Without getting too philosophical, the state of the UK in 2015 must surely have us questioning what the purpose of government is.
On the world stage we are relatively lucky when it comes to politics. We have democratic elections, without mandatory voting, resulting in a turnout of approximately 75% since World War II. First Past The Post may not be the most ideal system for deciding who the next Prime Minister should be, but it still tends to work out that the party with the most votes ends up governing for the next term.
And so it is with this clarity in politics that leads us to the confounding state of the nation. We do not live under dictatorial rule – the ruling government could lose their jobs for a generation if the electorate see them as unfit for work (the irony). The Liberal Democracts were punished in the 2015 general election because of what was seen to be a betrayal of the millions who voted for them as an alternative to the establishment. Voters were not satisfied with what the Lib Dems did with their relative success in 2010, and that was clear by the way they voted in following elections.
So millions are left scratching their heads at how a Conservative government can win a majority after their actions of the last five years. There is a long list of would-be death knells for a government on their CV, from the tuition fee hike in 2012, to the complete absence of empathy towards those in Calais and migrants / asylum seekers generally. It is just about acceptable to brand these actions as small-c conservative. It is not surprising that a right-wing government is hesitant towards any type of immigration, nor is it a shock that they injected more classism into the country’s education system.
Not to mention, fake ‘real life’ accounts about experiences with the DWP
But if a government’s role is to represent and protect the people of its country, then the recent report regarding the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) finds the Conservative party to be failing on every count.
Fit to work
The Guardian reports that 2,380 people died in a period of just over two years within fourteen days of being taken off employment and support allowance (ESA) because they had been found fit to work by a work capability assessment (WCA).
For whatever reason, the article urges caution, as there is no scientific proof of this being a case of cause and effect. This is not so much a refusal to call a spade a spade as it is failing to acknowledge a spade even exists. These revelations are so huge that the lack of journalism damning what is happening to the vulnerable in our society is as much a part of the problem as the policies themselves.
If the government exists to protect its people then a report stating that thousands have died after being declared fit for work is a sign that the government itself is not fit for work. Worse still, a refusal to acknowledge these failings with an apology is at best delusional, and at worst a sign that the Conservative party would rather kill off the vulnerable than spend money on making their lives as bearable as possible. An apology is the absolute minimum of what we should ask for – the ideal situation is an entire overhaul of how we approach the inability, not refusal, to work in this country.
Difficulty proving disability
Disability is something we realise how little we know about the more we actually learn. Physical illnesses manifest themselves in many ways, and the bedroom tax has claimed its own victims by asking people with disabilities to pay the tax for rooms that have been altered for their medical needs. Mental health is much more difficult to label and treat. Someone with depression may not be able to leave their home to attempt work, but how do you prove this? I sympathise with those who are tasked with finding a very small number of people who cheat the benefits system – and it is a very small number, with 0.7% of benefit claims found to be fraudulent in 2013 – but their inability to do their job properly has caused the needless deaths of thousands of people.
If the nation had more empathy, we would side with caution and not throw someone who could be at risk into an environment they are literally incapable of handling. Instead, the method appears to be that everyone is declared fit for work, and if you disagree, you can work through a lengthy appeal – indeed, during Atos’s reign at carrying out WCAs, 600,000 appeals were lodged with 40% of the original decisions being overturned. Being wrong almost half the time can not be considered anything near a success.
The optimists among us will see the removal of Atos from carrying out WCAs as a sign that the government has acknowledged its mistakes. On the contrary, how the Conservative party treats people with disabilities is just one despicable act in a long line of despicable acts. Any government and any person with empathy would monitor the 2,380 statistic as it rose and at a certain point, in the low hundreds at worst, would realise there was a massive issue with how WCAs were being carried out. At that point, all work would stop and the whole operation would be reconsidered. Instead, thousands of people died, and there is very little that says these people were anything other than targets. The tropes and stereotypes of a Conservative government say they make the rich richer and the poor poorer, but what “poor” means is wide-ranging. You may be economically penniless, but many in the UK are poor because or their health, physically and mentally. The Conservatives have made their lives poorer, and in thousands of cases, have caused their lives to end.
As if there could be more bad news to this story – it began before the 2015 general election. Despite their lack of compassion, the government managed to better their result a second time around with an outright majority. We, the people, have said we condone this by electing a murderous government. The eleven million people who voted Conservative in 2015 have very real blood on their hands.