Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Like most of you I guess an email headed “Proud” just popped into my inbox from Simon Hughes. I plucked up the courage to read said email and found myself closer and closer to the verge of vomiting. Sorry, but I’ve got to be honest and I wish I didn’t feel this way, if anyone can suggest a way to help me not to please email me asap. But somewhere along the line we have surely lost total touch with our declared values and aims? Yes, we have taken people out of tax, but no, they weren’t the poorest, the poorest weren’t paying tax in the first place and those who have had the additional cash will find it nowhere near compensates for the drop in living standards. Yes, the pupil premium is certainly a Lib Dem win, but frankly, if on the one hand we give the school (who may or may not choose to use the money to support disadvantaged children) money while on the other kicking the child’s family out of their home – what contributes most to their educational success? Yes, we are doing our best to help unemployed young people, but at the same time we are slashing the services that in the past helped them, Youth Service, Connexions – I don’t know about where you live but they are practically wiped out round here.
Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander have virtually admitted that the Youth Contract isn’t working (see my CYP Now blog here) so we claim credit for getting 100,000 into
work er no, work experience.
Work experience?! Of course that may be an important step on the road to a job, but surely what we want is 1 million young people in work?
Having been involved with our last Manifesto process and as a candidate in the 2010 campaign, I was happy to campaign on our priorities. They were costed. They didn’t rely on taking money from the most vulnerable in order to deliver. They were “as well as” not “instead of”. Any Liberal Democrat would have been proud of that. But what we have now is as a result of massive cuts elsewhere. If we have the choice between Pupil Premium and homeless children - which would we choose? Raising the tax threshold - or cutting benefits to the most vulnerable?
Of course there are some great initiatives; increased support for child care is wonderful. But I have to say my daughter has given up claiming it because it means equivalent cuts to her housing benefit. When I suggested we should resolve that anomaly in our party policy I was told it would be too expensive. So, yet again, the poorest in our communities miss out.
I must applaud the increased investment in mental health talking therapies. Having lost my sister last year I am sure she would have benefited if those therapies had been around earlier. But…..you knew there was a but (!)…….the link between mental health and financial worries is well documented. We know that nearly half of unemployed young people have mental health conditions. More and more people are being pushed into debt, especially into the arms of unscrupulous lenders and loan sharks. Oh, and if you need support to get justice…..forget it, we just cut legal aid. So yet again, no evidence of joined up thinking, let’s try and stop people getting ill in the first place.
And of course, there are stand alone achievements that the party is rightly proud of, such as equal marriage and blocking some of the worst excesses of the Tories. But it reminds me of the ethics debates we used to have as students – at what point does what you get in return make it OK to sell your soul to the devil?!