The government wants “To set our country back on the path to prosperity that all can share in” and “mend a broken society”, claimed UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the Conservative Party conference on 10 October. Despite national policies inflicting deepening misery on the poorest in society, and promises by his ministers of more of the same, he was seeking to portray his leadership as compassionate and inclusive.
Chronically sick and disabled (including frail elderly) people, as well as those who are unemployed or low-paid, have borne the brunt of public sector and welfare cuts. They have also faced punitive measures that have caused humiliation as well as hardship. This has caused some image problems for government ministers, which may intensify as more people realise that it is not simply the so-called “scroungers” demonised by politicians and sections of the media who are affected but their own families and friends.
So, in his speech, Cameron tried to present harsh policies as a sign not of cruelty but of a commitment to promote “aspiration”. Supposedly “Conservative methods are not just good for the strong and the successful but the best way to help the poor, and the weak, and the vulnerable”. He spoke of his late son Ivan and his father, who was also disabled but “never complained”.
Instead he was proud of “working hard from the moment he left school and providing a good start in life for his family”, including “helping his mum” when “his father ran off”. It was “Not a hard luck story, but a hard work story.”
But there were a few facts which David Cameron left out of his account. From all accounts Ian Cameron had many admirable traits, but his success was not solely due to hard work and determination. Newspaper reports describe how he was born in a mansion in Aberdeenshire in a fifty-acre estate, the son of the senior partner of a stockbroking firm, and went to the prestigious private school Eton which his son David later attended.
After former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher abolished capital controls in 1979, Ian Cameron reportedly created investment funds in tax havens around the world, allowing the family fortune to grow.
There are however many people who have worked hard for decades, as well as all the effort of bringing up children without the aid of nannies or boarding school staff, without ever possessing large sums of money.
All too many people are suffering as a result of ruinous economic and social policies, while an already wealthy minority prosper. There will be widespread scepticism about David Cameron’s claim that he wants “to win for all our people”, and the ethical basis of the society he seeks to build.
(c) Savi Hensman is a regular and widely published Christian commentator on public, political and religious issues. She works in the care and equalities sector, and is an Ekklesia associate.