January 2014 hasn't been with us very long, but already a tangible grip of fear stalks the UK. Many socialists already realised that 2014 would be no picnic as Cameron, Osborne and co set out their stall to win power outright in 2015. With New Year bells still ringing in our ears, the Government have been swift to act, backed up by a right wing media sensing that this year the hunt for power in 2015 will be the most bloody we have had in generations.
The New Year saw Cameron trying vainly to outrun Ukip on immigration policy. Laughingly the Daily Mail camped out at the arrivals lounge in a London airport eagerly awaiting all the Romanians and Bulgarians that would be arriving on New Years Day. Describing a Romanian GP coming to take up a post in the UK as "wearing a suit and tie" as if the DM were in shock he wasn't wearing rags and trying to claim benefits the minute he arrived, saw the newspaper in its usual hysterical overdrive. The best the DM could come up with was following a Romanian man who had secured an arduous 8am-6pm job at a car wash to his first day at work and saying the man had been "true to his word" at turning up for work at the alloted address he had given customs.
Cameron has to wrestle with the EU over all his proposed changes to immigration whereas Nigel Farage and Ukip can keep making wild statements that "Immigrants should wait 5 years to claim benefits." Yet it is these headlines that are seeping into the public psyche that socialists should seek to counteract at every level. I do it on a daily basis, by using facts such as the percentages of immigrants who work, the amount of businesses owned by immigrants in our communities that we would hate to have to do without, the rich culture immigrants bring into the UK with their foods, clothes, music.
George Osborne also chose to visit yet another factory where employees were forced to listen to his further slashing of the social security net by £12 billion. The looks on the workers faces said it all. Here were people who were making National insurance contributions to the state, in case they ever fell on hard times and needed that net to step in, until they could get back on their feet. These workers heard of Osbornes "scheme" to pit the Old v Young as he raged about cuts coming to Housing Benefit for under 25's while increasing and protecting pensions for the retired. Only £10bn of the social security budget is spent on the unemployed whereas £127.5 bn is spent on pensions. Yet none of the right wing media will quote these figures. The young and working families may well feel angry that they are being asked to shoulder an increasing cuts burden. They need to turn their anger to the Government and NOT the elderly. There will of course be a harder burden to bear for the working poor as tax credits are being looked at and the pernicious Universal Credit scheme brought in for most in 2016. Alongside this will be a ban on people earning over £40k being able to live in a council house.
For the first time in over a hundred years barristers protested.. A walk out, a strike almost- in opposition to the drastic cuts in legal aid this Government has made. While barristers protested about the type of salaries young lawyers were enduring as a result in the huge slashing of the legal aid budget by Chris Grayling, most ordinary people are worrying about the plight of battered women/men who are fleeing domestic abuse. With no legal aid to put injunctions etc in place many are forced to turn back to the abuser they are trying to leave.
Channel 4 decided to broadcast a series called "Benefits Street" which focused on a street of 99 houses and picked roughly a few people who were on benefit to publically hang, draw and quarter. Exploitation is too soft a word. On the day of the first broadcast, residents warned Channel 4 had manipulated people, shown the street in a bad light and edited the programme to show its own preconceived idea of "Benefits Street". This programme resulted in the people who featured being given death threats on twitter. A culmination of programmes such as "Saints and Scroungers" "Benefits Britain" drip feeding on a regular basis into the publics imagination ,has taken the heat away from the bankers and the multi millionaire MPs in Cameron's party, like Nadhim Zahawi the "horse warmer" who treated his horses stables to £5.8k heating expenses from the public purse.
Throw Michael Gove into this toxic hell of Government policy and the fear that now stalks teachers and the education of our children is another facet of this Government's devil-faced policies. Gove has decided that rather than commemorate the anniversary of World War 1, the fallen soldiers, and the actual history that took place, in a somber and respectful fashion, he will instead turn it into a political point scoring contest against the left. The condemning of "Blackadder" the TV programme as "leftist" and stating the almost Rupert Brooke type notion that WW1 was glory for the UK empire against the German armies comes straight out of Gove's Grammar School 1950s handbook of how children should be taught in the 21st century. I have always maintained that MPs should have outside experience in the role into which they are presiding over, in order to have a working experience of problems faced etc. Having a Secretary for Education with no school hands-on experience is not just laughable but downright dangerous. Gove is proving that danger. A man who never listens to the experts or teachers actually in the classroom and on the front line. He always knows better than they do apparently. Now what should have been a respectful start to the 100th anniversary to WW1 has degenerated into slinging insults at the left to gain a political point. Very poor from someone with no experience of teaching.
Finally after the worse month of storms known to many people in generations we have a Government who literally sat in meetings cutting the Environment budget by millions, while parts of the UK
drowned. Living on the N Wales Coast, we have had a terrifying few weeks and have experienced structural damage to our properties, as have large parts of the UK. Government meeting after Government meeting ensued for us to be told that by 2020 there will be more money spent on flood defences. Try telling that to people. "Wait six years for any help at all" while properties flood and our home and business insurances rocket while the Government twiddles its fingers and slashes 1,200 jobs from the Environment Agency . They keep telling Cameron and co these cuts are unsustainable and if flooding occurs on the scale recently seen, people will not get the flood defences needed.
The government rhetoric is ramping up; feeding like a troll on immigration, the poor, education and environment issues. It is our duty as socialists to stand up, be counted, give the other side to the story. Most of all it is our duty to fight back. I believe the esteemed Mr Tony Benn has urged us not to forget how to fight. We must listen to him now in 2014 for fear of further untold damage to the immigration system, welfare state and education must not be allowed to happen. Join me in the fight back.