vote1281305_52700450I’ve wanted the Tories to be better, I really have, but the time to give up seems to have come.

I’ve always hung back from the subtle rhetoric of  ‘All Tories are utter scumbags who deserve to be tortured slowly, then killed’. Why? Because I know that isn’t true – my parents are Tories, were local councillors for many years, and very active ones at that. Both of them despise and reject prejudice in all its forms, support the idea of drug legalisation and more rights and better treatment for immigrants and other views unpopular with the Daily Mail, but they are actually Tories. They have not always toed the party line and don’t much like it at the moment, and I’ve never wanted to believe that they believed in something wrong at its base. And I still don’t think Conservatism has to be wrong at its base, but what’s going on now is wrong by any definition.

The stereotypes of Tories are interesting. Growing up, I’d be asked if my parents were terribly strict. No, they’re about the most liberal parents I know. When I told people they were local counsellors, active in social services, health and education committees and other voluntary bodies, I’d get the response ‘Labour, then?’ as though Tories ought to be on Baby Killing and Dog Kicking committees.

I have difficulty on a number of levels with rabid Tory-hatred, not least that it makes simplistic reductions, which  discourage rational debate about politics. People believe the Tories are irredeemable, socially unacceptable, and will remain so whatever they do or say, and so it doesn’t really encourage the Tories to be better than they are. There are decent Tories out there, and it would be better to at least listen to them and let them come to the forefront of the party than to drive them all out of town with flaming torches.

I used to snort, and still do to some extent at people saying things such as ‘The Tories hate poor and disabled people and want them to die.’ But, by God, they’re sure as hell acting as though they do.

One thing that is really disappointing is that Iain Duncan Smith and the Social Justice Unit started off sounding as though they actually had a decent approach to the benefits system – before election, of course. The concept of ‘tapering off’ benefits so that rather than losing a host of them on taking up a job, more benefit could be retained while working  (let’s not forget how many benefit claimants are people employed in low-income jobs), seemed to be a positive way of helping people into work, rather than punishing people for the difficulty of finding jobs they can sustain themselves on. Obviously, I am no economist, maybe I’m totally off bat, but it sounded like a good idea to me.

This idea appears to have vanished utterly – presumably due the expense of implementing, and largely due to the media’s sustained campaign against benefit claimants. Yes, even though welfare is far from being the cause of the UK’s economic situation, the Tories knew that they would have wide backing from the media if they pursued this as a way of improving the state of Britain’s economy. So they took it and ran with it.

The resulting situation is disgusting. Not to mention illogical and expensive. And unless they burn themselves to the ground and entirely rebuild themselves as something else, this time I don’t think I can forgive the Conservative Party. Laugh away, say you knew it for years, but I wanted them to be worth my vote, I wanted there to be forward thinking, caring people to take the reins and make it a party worth supporting.

I wanted them to show they didn’t have to be the Nasty Party, but they’ve gone, put a smiley face on it and horrendously victimised the most vulnerable members of society without making efforts to go after the people and organisations who could cough up enough money to make an economic difference and still have enough phlegm to buy yachts with. And there’s going to be further economic and human disaster when housing benefit cuts bite, with low-income people becoming  unable to afford to live in places like London. Or to live anywhere safe and habitable.

I’m on benefits myself. I was made redundant four months ago, so I’m enjoying the fun and jollity of the JSA right now. If I remain unemployed for much longer, I probably (and quite rightly, in my case) lose entitlement to JSA and I’m somewhat relieved given everything I hear. We can manage without it, though things will be tight, but at least I can’t be threatened and cajoled at every turn. I’m distressed by the thought of the countless people for whom cessation of benefits is terrifying – people who are understandably wondering how they will live, how they will feed their children, with nothing.

The government’s line appears to be that ‘they’ll just have to manage on a bit less’, when they have no concept of what it is to be on a low income – hell, I don’t even have much of a concept of it, but I can see it is pushing people’s lives into a state of emergency.

Is the answer revolution, as the usual corners are muttering? Probably not. But social media is beginning to flex its muscle in terms of shaming or withdrawing custom from those who don’t pay tax or use ‘workfare’ free labour to replace paid jobs – the last few weeks have given several examples of effective people power fuelled by Twitter and Facebook.

And I still believe it is incumbent upon us to vote. The Coalition presumably decided to focus on welfare because they knew it would ‘play well with the voters’ and voters these days are more likely to be the sort of people who look down on those taking welfare. If voters were people with whom this kind of thing didn’t go down well, they may not have taken that decision. Staying silent at the polls is not helpful, but if everyone, or even a significant chunk of everyone, who is ‘not the kind of person who votes’ voted in the next election, that would scare the living shit out of every politician far more than any protest.

I can’t say it’s been a pleasure, Conservative Party, I can’t say it’s been anything at all. I gave you the benefit of the doubt for as long as I could, but if you’re cutting benefits, then so am I. I would say this is written more in sorrow than in anger, but screw it, I am seriously angry.

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