going on  constantly every day, because it just wouldn”t last the week.’
  • On 10 January Hackney Council announced that a 4 percent budget cut over the previous three years risked causing ‘unacceptable harm to vulnerable older people in the borough’ – by reducing its ability to provide care to over 65s and also to ‘  anyone over the age of 18 with a physical or mental illness preventing them from leading an independent life’.
  • On 20 January the housing charity Shelter announced that more than one in five people have cut their spending on gas and electricity since 2008 to pay for their rent or mortgages, and that 1 in 3 households in the UK were cutting back on food for the same purpose.
  • On 21 January anti-cuts campaigners in Nottingham began a campaign against the city council’s 2012-13 budget that included the closure of two care homes for the elderly and funding cuts to the youth support service Connexions.
  • On 31st January a report commissioned by Lancaster University by the Trust for London and Northern Rock Foundation found that thirty-one percent of local authority funding to  the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector had been cut during the previous year, and that ‘230 women, just under 9% of those seeking refuge, were turned away by Women’s Aid on a typical day in 2011 due to lack of space’.
  • Last week parliament overturned seven changes made by the House of Lords to its Welfare Reform Bill, including one amendment which exempted cancer patients from means-testing for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • Yesterday The Independent claimed that thousands of families – many of them with only one parent – faced eviction under the government’s proposed benefits cap, leading to ‘  the largest peacetime movement of families since the creation of the post-Second World War new towns ‘.   The Indie also quoted estimates from the  The Chartered Institute of Housing that up to 800,000 homes have already become unaffordable for low-income families as result of the cap on local housing allowance which came into effect last month.
  • Today six disability charities reported that ‘the government’s focus on alleged fraud and overclaiming to justify cuts in disability benefits  has caused an increase in resentment and abuse directed at disabled people, as they find themselves being labelled as scroungers’.

Is there a pattern there?   You bet there is.      With the support of the tabloid wolf-pack,  one of the most callous and inhuman governments that has ever taken office in this country is using ‘austerity’  to re-engineer British society in ways that are invariably targeted at its weakest and most vulnerable members.  Whether its the elderly, the mentally ill, battered women, the homeless, the poor, alcoholics and drug addicts, cancer patients, the disabled or the young unemployed, the old barriers are being trampled down and there really are no limits.  

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the monstrous gargoyle  Rod Liddle might want to mock the disabled  or that Jeremy Clarkson  can have a laugh about people  who commit suicide on the commuter run.   Because their  coarse and brutish populism is just part of the zeitgeist.  The Klingons really have taken over, and  they plan to go and on.  According to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies published last week:  

The spending cuts … are largely still to come only 12% of the planned total cuts to public service spending, and just 6% of the cuts in current public service spending, will have been implemented by the end of this financial year.

But never mind.  Fred Goodwin lost his knighthood, right?   Which proves that we’re all equal.    And then we’ve got the Olympics in July.

Now don’t tell me that doesn’t make you feel better already.



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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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