Sunday, 22 December 2013

Tiny Tim has died...

The whole point of Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' is to raise social awareness within his middle class audience (at both ends) of their responsibility for the welfare of those less fortunate of themselves. Dickens approaches this task with a mix of dark humour and satire. I am fairly certain Dicken's audience would have known who Mr Scrooge was in real life as with the Ghosts and Marlowe. Bob Cratchit would also be a recognisable figure who served in the shops they were beginning to frequent or offices where they did business, a man who would be honest if slightly obsequious towards them. They would know what the housing was like in the parts of their town where the Cratchits and other families trying to 'improve themselves by their own efforts and hard work' would live.

The Cratchit's were poor but the right sort of poor, the deserving poor, the sort you would not mind helping out. The real poor, those deemed poor in 'spirit', who seemed to wish to stay stuck or are permanently stuck where they are in their squalour and filth, these were the undeserving poor as far as Dickens' audience were concerned. 160 years later and nothing has changed. The politicians today continue to play the same game of the 'deserving poor' versus 'undeserving poor' while doing little or nothing to help either group in real life.

We see this in the way Westminster politicians appear to be pleased to open 'Food Banks'. They congratulate the staff of these concerns without any thought to the cause of the need, with as much aplomb as an unreformed Scrooge. Platitudes cost Westminster MPs nothing, any donations they make are put down to expenses and like Dicken's Work House Board in Oliver Twist return to trough their fill of food and drink in the Palace of Westminster while both sets of 'poor' are left with spaghetti hoops and a dented tin of pineapple.

Here's the problem with this clinical split of 'deserving' and 'undeserving poor' they are one and the same. Too skint to purchase food after paying for rent and energy, increasingly ill with preventable diseases caused by poor nutrition, appearing in NHS Surgeries across the UK presenting with symptoms of malnutrition which modern doctors are ignorant of, because at no point in their training did the UK medical colleges think they would see nutritional poverty raise its ugly head across the UK. Nutritional disease was supposed to have ended in 1948 with the Welfare State and its associated health service. Rickets was to be a disease of a past age, along with TB, diptheria, typhoid and other diseases mass inoculations would bring to a near end as is ever humanly possible.

Yet since 2010 diseases of a nutritional nature are once more on the rise in a country ranking in the top 20 in the world economically. We do not live in Nepal or Haiti; we live in the United Kingdom, the rise of nutritional related illness can only be happening because of politics and political decisions.

What evidence do I have for my claim?

Look at the papers, 85,000 people are homeless since the Welfare Reform Bill became law. In Scotland alone it is estimated 80,000 disabled people are negatively affected by the new regulations which have replaced Disability Living Allowance along with the 'extra room sanction'. The DWP's own figures show that 1,000 people die within six weeks of being sanctioned. Figures from the Trussel Trust this week showed that over 23,000 people in Scotland – including nearly 7,000 children – are being forced to rely on foodbanks, an increase of 19,000 people on the same period last year. We have heard from a UN Rapporteur that the 'extra room sanction' introduced by Labour is contrary to human rights and should be suspended and rethought through given the damage it is causing to families. To hide these UK Government failings, they have the cheek to refuse funding that would help the food banks meet the need of the people the food banks help, from the EU. When Mr Duncan-Smith was questioned by a committee of his peers in the House of Commons, it was clear he had no clue as to the actual impact of his ideologically driven Welfare Reforms. Even the Office for National Statistics have censured Duncan-Smith for misusing their statistics in an attempt to justify his failed ideology on welfare. When there was a debate on the need for Food Banks he sneaked away just as soon as he could. Yet in the face of all this evidence and the man's duplicity, Cameron remains in full support of his Minster of State at the DWP, Mr Duncan-Smith.

There has been only one group of politicians I have heard who have openly and routinely condemned the need for food banks in the 21st Century UK - the hated separatist Mr Salmond and his SNP party spokesmen and women. For Labour in Scotland these people are the undeserving poor, the 'something for nothing' brigade. For the Libdems these people are sadly 'collateral damage' as the UK Government they are part of tries to balance its books (ignoring Osbourne's fiscal incompetence as Chancellor has seen an exponential increase in UK Government borrowing since 2010). While for the Tories this is all a great success while they sell off what is left of the UK public estate at knock down prices to their friends in global corporations. Most recently the Royal Mail and after 2015 it will be the NHS in England. Will some nightmare figure take Cameron to task this Christmas, so he understands what he is actually doing as Prime Minister Scrooge?

I will not be waiting another Christmas to find out, this September Scrooge will be getting his marching orders from me, hopefully the majority of Scots and he can become the people of England's problem, after all; they elected him.

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