What are we fighting for?
What is the single biggest issue for which we should be marshalling our resources and planning an all-out overthrow of this Government’s tragically misguided (or misanthropic) policies?
For lots of commentators, it’s defeating the Health and Social Care Bill. It was referred to recently as ‘the biggest issue for 30 years’.
Having galvanised the vast majority of the Royal Colleges, the BMA, the healthcare unions, health journalists, Directors of Public Health, grassroots activists from every political party, the Conservative chair of the Health Select Committee and up to three cabinet ministers against his preposterous proposals Andrew Lansley certainly seems to be riding a tidal wave of unpopularity right now.
Over 135,000 people have signed a Government e-petition demanding that parliament drops the bill. And it’s right that we should be demanding that it is dropped. Already it is wreaking havoc in the NHS. Things can only get worse. (Unless you are a privatisation-happy buccaneer).
But focusing all our energy on the Health and Social Care Bill and the #dropthebill campaign is not enough.
Remember ‘shock and awe’? It’s the vernacular description of a military doctrine based on the use of (Wikipedia definition, roll your eyes now) “overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.”
In political terms, this is what the Government is attempting now. So much massive-scale policy development on so many fronts at once; such a savage attack on all that is decent and humane about this country. How can those of us who want to be part of the resistance respond to these ‘spectacular displays of force’?
Perhaps we should take one stand-out ‘figurehead’ piece of legislation and do our best, focusing all our energies on that alone, to make sure that one is defeated?
Churchill is not high on my list of politicians-I-love-to-quote, but when he said “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.” he was right.
This Government’s dazzling display of political pyrotechnics in every part of our visual field creates a baffling array of priorities to choose among and risks – at best – making us concentrate on shoring up one set of defences while our remaining bulwarks are dismantled behind our backs; at worst – paralysing us all and crushing our will to fight.
I think we have four huge fights on our hands (as well as the many smaller skirmishes). Health is just one of them. But it is a fight we must have.
HEALTH: We must find a way to manage the ‘public good’ of health in the interests of all members of society. This means defeating the Health and Social Care Bill is an absolute must.
EDUCATION: There is a battle for Education too. We must find a way to manage the public good of education in the interests of the whole of society. This means resisting the creeping privatisation and social segregation that underpins the Free Schools and Academies movement, and it’s covert centralisation of powers to the Secretary of State.
JUSTICE and LIBERTY: We must find a way to manage the public goods of justice and liberty in the interests of the whole of society.
The number of different ways in which liberty and justice are under attack make it hard to know where the most important battlefront is in this area. Cuddly Ken Clarke with his jazz shoes and pantomime dame antics (see 16 Feb edition of Question Time for an example) is achieving more (and more damaging) change by stealth and smooth-talking than Gove in Education with his special ops SpAds and Lansley with his hapless human mine-sweeper impression.
Take a look at the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill if you want to see the foundations of a society where ‘justice’ is only for those who can afford it. We must defeat LASPO.
Theresa May’s damaging politicisation of policing, especially through directly elected Police Commissioners, is another area where the sporadic skirmishing doesn’t adequately reflect the significant damage to our civil liberties done by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, but this is already law! Resist! Resist!
HUMAN WORTH: Perhaps most important of all, as it is the foundation for all the rest. In another time and place this might have been referred to as “the economy, stupid”, but to do so now implies that zeros on a balance-sheet are more important than living, breathing human beings with needs that must be met and contributions to make in meeting the needs of others. So we must find a way to re-value the varied contributions people make to society so that business’s acquisition of money is not valued above human well-being.
The place to start on this issue is the Welfare Reform Bill, in which the main provisions should revolt all decent-minded people.
Unemployment is deliberately created to depress the labour market and make it possible to keep wages low and restrict workers rights. To do this is bad enough, but then to punish those who are poor because of this vicious, market-driven philosophy adds further injury to the original harm. When those who can never work or cannot work again because of illness or disability are also caught up in this unforgiving net, we should be ashamed to stand by and let it happen. When children are punished for the supposed ‘sins’ of their parents I become close to despair.
This is championed, by some who claim to have Christian values, as a ‘moral’ issue. Senior politicians like Iain Duncan-Smith can be presented with evidence of the harm their policies are already doing and still claim that the suffering does not exist. It seems that the ‘moral high ground’ is so far above the cloud-cover that the view of the ground below is obscured.
We incentivise the rich by giving them more money and the poor by taking what little they have away from them. How is this fair? It doesn’t even work. It’s time to swap the carrots and the sticks. Defeat the Welfare Reform Bill and start again.
So, these are my four battlegrounds: health, education, liberty & justice and human worth.
By which I think I mean “it’s every-bloody-thing, stupid”.
We must defeat the Health & Social Care Bill, keep privatisation (and the sticky mitts of Gove’s mates) off our schools, defeat LASPO, defend our freedoms against interfering politicians, defeat the Welfare Reform Bill and develop a social contract that puts people before profit every time.
We must do what is required.