Are we investing in people?

Are we investing in people?

Opinion Piece by Jane Darling:
Will somebody give me directions to the real world?

There seem to be so many different realities depending on your circumstances and the amount of power and influence you have. The reality of this government’s agenda is shrouded by a deliberately intricate and impenetrable web of smoke and mirrors created by mini crises or by one minister after another taking his or her turn in the stocks. The media rush round to get the latest scandal onto the front pages, whether it’s the tragic, but totally preventable, death of a little boy in a flat, unfit for human habitation , a Tory peer in a scandal about PPE contracts or how many portions of animal genitalia Matt Hancock can swallow; it all results in obscuring the searchlight which should be shone on this government’s abdication of their responsibilities. It became evident during the Thatcher years that a different ideology was influencing policy. The commitment made, in the post war period, to the establishment of the welfare state which transformed public services and significantly levelled up provision of health care, education and universal benefits, began to be scaled back and the collective public good, began to bump up against the idea of individual advancement and the proposition that there is no such thing as society. 

The government’s first responsibility is to look after the security of its people. Surely this must include the security of the planet as well as the people who live on it, whether in our country or elsewhere? The Tories told us that they were going to “take back control of our borders” and so they posture behind the miserable spectre of their asylum policies, completely failing to deal with the situation in any effective way, whilst putting the blame for failure on anyone but themselves. And they have put themselves in the ridiculous position of having to admit that we need labour from overseas, which could be supplied by people coming to seek asylum, if only they could register and process them quickly and allow them to work and contribute to our economy and stop labelling them as “illegals”, “criminals” and   “invaders”. 

However, they are serious about taking back control where our Human Rights and Health and Safety at Work legislation is concerned. It could be argued that this was the main reason for leaving the European Union. All those nuisance laws which get in the way of treating people with even less dignity and respect can be swept away to make way for more autocracy and less democracy! We are witnessing the death of democracy by a thousand paper cuts, as one piece of legislation after another is slid underneath the radar behind the shroud of the smoke and mirrors, whilst the UNHCR conventions are put in the recycling bin. 

If you are an Elon Musk, a Jeff Bezos or a Mark Zuckerberg, the world of cybertechnology might be the reality that holds the key to your future, and if life on this particular lump of rock no longer cuts it for you, you can take off to the Moon or Mars and create your new reality there.
The arrogance is breathtaking!

If you are a power hungry meglomaniac, your reality may be subjugating others and reclaiming empire regardless of the cost to humanity and to the environment. 

If you are living in areas of the world being devastated by environmental disasters your reality is surviving and rebuilding or having to leave your lands and animals behind find a new life elsewhere.

Parallel Universe?

In Britain today the contrasting realities are starker than ever, as some of us are consumed by Black Friday fever and the drive to slake our thirst for the next big thing, the holiday of a lifetime, to acquire the things that influencers are telling us we can’t do without, whilst others are caught up in a very different scenario. The reality of the days, weeks and months ahead of “not enough”- the insecurity, the stress, the feeling of powerlessness and despair that come every time you wake up to the reality of trying to somehow get through each day.

The horror stories are mounting by the day as we see the public services upon which we all rely collapsing like a pack of cards in front of our eyes. It is all broken. That is the awful reality as we near the Festive season in 2022. Inequality is reaching new levels of injustice and inhumanity not seen in this country for decades. And it is not just at national government level that services have been systematically subjected to cuts since 2010, Local Authorities have been slowly starved of cash so that now councils are declaring themselves bankrupt and are no longer able to meet their statutory responsibilities and duties of care.

But why? Is this a result of poor fiscal policy, of 12 years of government incompetence or is it the result of a deliberate plan to shrink the state long cherished by a powerful group of Conservative supporters who believe in the power of the individual? What is and has been the real agenda of the Tory Party for the past 12 years.

Yes, we have had a Pandemic, we have a war in Europe, we have soaring energy prices, but we know that the level of inequality in this country has been higher than in the majority of developed countries for years. We know that hospital waiting lists were high before the pandemic. We knew about bed-blocking and ambulances queuing outside hospitals, in winters before 2020. We know that the country is poorer; we know we have had low growth for years; we know life expectancy is beginning to drop. We know that our public servants are being forced to go on strike because they have taken real terms wages cuts under this government. We know that local authorities can’t run their special educational needs provision: we know that teachers are buying basic equipment to use in their classrooms. We know that councils cannot staff or fund their departments adequately so that they can ensure that the rented accommodation that families are living in is fit for human habitation.

I was just listening this morning to an item on renting property in Britain as compared to Germany on BBC’s Broadcasting House programme. A young man, now based in Germany, stated that there is a duty of “Public Good”, placed upon companies or associations who rent out property. Public Good! How good does that sound. How often do we hear that phrase here?  

The facts are so shockingly stark that it is nigh impossible to believe that this government has any regard for the public good. For years we have been treated to a menu of short-term fixes, window dressing vanity projects and a complete lack of commitment to the idea of making long-term plans which would have prepared this country for climate change, food and energy security and investment in the people of this country’s welfare and education which would all have saved billions of pounds which have been squandered in trying to shore up dykes, put locks on stable doors long after the horses bolted and mend holes in the leaky roofs.

Sinister elitism

But, I think the situation is even more sinister than the uncomfortable realisation that our politicians don’t inhabit the same reality that many of us do. I have read a number of articles recently and in the past which point to the espousal of doctrines which support the idea that advances in the cybereconomy, digital money and anonymised transactions over the internet would liberate a super-elite from the constraints of the nation’s business, from the dead-weight of the masses. A super-class of the super-rich would emerge as “sovereign individuals” who would operate in their own reality, outside the law, outside economies, outside society, for their own benefit. 

A number of books on the subject of super-elites, charter cities and freeports have been published, including “The Sovereign Individual” (1997) by James Dale Davidson, an American venture capitalist, and William Reece-Mogg (Jacob’s dad). The book’s subtitle is “How to Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State”. Among the phenomena it foresaw, was the rise of super-rich couples like Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty, who are able to live beyond the mores of their nation state, and can pick and choose laws to suit their preferences. Non-domiciled status in the UK could be seen as an example of this. No egalitarian dream here. No zeal to end poverty in the world.

Rishi Sunak was exposed to all these ideas when his career after Oxford took a meteoric trajectory as, after putting in a few years at Goldman Sachs, he shot off to Silicon Valley, landing at much the same time as Mark Zuckerberg. At Stanford University he met and later married Akshata Murty. His enthusiasm for establishing free-ports in the UK is very much a product of these influences. We wait with bated breath to learn from the government how growth in the economy is going to happen. We have yet to see any flesh appear on the bones. One thing does seem crystal clear though and that is that the Tories remain committed to ensuring that the wealthy will continue to be protected against any erosion of their lifestyles, while the rest of us get poorer, sicker and the future prospects for our children diminish.

Is this what we want for ourselves. Is this the reality we want our children to inherit?

What can we do- we of little power and influence?

We have to turn our attention to mining the wealth in our communities; to explore how we can help each other. We have to invest in our people, their talents, their creativity, their resilience and resourcefulness, regardless of any of the barriers which may hold people back. The most important resource we have is a partnership between our planet and our people. The Labour Party is moving closer to seeing and preparing for the challenges ahead. Radical change is needed at every level to bring about a society which values its people and the wealth of our natural world and works for the public good.

In our local community we can explore what we can do together to make the lives of the people of our community better. We cannot rely on the present government to provide the services we require to keep ourselves and our children safe. We have to work together for change and hope. Join with us to make change happen.

Jane Darling

28 November 2022

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