Monday, 15 April 2013

The Coalition, the rich, the poor and the Bible

The day after the Coalition’s formation in May 2010, I sent an email to some friends saying that the Coalition was going to adopt a biblical verse as their slogan. I said it was from the New Testament - Matthew 13:12.

When people looked up the reference they found it read: -
“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance:   
 but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.” 

It was, back then, meant as a joke.

Almost three years on, the sentiments in the biblical verse are not a joke any more. In this month alone, the Coalition has shown conspicuous generosity to those who are already very rich. The richest 1% of taxpayers have had very substantial tax cuts - 13,000 of them are to benefit by more than £100,000 annually. The Queen, one of the richest people in the world, has had a £6 million annual pay rise from the taxpayer. Millions of pounds of public money will be spent on the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, without there even having been a parliamentary vote. 

When challenged on the cost of the Thatcher funeral, William Hague said that the country could “well afford it”. It can also well afford to treat its poorest and most vulnerable with decency and compassion.

The depredations visited on the poor increase daily. The welfare bill is being cut more drastically than at any time since the 1920s. The government justifies its actions by a cynical mantra. They say that the way out of poverty is to get a job but they ignore the facts that     a) most people in poverty are already in jobs on very low wages and  b) many affected - such as all children and some of the disabled - are not capable of work and c) in many parts of the country there are no jobs available.

Meanwhile the Coalition and its media allies suggest that the poor deserve their poverty and the rich deserve their wealth. The most cursory examination into the causes of poverty and wealth in the UK would reveal that this is a myth. For most people, it is the luck of the circumstances of their birth which is by far the greatest determinant of their likely future income – not their virtues or vices or how hard they work. The hardest working group in any society is the working poor.

The bedroom tax is one of the cruellest of all the Coalition’s reforms. The Department of Work and Pensions’ own impact assessment shows that 63% of those affected are disabled, out of which 17,000 are blind. Many will be forced to leave properties which have had expensive adaptations made specifically to help them. It is highly doubtful if this ill-thought out policy will even end up saving any money.

Since 2010, there have been dramatic rises in homelessness and in the use of food banks, the 21st century’s soup kitchens. There has even been a sharp rise in pauper’s funerals, leading an academic quoted in the Telegraph to say –“it is becoming too expensive for poor people to die.”

Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will soon take place in St Paul’s. The symbolism is powerful. She is the political godmother of the Coalition’s policies towards the rich and the poor. St Paul’s was the site of the Occupy protest in 2011 and 2012. Occupy asked the Church the pertinent question “what would Jesus do” in the face of the greed of the rich and the suffering of the poor. In the end, the Church sided with the rich and powerful.

Thatcher made little pretence of caring for the poor. She attacked those who criticised her record on welfare as “people who drool and drivel”

She even declared, startlingly, that the moral of the story of the Good Samaritan was that it was important to make money in the first place. For centuries, bible study teachers have taught that the moral was that we all owe duties one to another. As, indeed, we do if we are to consider ourselves a civilised and decent society. 

Will someone read from Matthew 7:12 at Thatcher’s funeral? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  

Or would that be considered too controversial in the circumstances?
                                                                                                No. 300

No comments:

Post a Comment