The Great British balls-up

The UK is a failed State. The public sector is a hollowed-out shell and every public service has collapsed. Quite apart from the self-inflicted fiasco and stupidity of Brexit, all aspects of life lie in ruinous, tragic disarray.

The NHS is being destroyed. A staggering 14 million people are waiting for surgery, thousands die every month for want of routine treatments, 50,000 hospital beds have been lost, ambulances don’t turn up even for emergencies, A&E departments have imploded, it’s frequently impossible to get a GP appointment, and entire services such as dentistry, podiatry and mental health scarcely exist. 12 years of systematic Tory attacks, underfunding and privatisations have turned what was UK society’s single outstanding achievement over the last century into a scandalous vacuum unable to provide even the most basic health care that the rest of the world takes for granted and that our taxes have supposedly paid for. The Tories are happy for the NHS to break down; they vehemently opposed its foundation back in 1946 and have been waiting for the chance to wreck it ever since. They are ancient ideological opponents of the very idea of a collectively-funded service for all regardless of ability to pay. After all, it’s socialism in action (shock! horror!) and it forces them to contribute the odd penny here and there from their unearned wealth for the greater good. Oh, they so hate it! Poorer services for those who can’t afford to go private ensure lavish profits for the private sector and loaded Tory-voting shareholders, while billions meant for the NHS are funnelled into the pockets of Tory cronies. They are waging open warfare on the 90% who depend on the NHS and don’t give a damn as the bodies pile high.

Law enforcement is disappearing. Police failure to investigate burglaries has doubled, prosecutions for rape have fallen by 70%, 500 criminal trials a year are halted for want of a judge, there is a backlog of 60,000 cases in crown courts while cases take years to come to magistrate courts for want of solicitors and court staff, and massive cuts to the legal aid budget mean the provision of legal advice and representation has been virtually abolished and most civil cases, family court cases, housing cases and welfare cases can only be pursued by the wealthy or those prepared to represent themselves. On the streets there is no police presence whatsoever any more, meaning all categories of crime, from fly-tipping and vandalism to anti-social behaviour and violence, are rampant and go unchecked and unrecorded while police forces that exist to protect the public concentrate on implementing Tory priorities: shutting down anti-Tory demonstrations, stifling peaceful protest, silencing opposition and locking up those fighting the annihilation of nature.

The very concept of social security is being obliterated. £40 billion has been cut from benefit spending in the last 12 years as a host of ‘austerity’ measures, justified by toxic claims to be clamping down on statistically non-existent “benefit cheats”, have wrecked the welfare state. The real-terms value of benefits has been cut by 10% by both the six-year benefit freeze and the linking of rates to the less favourable consumer price index rather than the retail price index as before, pushing 500,000 extra people into poverty. The ‘benefits cap’, the introduction in 2013 of an absolute limit on payments, has grievously impoverished families with children and single parents. The ‘bedroom tax’ introduced in 2012 supposedly to tackle another non-existent problem, the “underoccupancy” of social housing, simply resulted in a 25% cut in housing benefit for the poorest families and over 250,000 people unable to meet their most basic living costs. Six working-age benefits paid weekly or fortnightly have been replaced by ‘universal credit’, a once-a-month payment that makes budgeting more difficult and has an inbuilt delay of five weeks or more before any money can be received, leading thousands into impossible levels of debt and causing a 40% increase in numbers reliant on food bank charities. Instead of being paid to mothers, child benefit is now included in a single payment to households, effectively transferring millions of payments to men and enabling sharp rises in domestic violence, while the value of this crucial benefit has been cut by 30% in 12 years and the ‘two-child limit’ introduced in 2017 has deprived three-child families of £3,000 a year. Disability benefits have been massacred in a multitude of ways: so-called ‘work capability assessments’ make recognition of disabled status impossibly tough to be granted; the abolition of the severe disability premium has deprived disabled people living on their own of £60 a week; the employment & support allowance for working disabled people has been reduced by £30 a week; and cuts to council budgets have brought about big hikes in charges for social care. The result is that 40% of people with disabilities in the UK – 4 million adults and 300,000 children – live in poverty: the highest percentage in the developed world. On top of all this, billionaire chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak summarily ended the universal credit ‘uplift’ introduced at the start of the pandemic, pushing another 900,000 into poverty, and, with inflation surging ever-higher past 10%, annual benefit uprating this year was a derisory 3%. There is no welfare state any more; there is no safety-net any more; there is no such thing as society any more – the Tories have made sure of that.

Care of the vulnerable – the old, the mentally ill and children – is being stealthily dismantled. Old people’s homes, children’s homes and homes for the long-term disabled have been gradually shifted into the profit-hungry private sector, with predictably appalling consequences. Care has been turned into a ‘market’ and the private equity vultures have moved in to pursue easy profits as Councils have been forced to ditch their responsibilities in response to budget reductions of a staggering 80% in the last decade. A critical shortage of care homes has resulted, giving the profiteers carte blanche to move in for the kill. Standards are cut to the bone in a race to the bottom and inspectors over and over again report serious failings and inadequacies. The private equity providers, frequently based in offshore tax havens, don’t give a damn; they make extremely high profits, funded by the public purse, out of their captive, needy customer base and when their cowboy operations are forced to close having been condemned as dangerously unsuitable, understaffed environments they simply shut up shop, abandon their helpless residents and form a new shell company with a different name to ruthlessly exploit, rip-off and mistreat the weakest in society somewhere else.

Essential services that within recent memory ran smoothly and efficiently are in chaos – and Johnson’s avowed intention to cut a massive 90,000 civil service jobs, the better to ‘shrink the state’ and bestow tax cuts on the super-rich, reward well-off Tory voters and pay back Tory donors, will more or less wipe out the husk that’s left. After 12 years of public sector wage freezes and deep pay cuts, the simplest tasks are now beyond the rotten UK state: it takes months to get a passport if you’re lucky; the DVLA barely functions; attempting to contact HMRC is futile; border controls are a farrago of hostile bureaucracy and ineptitude; the prison system is a by-word for under-staffing, corruption, cruelty and despair with unmanageable overcrowding, record suicide numbers and an abandonment of any attempt at rehabilitation; schools cry out for teachers and equipment; roads are pitted with potholes; environmental protection is a farce as unregulated privatised water companies pump raw sewage into rivers and seas, air quality breaches minimum standards, rapacious developers concrete over the countryside, and agribusiness decimates biodiversity with chemical poisons. As for the Tories’ beloved private sector, cossetted and privileged for decades, if anything it performs even worse, especially as the profit motive is brazenly predicated on theft without even a pretence of service. Just look at the energy industry, another disastrous Thatcher privatisation, where 28 companies have collapsed in the last year while the survivors make vast profits on soaring prices and bills have doubled with more astronomical increases to come. Thousands will die of cold this winter in the world’s 5th richest country: a policy failure of mindboggling enormity. Transport is another case in point: outside of London, public transport has shrivelled almost to vanishing point; freight lorries sit in queues in Kent for days on end; crossing by boat to continental Europe means queuing all day; catching a plane means queuing all day and night; and the quasi-public rail network is in mayhem thanks to vicious pay cuts and attacks on working conditions as the Tories refuse to implement a pay-rise for these key workers to match inflation that would cost £10billion when Sunak has £40billion war-chest set aside for pre-election tax cuts and the pay of the FT Share index’s top 350 chief executives alone would cover the sum easily. As for the housing market, the very epitome of free-market capitalism in action, it is an unmitigated disaster that benefits only landlords, second-home owners, speculative developers and spivs. What kind of housing system delivers an average price (£290,000) that is nearly 10 times average income (£30,000) and unaffordable to 90% of the population? What kind of housing system forces 33% of people into the private rental sector (a figure that has tripled in 25 years) where the average rent is £15,000 a year (a figure that has quadrupled in the same period), meaning lives of constant insecurity, transience and poverty and the destruction of communities and neighbourhoods? And what kind of housing system manages to deliver at least 2,000,000 homeless people? This is probably an underestimate, since it doesn’t take into account all those who improvise a bed from day to day. The government doesn’t keep statistics, surprise surprise, so one must extrapolate from the figures of charities, devolved administrations, local authorities, social workers, youth services and campaign groups. The UK, rolling in the plundered wealth of the biggest empire in history, is a country so sick to its corrupt core that one person in every 30 cannot attain that most basic of human rights, a roof over their head.

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The Tories are the definition of the ‘ruling class’ – they’ve been at it for 350 years, longer than any other power bloc on the planet. In the UK’s entirely undemocratic electoral system, they only ever need the votes of 30% of the population to retain power – and that is achieved by buying off already wealthy property owners with a perpetual escalator of increasing asset value that disadvantages everyone else, and combining those numbers with know-nothing useful idiots brainwashed by the far-right bombardment of the mass media that acts as the press office of the Conservative Party. And, just in case their grip on power should be threatened, they are: suppressing voting rights by introducing ID checks that will disenfranchise an estimated 2 million people, effectively abolishing the independent Electoral Commission watchdog, turning the supposedly impartial BBC into a Tory mouthpiece run by rightwing ideologues, privatising the public service voice and values of Channel 4, stuffing public bodies with Tory acolytes, attacking and undermining the differing political perspectives and very existence of the devolved nations, banning critiques of Britain’s historical record of appalling violence, landgrab, theft and warmongering, abolishing human rights law, and outlawing dissent, protest and opposition itself. Meanwhile they routinely break UK laws they made themselves, disregard ministerial codes of conduct, ignore ethics advisers and long-established standards of public life, quash any independent scrutiny of their actions, and repeatedly breach international law with breathtaking arrogance, duplicity and contempt. They are criminals without shame. They believe only in their own preservation – and under the tyrant Johnson it is quite clear they will stop at nothing to maintain themselves in power.

Far from being the ‘party of law and order’, the Conservative Party in fact was always the party of chaos. A grotesque, hooray-henry hooligan mediocrity like Johnson just exposes them for what they ever were: bringers of catastrophe and disintegration in order to supply lucrative opportunities in the resulting avalanche of shock and destruction. In the rubble of crisis, climate emergency, economic volatility, fortified borders, political polarisation, incipient fascism, surveillance capitalism, culture wars, a militarised police force, ecological carnage and psychological agony, these terrible British bastards are in their element. If you don’t feel despair you are unconscious. If you don’t fight back you are the problem.