I have to confess, I’ve been dreading David Cameron’s speech to the 2012 Conservative party conference over the last few days. Not because I feared he’d be convincing or would talk sense, but because I knew it would contain so much blatant and thinly-disguised tosh that it would be a day’s work to pull it apart properly. Unlike him and his cabinet, I have to work to put food on the table. I also feared for the safety of my TV – he’s a very annoying man, and he tells lies with such audacity that the temptation to throw things at his image can be overwhelming.
So, to keep things manageable, I’m aiming to go for the ‘lowlights’ – the most hypocritical or the most deceptive statements. That said, it’s going to be hard to choose the biggest turds from a pool of sewage, so I might get carried away.
We WERE feeling fear?
“We were entering into Government at a grave moment in the modern history of Britain. At a time when people felt uncertainty, even fear.”
What a start. More people out of work than when he started, more people forced to get by on part-time, low-paid jobs. Disabled people so terrorised by Atos’ ‘Work Capability Assessments’ and Duncan Smith’s determination to disqualify 500,000 of them from benefits and push hundreds of thousands into poverty. People forced onto workfare schemes that displace paid jobs and expose them to abuse and exploitation. Students facing tripled fees for degrees that carry no great likelihood, let alone a guarantee, of decently-paid work afterward. Women assaulted on every side by measures that target them far worse than men. And so on, ad nauseam.
If we felt fear when Cameron came into power, we’re terrified now, Dave.
Prosperity for all
“Here was the challenge: To make an insolvent nation solvent again. To set our country back on the path to prosperity that all can share in.”
Except we weren’t insolvent. Britain was in recovery at the time of the last election – because of Gordon Brown’s measures that Cameron approved of, to rescue a banking sector that Cameron had wanted to deregulate even further. After 2 years of Cameron’s government, we’re in the middle of a double-dip recession that shows every sign of dipping further, with a downgraded IMF economic forecast.
As for ‘prosperity that all can share in‘, I guess Cameron meant ‘everyone except public-sector workers, low-paid private-sector workers, the disabled, students, the unemployed, housing benefit claimants. Except pretty much everyone except the very wealthy, basically – income inequality, already a scandal over the past 30 years, is going to get worse when the government reduces the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% next April.
If that was really your challenge, Dave, you’ve failed spectacularly so far. Of course, there are many – myself included – who think entrenching privilege and making the rich richer is exactly your aim. In which case, you’ve been a spectacular, shameful success.
Mending the broken?!
“To mend a broken society. Two and a half years later of course I can’t tell you that all is well, but I can say this: Britain is on the right track.”
Riots last year, constant demonisation resulting in massive increases in attacks on the disabled and abhorrent treatment of social housing tenants, the unemployed and benefit claimants, with a more divided Britain than we’ve seen in decades. Enough said.
Sinking AND swimming
“We are in a global race today. And that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Sink or swim. Do or decline.”
This is code. If you had ‘reality-subtitles’ on, what you’d see is this: “All you plebs are too well-paid. We can’t continue to make our fat profits and salaries unless you accept pay-reductions that will put you on a par with those working in Chinese, Indian or Brazilian sweatshops and let us take away all your employment protections, so we can be ‘competitive’! There’s a race to the bottom, and we need you to sink so we can swim – in a nice heated pool!”
“We’ve been in office two and a half years now – and we’ve done some big, life-changing things.”
Actually, I agree with Cameron on this. In fact, I don’t think he went far enough. The Tories have changed many lives – for the worse. The low-paid, the averagely-paid, the disabled, the ill, the unemployed, public -sector workers, health-workers, single parents, students, anyone trying to buy a house. Women. Pretty much everyone except the top 1%, and even more so the top 0.1%.
But you haven’t just changed lives, Dave. You’ve ended many. Rates of suicide and attempted suicide are increasing, especially among the disabled, but also among ordinary people driven to despair by poverty.
Don’t hide your light under a bushel, Dave. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
We protect the NHS?
“It’s because we made a big decision to protect the NHS from spending cuts.”
This one put my TV at serious risk. Earlier this morning on BBC Parliament, Andrew Neil laudably gave new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt a hard time over Tory claims on NHS spending. The Tories had claimed to have spent an extra £12 billion on the NHS, which Neil nailed as “pure propaganda” when 2012/13 spending will only be around 1% more than in 2011/12, while inflation and demand have far outstripped that level.
Hunt repeated his claim that the Tories have “protected NHS spending in real terms“, but Neil had his figures ready. The increase in spending for the 2013/14 financial year will be… £60 million – or 0.05%. In the face of inflation and demand, this represents a clear cut in real terms.
Hunt then backpedalled and started talking about how this wasn’t so bad in the context of massive cuts in spending in other departments, but he was clearly speared by the truth: it is bad. VERY bad. And there is no definition of ‘protect’ that could make Cameron’s statement anything but a lie. This government is fragmenting and starving the NHS to prepare it for sale.
What’s ‘up’ in the NHS?
“..what’s up? The number of doctors, the number of dentists, the number of midwives, the number of operations carried out in our NHS”
This is a clever mix of omission, misdirection and an outright lie. Since the coalition took office, the number of NHS nurses in general fell by 4,527 (some estimates go as high as 40,000!). And it’s accelerating – over 3,500 of those lost posts happened in the last 12 months. There were tiny increases in the number of midwives and health visitors, but nowhere near enough to offset the losses – the figure of 4,527 takes those increases into account.
Doctor numbers have increased, but as it takes many years to train a doctor, Cameron is being disingenuous by claiming credit for it.
As for the number of operations, I don’t know where Cameron is getting his figures from, but in the last full year on record, 2011, waiting times went up while numbers of planned operations went down. Maybe he’s just counting on the idea that if you say something often enough and emphatically enough, most people will assume it’s true.
Whichever way you cut it, Cameron’s statement, “So be in no doubt: this is the party of the NHS and that’s the way it’s going to stay” is as audacious as it is ridiculous. The Tories want to destroy the NHS – and in private, they’ll even say so.
Why don’t you just insult the whole country while you’re at it?
“what do the countries on the slide have in common? They’re fat, sclerotic, over-regulated, spending money on unaffordable welfare systems, huge pension bills, unreformed public services.”
The Tories have a long and nasty habit of talking down our country and its prospects. Either they’re idiots, or they have a different agenda and actually rather like the crisis for the opportunities it offers. In fact, they love it so much they’ll even pretend there is one when there isn’t, or will induce one!
As for Cameron’s insults to what’s best about our country, well:
– the idea that welfare is unaffordable is a myth, and most welfare recipients (including housing benefit) are in fact working people who are paid peanuts by greedy employers; the ‘welfare’ we pay them is in fact a tax-payer subsidy to fatten corporate profits, while housing benefit is a direct payment from public funds into the pockets of greedy landlords, not a ‘cushy number’ for ‘scroungers’.
– our welfare state is not unaffordable. Far from it – it’s one of the best things about our country, one of the things of which we should be proudest.
– our ‘unreformed’ public sector is in fact one of the most crucial parts of our economy as well as essential to our quality of life. By savaging its numbers and decreasing its income, the Tories are in fact paralysing our economy, preventing growth, inflating the welfare bill and reducing the tax take – with the result that under the Tories the UK deficit is higher than at any time during the last Labour government (except for the banking bailout in 2009, which Cameron and Osborne approved!).
Sorry, Dave – it looks like the only fat and sclerotic ones are those who are (supposedly) running the country, and among the ‘fat cats’ who are still getting richer and richer while the rest of us struggle.
Strive, you bastards, strive!
“we just get behind people who want to get on in life. The doers. The risk takers. The young people who dream of their first pay-cheque, their first car, their first home – and are ready and willing to work hard to get those things. While the intellectuals of other parties sneer at people who want to get on in life, we here salute you. They call us the party of the better-off – no: we are the party of the want to be better-off, those who strive to make a better life for themselves and their families – and we should never, ever be ashamed of saying so.”
Oh, where to start with this one?! Cameron claims to be on the side of the young people dreaming about their first home etc. Yet his government has:
– presided over a massive increase in the number of young people out of work
– tripled university degrees to an enormous £9,000 per year, resulting in young people who will leave university with even more crippling debts than before, as high as £45,000 or even £60,000. More than I have ever paid for a house – and leaving the dream of owning a home as remote and improbable as dreaming of visiting the moon for many young people and couples.
– driven down the number of full-time jobs and the number of well-paid jobs while allowing employers to make the unemployed work for nothing and to insist on unpaid internships, leaving many young people struggling to even feed themselves, let alone buy a house.
– announced plans to allow house-building companies to opt out of affordable-housing conditions in planning permissions, lowering the availability of starter homes and affordable homes in general.
If that’s what it’s like to have you on my side, Dave, I can hardly imagine what it must be like when you’re not on our side. Oh, I know – I’ll ask a disabled person or a public-sector worker.
This machete is not to cut you with, it’s to help you with!
“We say we’ve got to get the private sector bigger and the public sector smaller…our opponents call it ‘Tory cuts, slashing the state’. No: it’s the best way to create the sustainable jobs people need.”
Again, there is nothing inherently unsustainable about our public sector – and cutting it is doing more harm than good. By ‘sustainable‘ jobs, you apparently mean ‘low-paid and insecure‘. That’s all we’re seeing more of under this government. We know you’re very keen on that sort of thing – why else would you be prepared to bribe people to give up key employment protections?
It’s that ‘race to the bottom‘ thing again, Dave, isn’t it? You have a fascination with the bottom – as long as you and your mates are looking down on it from on high.
The BIG lie: a million ‘net new jobs’
I’ve lost count of the number of times Cameron and his cronies have used this one – to the public and to Parliament. It used to be that lying to Parliament was an automatic resignation matter. But I guess that Cameron moved the goalposts on that one when he allowed Jeremy Hunt to do it and not only keep his job but get promoted.
You’ve seen the figures, Dave. Your civil servants even very helpfully put a massive box next to them warning you that almost 200,000 private sector jobs are not ‘net’, and not ‘new’. They were just reclassified from being counted as public-sector jobs to counted as private-sector jobs. That’s not net or new by any definition.
Yet you’ve persisted in the lie, and you trotted it out again today:
“And if you don’t believe me, just look at the job creation figures. Since this government took office, over one million new jobs have been created in the private sector.”
I’ve got bad news for you, Dave. If anyone does “just look at the job creation figures“, they’ll see the same as I’ve seen, and they won’t believe you:
Borrowing the only notion?
“Labour: the party of one notion: more borrowing.”
Actually, Cameron is a tiny bit right on this one. Labour is making the mistake of letting the Tories define the battleground, of trying to outdo the Tories on spending-cut seriousness. But this is a Cameron misdirection. Borrowing is not the only alternative. A proper, effectively-enforced tax regime would mean no need to borrow more and could in fact eliminate the deficit. Cameron presents a false dichotomy in the hope we won’t realise he’s leaving out the third, and best, option.
Cutting taxes isn’t giving money to the rich?!
“Did you hear what Ed Miliband said last week about taxes? He described a tax cut as the government writing people a cheque. Ed… Let me explain to you how it works. When people earn money, it’s their money. Not the government’s money: their money. Then, the government takes some of it away in tax. So, if we cut taxes, we’re not giving them money – we’re taking less of it away.”
Now this is among the most disingenuous claptrap in the whole speech. If you rent a house from someone, the rent you owe to them may start off as yours, but really it doesn’t belong to you. You’ve contracted with your landlord to pay it to him – and if you don’t, there are consequences. You don’t expect to rent a mansion for the price of a bedsit, either.
Taxation isn’t some form of oppression whereby the government steals what’s rightfully yours. It’s rent – rent you pay for the privilege of living in a decent, stable, civilised country. And if you’re rich, you should pay extra – because you’re enjoying a much higher standard of living in a decent, stable, civilised country than most. Expecting not to pay a higher rate, expecting to treat others like vassals so you can treat more of your income as your own, that’s – well, pick your own combination of these words and phrases: selfish, short-sighted, small-minded, greedy, foolish, callous, vicious. Or even ‘unsustainable’.
Get real, Dave. Your tax-cut to the rich amounted to exactly putting money in their pockets while you expect the rest of us to make do with less. The only way to get away from that is not to do it in the first place.
‘Tackling’ housing benefit?
“First, unfairness. What are hard-working people who travel long distances to get into work and pay their taxes meant to think when they see families – individual families – getting 40, 50, 60 thousand pounds of housing benefit to live in homes that these hard working people could never afford themselves?
It is an outrage. And we are ending it by capping housing benefit.
The second evil: injustice.
Here’s the choice we give our young people today.
Choice one: Work hard. Go to college. Get a job. Live at home. Save up for a flat. And as I’ve just said, that can feel like forever.
Or: Don’t get a job. Sign on. Don’t even need to produce a CV when you do sign on. Get housing benefit. Get a flat. And then don’t ever get a job or you’ll lose a load of housing benefit.”
Oh, I could spit. “Cap housing benefit – it’s unfair!” I’ve never had any kind of benefit in my life. I’m lucky enough never to have needed it.
But I’m intelligent enough to know this: the only reason anyone needs to get ‘40, 50, 60 thousand pounds of housing benefit‘ is very simple: greedy landlords CHARGING 40, 50, 60 thousand pounds of rent. If you’re serious about reducing the housing benefit bill, cap rents. Then the tax-payer won’t need to pay it – and you won’t have to turf people out of their homes, and ‘economically cleanse’ whole areas of cities by moving out all the housing benefit claimants.
Unless that’s what you want, Dave?
And yet again, Cameron repeats the lie – the demonisation that the Tories want us all to believe, in the hope we’ll support them and never realise the truth.
By saying “What are hard-working people who travel long distances to get into work and pay their taxes meant to think”, Cameron invites us all to assume that people receiving housing benefit are unemployed ‘skivers and scroungers’. But the truth – the simple, factual truth – is this:
Working people trapped between greedy, low-paying employers on the one side and greedy, high-charging landlords on the other. If Cameron wants not to have to pay housing benefit, the solution is exceedingly simple – and it’s got nothing to do with capping the benefit out of some fake ‘fairness’. Just do these two simple things: cap rents and enforce a living wage.
But that would mean less money for greedy employers and greedy landlords – who usually vote Tory. So don’t hold your breath – even though Cameron campaigned for election, in part, on supporting a living wage. I guess Nick Clegg isn’t the only one who makes campaign promises he has no intention of keeping. Maybe some day we’ll have a Cameron ‘I’m sorry’ music video. But I doubt it.
The slavery ‘good old days’
Cameron said one thing that had me laugh out loud. A bitter laugh.
“Work isn’t slavery, it’s poverty that is slavery.”
In that case, Cameron is like a ‘Wilberforce in reverse’ – bringing back slavery instead of abolishing it. His hatchet-man Iain Duncan Smith is forcing through measures that will push hundreds of thousands of disabled people, their dependents and carers below the poverty line, while the Tories deprive unemployed people of benefits when there aren’t enough jobs for everyone, triple university fees so that students enter the post-graduate world with crippling debts, and have overseen changes to our society that have made Foodbanks one of the UK’s fastest-growing phenomena.
Self-awareness and a sense of irony clearly aren’t a pre-requisite for being a Tory prime minister.
I’m going to stop there, before this post becomes unreadable. I did get carried away in the end, but I’ve still probably omitted almost as much as I’ve included. But I think there’s enough so that you know that whatever else you might have heard Cameron say, the truth is most likely found by going as far away from what he said as possible.
Of course, there may also be plenty of people who don’t know enough not to swallow his lies hook, line and sinker, and who’ll fall for every lie, misdirection and obfuscation.
So if you get a chance, educate someone. The fate of everything good in our country depends on it.