THE POISONOUS LEGACY OF THE TORIES

The air is now thick with Tory policy chickens coming home to roost. Day after day newsreaders intone that this or that statistic shows  the worst outcome since 2010. Life expectancy is reduced. Wages are stagnant. Inequality is rife. Food bank use has risen exponentially. And so dismally on.  It is hardly a revelation that the high flying financiers who wrecked the global economy emerged largely unscathed from the crash, whilst the poor bloody taxpayers picked up the tab. What is less often spelled out is how the incoming Conservative Government took a bad situation and made it catastrophically worse.

It's not merely that they favoured serial austerity over fiscal stimuli to create jobs and improve infrastructure.  Desperately misguided as that has proved to be, it is the additional layer of ideological fixations which has provoked so much needless misery.  There is little point in championing local autonomy for instance, if that rallying cry is accompanied by constant cutting of local authority budgets.  You can tell how well that is going by the fact that the first councils to plead bankruptcy are Tory led.

But  in truth they are simply learning the inevitable lesson that if you pare budgets back to the bone, then vital services crumble under the pressure of reduced resource.  Libraries, domiciliary health support, care homes, all the trappings of a civilised society are cut or disappear. Meanwhile, in England "free" schools are set up in areas which usually don't need them, whilst syphoning funds from local authority schools which do.  And the green light is given to new style faith schools whose primary purpose is to bring up a cohort of students who are taught there is only one true path to enlightenment.

The obsession that private provision is inherently more efficient than the public variety has merely ushered in an expensive round of damaging failures, from the hopelessly ill equipped and cost cutting agenda of the staff hired to assess disability and fitness for work, to the security firms given sway over sensitive areas like prisons,  or the wilful destruction of the English probabtion service by handing half of it over to a private company which, surprise surpise, has just thrown in the towel since it wasn't making as much profit as it hoped. Meanwhile the professionals are left to try and make good the damage.

Same story on transport where the East Coast main line's private operators also opted out and the service was brought into public control. Which worked fine, until a serial botcher of a transport secretary  decided to re-privatise. With precisely the same result and a second nationalisation. Meanwhile the marketisation of the health service has tried and failed to turn Southern GP's into commissioning businesses with the predictable stampede out of the profession by men and women who didn't spend long years of medical training to become  bureaucrats. 

And let's not forget the scandal of the implementation of universal benefits. The idea of streamlining and simplifying a complex benefits system was not of itself a bad one. What has been utterly disgraceful is the fact that this has been used as cover for wholesale cuts. What kind of government takes money from the meagre budgets of the disabled including removing thousands of adapted vehicles from users?  What malign mind thought it acceptable to remove child benefit for third or fourth children - or suggest that if an "extra" child were the rsesult of rape they should tell the agency?  Or dreamt up the iniquitous "bedroom tax". 

It doesn't help that so many high profile Tories are  insulated from reality. Universal benefits architect Iain Duncan Smith will not be liable for bedroom tax on his stately pad located on his father in law's estate.  The languid Jacob Rees Mogg - the chap who thinks food banks are merely an indication of community spirit - is so sure that Brexit is good for us that he's moved some of his wealth fund to Dublin. And, not at all incidentally, picked up hundreds of thousands of pounds for the maintenance of his wife's historic home.

When Theresa May took over from "Dave" she pledged to help the just about managing. Here's a news flash PM. The just about managing have just about gone under. The new poverty statistics tell us that it's the working poor and their children who are suffering the most from your policies. So much for employment as a surefire route  out of trouble.  Inadequate wages, zero hour contracts, cuts to working tax credits, and a benefits system which will literally take food our of your children's mouths if you earn more than 7 grand and lose free school meals, all put paid to that Tory fantasy.

There is spare cash around of course.  If you want to build a high speed vanity project to shave a few minutes off uour journey from London to the Midlands.  If you want to give the nod to a Crossrail project in London which has just announced a £600m over-run on a many billions project and a year's delay.  If you want to bribe some Northern Ireland politicans with neanderthal instincts on social justice to keep you in power when you botch an election.  But there is no cash for compassion. Or basic decency and dignity for disabled citizens.

And on top of all of that we have Brexit - a monumental folly pursued for no higher purpose than to keep the dottier elements of the Tory right from sinking the Conservative ship. No price is too high apparently to keep the Tory show on the road - not even the implosion of the economy and the loss of our European partnerships.  Meanwhile there are so many casualties from the cabinet that the group snap of the class of 2010 begins to look like one of these Soviet numbers where all the dissidents/failures have been airbrushed out.

At the upcoming Conservative Party Conference we can be reasonably sure no lettering will fall of the backdrop this time.  But the wheels have come off just about everything else.