Until recently, the idea of people dying of poverty in the UK seemed unfathomable to me. That may point more towards a sheltered upbringing than anything else, but I really thought the days of British people relying on charity in order to eat were left firmly in the Victorian times. However, our reliance on emergency packages from food banks is at a record high. It's growing hard to ignore that the Coalition's austerity measures are killing people in droves.
For example, an unspecified number of people have died within six weeks of being found 'fit to work' by the Government's Department of Works and Pensions, headed by Minister Iain Duncan Smith.
Or, there's the case of David Clapson, recently highlighted by the Guardian, who had his job seeker's allowance sanctioned because he wasn't, apparently, 'taking the search for work seriously enough.' He died from diabetic ketoacidosis, after unpaid bills led to his electricity being turned off, which meant his insulin could no longer be refrigerated. He was found with a stack of CVs beside him and an empty stomach.
Austerity is a gender issue, because we know the cuts have disproportionately affected women, especially those to childcare costs. However, austerity is also a gender issue because the increasing marginalisation and joblessness of young men is part of what's driving ever larger numbers of them to take their own lives, in numbers higher than historical trends would indicate. Austerity is a race issue, because 75% of Britain's non-white communities live in 88 of Britain's poorest wards, and because 84% of Bangladeshi sixth-form students, and 70% of Pakistani students received EMA - before it was cut within about 5 minutes of Cameron entering Number 10. Austerity is a disability issue, a class issue and a mental health issue. In short, austerity is a justice issue and it's affecting us all.
When people steal from the state through benefit fraud (usually out of desperation), there's public outcry. But when the state steals from the people by failing to provide even a basic standard of living, whilst corruption and tax evasion runs unchecked, we're told it's all part of a necessary strategy for economic recovery.
I'm sick of being told I'm a dreamer for thinking it doesn't have to be this way.
You don't need me to tell you that it's outlandishly offensive for millionaire Iain Duncan Smith to advise those struggling to land a job to 'get on a bus' away from their homes until they've found a job elsewhere. You certainly don't need me to tell you that it's criminal that Vodafone have been let off paying an estimated £6 billion in tax bills.
Any idiot with a calculator can work out that if huge, wealthy corporations aren't paying their tax, whilst schools and hospitals and ordinary people collapse, the onus should be on those corporations who owe the state money to make their fair contribution. It just goes to show that austerity is so much more about ideology - the dehumanisation of the poor, and the literal destruction of state infrastructure - than it ever was about economy.
Is this what they meant when they said we're all in this together? If you are eligible to vote in 2015, please make sure you are registered to do so. And if you have a heart, or any sense of basic human compassion, please don't vote Tory.