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Where's Your Compassion, Cameron?

03/10/2014 10:55 BST | Updated 02/12/2014 10:59 GMT

I was having a pint with a friend of mine the other day and told him I had it in mind to write a piece about politics. I'd been following the Conservative Party Conference and felt, acutely, that some kind of tipping point was being reached.

My problem is that I don't feel hugely confident writing about politics. I know as much as the next man, but I'm no expert.

Besides, politics can be an intimidating sphere: Politicians know best, or so we're always told.

Well, in light of recent events, it seems blatantly clear to me that they don't.

In the run-up to an election, our Chancellor is selling us the idea that we should hack away at the deficit by cutting, in real terms, the welfare benefits of those most in need. A huge chunk of the multi-billion pound bill, caused by the extravagance and dubious moral practices of the Square Mile, is now being shoved under the noses of the most vulnerable, non-complicit people.

Millions of innocent bystanders, struggling to get by, will now pay the price for a catastrophe that unfolded where champagne is quaffed and where ruthless aggression is rewarded with mind-boggling bankers' bonuses.

Where's the logic here? If there's a price to be paid for past meltdowns, then sure, let's pay the price - all of us. But proportionately.

Who was the bright spark that, at a time when the gap between rich and poor has widened to record levels, would make the astounding suggestion that welfare should be the headline target? That it was then adopted as a sensible policy is beyond absurd, it's clinically insane.

It's an insidious, pathological policy that lures us into feeling the basest of human inclinations: To be suspicious of those on the margins of society, to distrust foreign immigrants who perhaps aren't pulling their weight, and to fantasise that millions of people are claiming benefits when really, they don't want to work, they just want to while away their lives playing X-box, watching telly, causing mischief, smoking fags, drinking beer and dabbling in drugs.

Perhaps a tiny minority do just that. But probably only because they have lost all hope.

The way George Osbourne delivered his speech amid tub-thumping Tory apologists made me shiver with disgust. When this kind of man represents me on the domestic stage I feel deeply ashamed to be British. It felt so brutal, vicious and cruel. The conference hall had the air of a Middle-Ages-style lynching: 'Throw them to the lions,' he yelled. And the crowd loved it. 'More! More!' they cried.

Personally, I found it revolting. Later, watching David Cameron defend his Chancellor, I actually felt physically sick.

This is patently not who we aspire to be as a Nation, at least not one I can identify with.

Where is our empathy and compassion for people less fortunate than ourselves?

It's surely now incontrovertible that the flow of benefits, in every sense of the word, needs to be more evenly spread. My message isn't new but I feel obliged to add my voice to the chorus and see if it can help make some kind of difference.

It's plain to see the current situation is not working. Let's take one example: As things stand, a check-out girl, divorced with two kids, who works at a mainstream supermarket in London, will be taking home around £8.50 an hour. On that kind of money she'll also be entitled to child and housing benefits. And yet, ludicrously, her supermarket employer will post the usual couple of hundred million pounds in annual profits, share prices go up, her boss collects a whopping bonus, and hey ho, the rich just got richer.

Meanwhile, we continue to effectively subsidise these corporate giants by paying their employees the welfare necessary for them to actually live.

It's just one instance of how everything seems so geared towards further wetting the beak of the top tier and tossing litter towards those at the bottom.

The Great British Divide between rich and poor is a nonsensical disgrace. Bear with the analogy, but it's like most trains these days. I find it insulting and twisted that inter-city trains seem to have almost as many first class carriages as they do standard class. We've all been there, where every seat in standard class is taken and we're left crammed in corridors fighting for space outside a putrid toilet. Meanwhile the first class citizen can wallow in comparative luxury while so many dozens of seats around him are left completely vacant.

This is deranged. And it perfectly mirrors modern society.

What I'm asking for here is not an upgrade. I just want a seat. I paid for it after all. And that's what millions of poor people want. They just want a seat.

What does modern society, moulded by our politicians, say about their values? Why are the rewards for working in different arenas so vastly disproportionate? Why should the teacher, the nurse and the fireman be cast as virtual pariahs while the banker and the trader are clasped so tightly to society's bosom?

Like many others, I used to accept the current model of capitalism as a necessary evil. But surely that theory is now dead in the water. Of course, I understand that exceptional talent should be rewarded: We need to incentivise, we need wealth-makers. But not to the point where vast swathes of the population are denigrated while an elevated elite is treated as sacrosanct.

Politicians have such an amazing opportunity. They have in their grasp the power to change millions of lives rather than just enhance the lives of a few. They can show the world a new Britain which is decent and honest, thoughtful and kind. And yet they blow it every time.

I absolutely love this country: it can be a brilliant place. But with this current crop of politicians at the helm, the more Britain turns cold and selfish, grabby and materialistic, a place where the chattering classes relish talk about house-prices rather than about actual, real things.

I am desperate to be inspired. I want to love politics like I love football. But come the election I simply can't see myself supporting any party. Why give validation to policies that I abhor and to politicians who think studied Blair-esque hand movements are what makes a good speech? It's amazing, of all the models to adopt...

I would love to see a political party - of any persuasion - come to power and do something to signal undeniably that they do care, that they do want to help, and that this time around things will be different.

Perhaps I'm being naive but I can no longer accept that things have to be the way they are now, that clobbering the poor and vulnerable is a rational answer to mending our future. We can do things another way, and in time I'm sure we will. In fact, I'm utterly convinced that in years to come, people will look back at this current era of Tory government and think it was bordering on complete madness. Either that or I've already gone crazy.