Kicking somebody, anybody, to gain votes

The more you look at, or delve into politics today the more you begin to despair  that democracy is no longer the principle that underpins our society, but is being used as the means to destroy the welfare state; a system that we rely on to support and protect us when we are at our most vulnerable.


Politics has always been a popularity contest but until recent times voting for a political party has been based on party policies and not in response to populist rhetoric.


The latest scrabble by the mainstream parties to head off UKIP in the popularity stakes has emphasised the total lack of coherent direction in politics in favour of kicking somebody, anybody, to gain votes.


A definition of ‘somebody’ can vary depending on what or who you believe to be culpable for the current state of society and the economy. For UKIP, it is anybody that exercises their right to use freedom of movement, under European community directives, to come and work or reside in the UK.  Whereas, for some in the Labour party, the coalition and the press, it is the presence of individuals who are seen to freeload off the state at the expense of those who are fortunate enough to be in work. Hence we are bombarded with words like, scroungers, spongers and handouts to reinforce populist opinions and prejudice in order to present a distorted view of the welfare system.


The latest round of political rhetoric from some in the Labour Party is far more sinister than some imagine. ’Blue Labour’, currently a fringe group in the labour party, has joined the coalition bandwagon in calling for the abandonment of the welfare state in favour of localism. That is to take away the absolute right to welfare and replace this with a system that rewards only those who have contributed financially and socially. If, like me, you had doubts about how you assess the former then give some thought to the latter and think how that might work and who may be the target of a witch-hunt!


What appears to be forgotten by politicians and others , in the race to appease the growing number of disgruntled voters who see a great divide between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’, is that the welfare state was established to give people confidence that should they fall on hard times they would be supported. To abandon that principle and leave the system open to the whims of the open market or the shifting sand that is the voluntary sector, is to allow the increasing numbers who currently or may in the future rely on the state for help, to lose heart.


Along with access to welfare, the NHS is an integral part of a social system that protects the vulnerable, the sick and the poor. Without either we are destined to create greater divisions in society. Even the populist argument that if you reduce access to benefits we encourage greater independence, has no real substance and in any event is only offered as a solution to the high cost of ‘handouts’, by those not in the benefits system.


The danger is that as politicians ‘tinker’ with the welfare state, the NHS and other established institutions that provide vital lifelines for us all; we begin to believe what they say and lose sight of what we have.


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