I’m not given to political outpourings but as the election approaches I want to applaud the values driven approach to policy adopted by Ed Miliband. In the UK the coalition government – or more precisely Tories such as Michael Gove – wasted much hot air on sound bites including the expressions “British values” and “Big Society”. They certainly appeared to be just code for shrinking the state (reducing costs of looking after the vulnerable by relying on charities and restoring the Victorian notion of patronage by the wealthy) and claiming that we as a Nation had sovereignty over the notion of mutual respect. If Mr Gove had been put in an exam room and asked to write 2,000 words to justify his use of these terms I have no doubt that his argument would not have held water. The underlying assumptions are not thought through.
This article on the proliferation of food banks in the UK just shows the flaws in their thinking. People who cannot afford to feed their family or themselves, who struggle to buy power to cook, unable to heat their homes, should they be lucky enough to have them. Please who through no fault of their own have limited resources and are made to wait for state support or told it is not available unless they comply with ridiculous demands (apply for 6 jobs in a month, without internet access or skills to fill in the forms and often without suitable jobs available). Reducing to putting aside their pride and self-respect in order to comply with the wishes of the wealthy, “Be stoic, it’s a British value” they seem to laugh. These are, according to Iain Duncan Smith, “people with dysfunctional lives”.
Yes, those of you reading this from outside the UK this is the UK, one of the world’s richest nations, allegedly.
So I want none of your “British values”, I am ashamed to be British if these are the values you represent.
I agree with Ed – our values should be central to the reason we choose who to elect. I value equality of opportunity, fairness, compassion, mutual respect and understanding. I want the government of our country to care about the vulnerable – those who have no voice, no choice in their daily lives and those who are excluded from the opportunities enjoyed by the privileged few. In my daily life I am not able to do lots for them, I do what I can but I need to know that in my country some values are at the heart of our public services. The needy will not go without, the sick will be treated, the vulnerable will be protected. I am all too aware of how quickly we can become needy, sick or vulnerable – lives change.
The time has come to take action. Stand up for what I believe in. I have no doubt that Gove would consider me part of the marxist blob – but his labelling (like much of the reasoning of his colleagues) is incorrect. I have worked hard all my career, continue to do so whilst supporting a disabled young adult who also works (for nothing, his state aid pays for his employment) and paying for my other son in order to try to reduce his debt on graduation, as he completes his expensive university education (thanks Nick Clegg, he doesn’t agree with you any more!). No doubt I will still be trying to earn a living for many years yet. Like the men of Jarrow, I am declaring my commitment to a fairer democracy that represents and safeguards all.