The Blog

An Open Letter to Boris Johnson

Dear Boris, Yesterday on your Facebook page, you posted a lengthy diatribe against 'Lefties', which captured my interest.

Dear Boris,

Yesterday on your facebook page, you posted a lengthy diatribe against 'Lefties', which captured my interest.

"They need to be confronted with the facts of life [you said] - or else they will continue, in their Lefty way, to talk the most terrible nonsense."

From thence forward, you proceeded to talk some terrible nonsense. Credit where it's due, you also gave some pretty stark admissions relating to the pay-gap, the cost of housing, and the "endless mutual back-scratching of the corporate ''remuneration committees'' who always seem to discover that "market forces" mean they must regretfully pay each other colossal sums of money."

The general thrust of your argument however was that the Left is generally pessimistic, which you apparently find nauseating. Pointing towards achievements made in tackling crime, racism and inequality, as well as this government's "record employment and record growth", you suggested that "We should shout it from the rooftops - because I don't think we will hear much about it from the miserablists on the Left."

Using the hashtag #AskBoris on twitter, I asked you two questions. The first was whether you saw any correlation between 'miserablists on the Left' and Iain Duncan Smith's punitive welfare reforms, which have caused suicides throughout the UK. The second was whether you saw any correlation between 'miserablists on the Left' and ATOS wrongfully finding sick and disabled people fit for work. I've yet to receive a reply to either of them, but I remain hopeful that I will. Optimistic even - you should like that.

The alleged "record employment" is aided by somewhat predictable manipulation of the figures. Governments have always found ways of manipulating figures to suit their own narrative. This government is doing it by regarding people on workfare schemes - whilst not employed according to the traditional definition of the word 'employed' - as a legitimate part of the workforce to be included in these "record employment" figures. Their reward for working is not a wage (let alone a living wage) but state benefits which will be withdrawn at seemingly the slightest offense. Thus, your "record growth" is being aided by a substantial section of the UK workforce which isn't even being paid a wage. You appear to suggest that this is a "tremendous achievement".

It's not as if there isn't any money with which to pay them. You argued yourself that ". . . there are many companies that could frankly afford to pay more to their most junior staff." I applaud this sentiment. Paying them more than nothing does indeed sound affordable. But we can do even better than that. For those that genuinely need state benefits as a means to live, there is ample money out there which never even finds its way to the treasury, let alone the benefits claimant.

'At HMRC, 300 people working in the gloriously titled Affluent Compliance Unit chase taxes dodged by the rich. At the Department for Work and Pensions 3,200 staff chase wrongly paid benefits, only some of which will result from deliberate fraud, worth just a fraction of the taxes lost from the rich.'

It's a badge of shame for any government to prioritize benefit fraud over tax fraud when the latter is clearly the bigger problem. I can only surmise that the current state of affairs will remain as the norm due to this government's ideological hatred of the welfare system itself. I don't seem alone in that opinion. Perhaps it's pessimistic of me? Or perhaps Lefties like me simply don't understand the 'facts of life' to which you refer? I would certainly plead guilty to failing to understand why tackling benefit fraud is being prioritized over tackling tax evasion and avoidance.

The conclusion in your twelfth paragraph that "Everybody is gaining in years - but it is the poor, proportionately, who are gaining the most" is interesting. Let us put aside the fact that you were carefully limiting your remarks to Londoners and ask how long you expect this to continue if the NHS continues to be sold off into the private sector, piece by piece? Do you imagine that this will positively influence the life expectancy of Londoners (and the British public in general), or do you see this as being detrimental to their interests? Mrs Thatcher's privatization of the energy companies has hardly done the general public any favours. Private rail companies are also woefully inadequate. Those are but two examples, but it can be said that privatization tends to be the enemy of the poor and has a proven track record of being so.

Moreover, where was the mandate from the public to begin privatizing the NHS? I don't remember the government ever being given one. The majority of the public is overwhelmingly against it. Yet it's still happening.

To conclude I confess that at times, I am indeed guilty of pessimism. Frankly it's hard not to be during the most reactionary government of my lifetime. I'd like to point out, however, that to be on the Left requires optimism in the first place. Unlike the Right, we don't see poverty and gross inequality as necessary, unavoidable components of society. Such is our optimism, we believe they can be eradicated.

I must also confess that I take some comfort in the fact that the Tory re-election campaign is set to be something of a misnomer, as the Tories weren't really elected in the first place. Your lot haven't won a general election outright in over twenty years, and it's only thanks to Nick Clegg and his party that David Cameron is now in Number 10. Clegg could just as easily have done a deal with Labour. The fact that he didn't is something which I'm confident voters will remember, come May. It's quite reassuring to remind myself of these things, and it gives me much in the way of hope for the future. This optimism thing is easy when you put your mind to it.

I eagerly await your reply Boris.

Kind Regards.