Run, children, run! A terrible bearded monster roams the land and he will ruin your life if you let him. Jeremy Corbyn has been derided as an unreconstructed 1970s socialist. A dinosaur with no place in modern society. The Conservative government has no right to criticise Corbyn for being a historical throwback. Freed of their Liberal Democrat shackles, the Conservatives have embarked on a program that seems to have been inspired by the Victorians.
The government implemented changes to Incapacity Benefit that saw thousands of people dying within months of being declared fit to work. And if that wasn't bad enough, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has floated the idea of taxing disability benefits. David Cameron is determined to push through changes to the Tax Credits system that will cost the average family £1,300 per year. Legal Aid cuts will encourage solicitors to convince their clients to plead guilty because they simply will not receive adequate payment for trying cases. The government has already introduced court fees that make pleading innocent more expensive than pleading guilty. George Osborne wants to take free meals away from young children. I could go on; the list of ways in which the government plans to make life harder for the poor and weak is depressingly long.
The Conservatives claim that the nation needs to save money and that it lacks the funds to support the most vulnerable. But we have £100 billion to spend on Trident, and up to £80 billion for HS2. We can afford to underwrite Chinese and French state-owned enterprises and encourage them to build a nuclear reactor by guaranteeing an energy price far in excess of market rates. We created £375 billion to pump into bond markets to inflate asset values through quantitive easing, making the wealthiest families in the UK an average of £128,000 richer.
There's plenty of money around. The Conservatives are simply using lack of funds as an excuse to implement harsh cuts that will cause misery to millions. In reality, theirs is an ideological crusade underpinned by the belief that people can only be motivated by fear. They believe that the fear of not having enough money to feed one's family will drive people to become productive members of the workforce. The Conservatives are slashing the welfare safety net that has made Britain such a special place to live. Instead of the compassionate nation that nurtured everyone, where all could be assured a basic education, healthcare and quality of life regardless of money or background, Britain is being transformed into a society of gross inequality. Welcome to the Thunderdome, where only the strong will survive.
At the same time as trying to beat people into work with the fearsome stick of deprivation and poverty, the Conservatives are attempting to further erode workers' rights to organise to protect themselves. Perhaps David Cameron dreams of Sports Direct style productivity where employees work themselves to the point of stroke?
We have far more to fear from the Conservatives' Victorian social and economic policies than anything that Jeremy Corbyn might do. Zoe Williams has written a brilliant piece that outlines why quantative easing for the people should not cause us the slightest concern. Positive Money, an organisation that campaigns to democratise money and banking, offers a fascinating insight into exactly what the Bank of England's quantative easing achieved; an 8p return for every £1 spent.
The slash and burn ideology of those currently running the Conservative Party has no place in the modern world, and I say that as someone who has previously voted Conservative. Theirs is the ideology of the workhouse. It is the ideology of exploitation. It is an ideology that teaches us that people in need should be kicked into the gutter rather than helped to their feet. How is the impoverishment of millions of families a more equitable solution to the nation's financial problems than, say, a five percent rise in the top rate of income tax? Deprivation at the bottom of the economic ladder means going without essentials such as heat or food. At the top of the ladder, deprivation means buying a Porsche instead of a Ferrari. With 4.7 million people regularly having their electricity cut off because they cannot afford to pay their bills, contrary to Lord Sugar's recent comments, poverty is still a very real issue.
I was heartened by the news that Thomas Piketty and Joseph Stiglitz will be advising Jeremy Corbyn on economic policy. Piketty is an innovative economic thinker, and we need bright solutions to some of the dark problems confronting us. With an estimated 30% of all jobs due to be lost to robots over the next ten years, we are very likely to need new ways of distributing wealth. As our increasingly unequal society polarises even further, we will need new methods of ensuring that social mobility does not grind to a halt and that those with the misfortune of being born into poverty are not locked in misery for the rest of their lives.
If David Cameron and George Osborne had been born to single parents living in social housing, perhaps they would look at life differently. Fate saw them born to privilege, but instead of softening their hearts, their good fortune has hardened them and fostered a belief that victimising the less fortunate is a viable social and economic policy.