The Point
Last updated: 14 June 2018. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Never Trust A Tory. They've elevated doublespeak to new heights of jaw dropping hypocrisy


Of the late, unlamented Tory Persecutor-in-Chief, I. D. Smith, it was common practice in the Tory rags to cry plaintively to his critics "You don't understand Iain Duncan Smith's moral mission!" (in the Telegraph; in the Times; in the Daily Mail), as if his critics were fools. In point of fact, his critics had quickly grasped the fact that I. D. Smith (and it seems very likely from what he has said so far, his successor also, Stephen Crabb), like any Pharisee throughout history, liked to clothe his mistreatment of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable in the language of faux morality.

The latest figures by the Trussell Trust show a 19% year-on-year rise in numbers using food banks in the UK; an increasing number of these are workers in work. Tory commentators like to claim that the very existence of food banks "spurs demand", and that this accounts for their growth in numbers.


It is poverty, ever widening poverty, that explains their growth in numbers.

The widening poverty that is an inescapable element of corporatist triumphalist policies, of an economic system that has terminated the last vestiges of "trickle down", and substituted in its place, "siphon up":- where all wealth is ultimately siphoned up towards the already wealthy.

The Social Market Foundation found last year that the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families in the UK rose by 64% between 2005 – 2012/13, whereas the poorest 20% saw their net wealth fall by 57%. According to research from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, income inequality has risen faster in Britain than in any other "rich" nation.

In 2015, analysis from Lloyds Bank private banking showed that Britain's richest 20% have more than 100 times the wealth of Britain's poorest 20%.

The number of unemployed people (by any genuine measure) is rising, once those unemployed people on workfare and work experience programmes are excluded (between May – November alone, 24 010 unemployed benefits claimants were referred to Mandatory Work Activity; between June – November 2011, 370 000 unemployed benefits claimants were referred to the Work Programme; the government does not count these two categories as "unemployed" in official statistics).

Once jobs that do not even pay a living are included, the number of people struggling to find genuine work sees a huge rise: jobs such as part time and temporary jobs, jobs like the seasonal work that prevails in the Highlands, and zero hours contract work. The greatest number of workers in zero hours work is found in the hotels and leisure industry – a sector that dominates in the Scottish Highlands. In that region, such work is also seasonal.

In September 2015 the Office for National Statistics reported that the number of workers in zero hours contract work had risen by 19%. A study published by the TUC in December 2014 showed that average weekly earnings for zero hours contract workers were £188, compared with £479 for permanent workers; in other words, as the number of workers on zero hours contracts rises, so the number of workers earning less also rises.

The Tories, either trashing or ignoring the message of critics such as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury (and in less targeted and possibly more general terms, Pope Francis also, with his relentless criticism of contemporary super-capitalism), continue to address themselves to the so-called "aspirational class". The harsh truth is that an increasing number of people in Britain no longer "aspire" to anything but mere survival in the face of a corporatist system whose entire aim is to separate them from the prospects of material progress.

Under this system, the "free market" is all. The Tories hate the EU not for any love of country, but because they hope that such few regulations as still apply to an extremely de-regulated free market system will be gotten rid of once Britain quits the EU.

Under this system, everything - absolutely everything, including the NHS, every last public service, the last remaining assets held by the Commonweal, the unemployed (with corporations such as Maximus exploiting DWP contracts to "train" unemployed benefits claimants), the gambling addicts, those in work who simply cannot make ends meet (this explains the huge growth in numbers of loan shark outfits advertising on TV since the Tories seized power in May 2010: the payday lending business was worth a little over £100 million in 2004; it was worth between £2 - £4 billion in 2013 ) – every last area of life in contemporary Britain, must be subjected to the free market, and made to turn a profit for the few.

Under the highly unregulated, and extremely predatory, free market economic system that the Tories promote, an increasing number of people are beginning to realise that their children and grand children are very unlikely to own their own homes - let alone own a cottage in the countryside.

An increasing number of young professionals realise that whilst they themselves were fortunate enough to attend private schools (riding on the back of the economic boom: the job security, the guaranteed pensions, the free college education, and the low property prices that their parents' generation enjoyed), they will not be able to afford to send their own children to private schools.

An increasing number of youngsters realise that the odds against them even landing a genuine full time job that merely pays a living, are slim.

An increasing number of people realise that their own children will not know what it was like to grow up in a well-heated family home that was owned by their parents. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, in 2001, 2.3 million householders in the UK were renting their homes; by 2014 there were 5.4 million; it is estimated that by 2025 this figure will rise to 7.2 million.

An increasing number of workers realise that they will not retire with a pension - and they understand that by the time they reach what is currently the retirement age, retirement age will still - for them - be many years away. This year, in what pensions analysts are calling "the end of an era", every single one of the defined benefit schemes being offered by the UK's top companies faces being shut down.

The typical British worker can now look forward to a pension (once state and mandatory private pensions are combined, and after tax) worth only 38% of his final salary – compared to above 90% in the Netherlands and Austria, and 80% in Spain and Italy. Only Mexico and Chile offer their workers a worse prospect for retirement.

"Aspirational"? Simple survival is the theme of this corporatist age.

But the Tories still make their pitch as if this were the age of never ending material advancement, an era of social mobility; as if these were still the decades of economic trickle-down. That time of plenty is past, except for those lucky enough to be born to wealthy families; those who sail through life cushioned from harsh material reality by trust funds; those who stand one day to inherit sizable estates from their parents.

Deservedly, the Tory party shows no signs of gaining the backing of the majority of Scottish voters - for all that the Tories are crowing that they are set to become the official opposition in Scotland, having overtaken Labour in the most recent polls. That this is so, says more about the devastation of trust in Scottish Labour, than it does for any swing to the Tories in Scotland.

Rob Dewar

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