'Tough choices', Cabinet paper revelations, and the assault on welfare

'Tough choices', Cabinet paper revelations, and the assault on welfare

UK government Cabinet papers from 1982, now released under the 30-year disclosure rule, confirm that the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS and the savage cutting of public services has been a long-held ambition of the Conservative party.

All that stopped them making their dream come true in the 1980s was the knowledge that it would be politically unacceptable. But the ambition has nonetheless been nurtured over the decades, and with the recent banking crisis the perfect opportunity arose to implement it.

As the public was bombarded by economic doom and gloom from every angle, Conservative Party ideologues knew that this was the best chance they would probably ever get. Policies that would have been unacceptable under normal circumstances could now be presented as “regrettable, but necessary”, in order to save our economy.

That is why George Osborne, rather bizarrely for a Chancellor, put so much effort into talking the UK economy down, to convince us all that we were in desperate straits, such that desperate measures were called for.

This, combined with a stream of propaganda that suggested a section of the population were idle parasites bleeding the country dry, paved the way for cuts to benefits and the punitive treatment of the unemployed.

Prime Minister David Cameron uses a cricketing metaphor to describe this process, he calls it ‘rolling the pitch’, or preparing the ground politically.

A similar process is happening now with the National Health Service. A constant stream of stories about poor care and neglectful staff have started to appear in sections of the media, presumably so that when the public wake up to the fact that the NHS has actually been privatised, and therefore abolished as we know it, it will not be mourned too much, and the outcry will be diminished.

So when Mr Cameron and other members of the government talk about "tough choice"’ they are really being rather disingenuous. They are actually implementing policies that the Conservative party have wanted to implement for decades. Their choices may be tough on us, but they actually are their choices. Others can, and should, be made.

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.

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