Sunday 01 November 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
I’ve just spent a little time with a small group of friends in Dorset and returning home, to write another letter a day to you, I was faced with an overwhelming sense of dreariness. Reading the news: Philip Davies who pledged to speak up for carers in parliament instead, along with three others Tory MPs, talked out (filibustered) a motion to give carers free parking in hospitals thus denying MPs the chance to vote, much, it seemed, to the amusement of the deputy Speaker of the House of commons. Then there was the story of a council overturning a lower tier tribunal judges decision that a disabled Royal Navy ex-serviceman, Guy Watts, should not pay the bedroom tax on a room which is too small to contain an adult single bed. Why? A council worker writing to Watts said that the authority believes that the court decision was made in ignorance of the material fact that a child’s bed would fit into the room and would therefore continue to charge Mr Watts for the bedroom tax.
What struck me about these and other stories is their fatuous, colourless, supercilious top down authoritarian uniform drabness. And as we discovered this week in the battle over tax credits, you and Osborne care nothing for the real lives of ordinary people. Yes, Osborne said he’s listened, but he did so with all the grace of a thwarted child and was clearly angry. You claimed this week that ‘the Conservatives have become the party of equality’. A more ludicrous statement it’s hard to imagine and you can only make it because you don’t give damn about the lives of real people living in the real world. You talk down to us with sneering, patronising, contempt.
Spending time with my friends, on the other hand, was full of invigorating colour. We discussed politics, of course, reviewing much of the horror story that is unfolding in Britain today, but the conversation was all about being engaged, talking up individual and collective responses, some rooted in action, and some simply exploring our thoughts and ideas. Even when the conversation turned to individual difficulties and intense problems, there was no hint of defeatism over issues that chance, circumstance or policy had thrust them into.
I think that is one of the great strengths of socialism, that it is essentially outward and upward looking, seeking to better society for all, rather than the self interested, self serving, attitude, and idolisation, of the self. One of the common expressions for Conservatives today is ‘self-servatives’. It harks back to Thatcher saying, ‘there is no such thing as society’, framing it in the miserly narrow terms of what people expect government to do for them and saying, ‘There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation’. That’s pretty rich in a country in which those born into privilege dominate the social structure of Britain, as they have always done. Your announcing the end of life time tenancies in social housing in order to ‘help increase social mobility’ is another mealy mouthed attack on communities, social cohesion and society in its broadest terms.
Listening to my friends talk was at times invigorating, disturbing, absorbing, thought provoking and even distressing, but what it never was, was trivial, bland, lack lustre or ‘couldn’t care less’. It provided a stark contrast to Philip Davies contempt for carers for whom he couldn’t give a tinkers cuss.