I wonder if power has ever gone to a person's head quite as quickly as it has gone to Theresa May's head? It actually beggars belief. In a few short months we have watched the backroom girl morph into a bug eyed ego maniac. Yesterday saw our leader banging out her stump speech in front of a backdrop of banners announcing 'Theresa May's Team'. Fair enough the background colour was blue, but there was barely a mention of the word 'Conservative'. We used to worry about Tony Blair getting a bit too Presidential!
As far as the media is concerned, the sight of the Prime Minister dodging up and down the country repeating 'strong and stable' over and over and over again to pitiful groups of party hacks is something to be wondered at. Can you remember a leader who has managed to make so much out of doing absolutely nothing? I can't. Oh, she's put in a lot of mirror time working on her Maggie Thatcher look and she has become number one in the world when it comes to parroting out inane sound bites.
Over and over and over again.
Brexit means Brexit. Brexit means Brexit. Brexit means......
Strong and stable. Strong and stable. Strong and ......
Pretty Polly. Pretty Polly. Pretty Polly.......
I mean, for Christ's bloody sake!
As far as I can see, apart from rubbing up the rest of Europe the wrong way, May has only tried to do do two actual things in a year's worth of being strong and stable: create 20 grammar schools and make a modest change to National Insurance. In both cases a tiny amount of opposition was plenty enough to send her running for the hills screaming like a spoilt child denied sweets. Oh, and then she did a screeching U turn on both. So much for strong and stable. More like weak and completely bloody pathetic.
Much has been made of Theresa May the modern day Maggie Thatcher. Well to paraphrase some words from a Vice Presidential debate of a few years ago - I remember Maggie Thatcher, Maggie Thatcher was an enemy of mine, you ain't no Maggie Thatcher.
Back in the early Eighties Thatcher decided to cut costs. And she cut costs. Big time. This bunch of clowns have been talking tough about their determined austerity drive for seven years now. Vote for us! We are the grown ups. We are the ones with the back bone to cut costs and balance the books. We're the tough guys carefully reared by the public school system to do the very best for this wonderful United Kingdom we all share. Strong and stable!!!!
Well the press certainly seem to buy it. But there has been a teensy weensy problem nobody seems to want to talk about. There has been NO bloody austerity. Every year since 2017 the Tories have spent more and more to the tune of seven hundred billion quid. Think about it. You start out with twenty grand on your credit cards and make a vow to count every penny and cut out every household expense possible. And for seven years you live off own brand and never do more than sixty on the motorway and change every light bulb in the house to low energy. I mean you really give it your best shot. You're as strong and stable as you can be. How would you look if after eighty four consecutive months of belt tightening you checked out the credit card statements to discover they added up to forty grand? Like a complete incompetent idiot, that's how you'd look. And you know what? That is exactly what you would be. A complete incompetent idiot.
But it seems nobody cares much if the Tories double the national debt whilst taking the country down the fast track to the Third World. At least when Maggie screwed the poor she actually managed to save a few quid. This lot have managed to make a misery out of millions of lives whilst at the same time splashing the cash like never before. Even in the two world wars of the last century we didn't manage to actually double the national debt. These clowns truly are in a class of their own.
So how on earth has it happened? I mean, there is no doubt the strong and stable brigade have definitely hammered the poor within an inch of their lives. Millions and millions of them. To find the answer to this conundrum maybe the best place to look is at the counter of a food bank.
Let's check out three case studies from yesterday. Three slow motion nightmares in this strong and stable land of ours. As ever, all names are changed.
First in was Uriah. I'm calling him Uriah because there was something truly Dickensian about this lad. It was wall to wall sunny outside but his bean pole frame was wrapped from head to toe. Long mousy hair hung out of a woolly hat. His jacket was zipped all the way up.
He hung back from the counter and eyed me with suspicion.
Food parcel mate?
Has someone sent you?
And then he opened up. A long and rambling and more or less incoherent tale of woe. I guess it took me about two minutes of listening to realise Uriah was well and truly away with the fairies. He jumped from one thing to another like a grasshopper on crystal meth. I had to make my mind race to collect the salient facts and arrange them into some kind of order. No family. Autism. Lots of different meds for lots of mental mayhem. And once upon a time when he had first emerged from the care system, things had been OK because he had been getting £200 a week. But then last year they had sectioned him for a few weeks and when he was released back into the community he didn't get any money at all. Nothing for six months.
And then he got onto his 'peace' thing. The concept of 'peace' was really rattling his brain like a busted up car going way too fast down a rutted farm track. He had stomped into the Job Centre to rail about getting no money. And the people in the Job Centre told him he needed to leave or else they would call the police. He kept on with his rant and they called the police and the Sheriff deemed he had committed a breach of the peace and duly sent him to jail without passing 'Go.'
But how could this be? The 'peace' as he knew it was getting no money for six months. So if that was the 'peace', then how could it be a crime to breach it? What kind of 'peace' was it when all was said and done? And what at the end of the day were Justices of the Peace all about?
His solution to this messed up puzzle was to sit on the pavement outside the Homeless Department to beg and engage passers by with his theory about the word 'peace.'
No doubt the police will keep getting calls and no doubt they will keep picking him up and putting him a cell and wondering what on earth to do with him. Eventually an exasperated sheriff will pack him off to jail again. And Uriah will behave himself inside because he is absolutely as nice as ninepence and as a harmless a human being as you are ever going to meet.
And so it will be for years and years to come because we have a strong and stable government who have deemed it clever to find the right kind of small print to make it all but impossible for the likes of Uriah to get their hands on any benefits.
And how will this look on the accounts ledger of UK Plc? A bloody catastrophe, that's how. A mix of police time, custody time, criminal justice social work time, legal aid lawyer time, jail time and NHS time will turn Uriah into a long term £25,000 a year citizen. The next twenty years will set the tax payer back the thick end of half a million. And why? because a bunch of idiots in Whitehall reckon it's a clever idea to deprive Uriah of his benefits. In the name of austerity!
The next time he is in I will try to persuade him to have a go at selling the Big Issue. I reckon his Dickensian charm will work wonders. With a following wind he will earn enough to keep his body and soul together and the police will not be required to keep lifting him. Maybe. Hopefully.
Next up a dad with three grown up lads with mental health problems ranging from severe to chronic. And dad was hardly a picture of health himself. He had the look of a man back in the world after six months in Dachau. Pale. Rake thin. Bent. Heavy on his walking stick. For years his GP had diagnosed him to be too ill to work, but now he had been given a miracle cure care of the Department of Work and Pensions and deemed to be as fit as a flea. He dumped an impressive pile of paperwork down on the counter which represented his appeal. Oh the joys of appealing to the DWP. The sprawling, labyrinthine, Kafkaesque nightmare of appealing to the DWP. Months and months and paper and paper and all the while a busted up family of four is expected to get by on fifty quid a week. Aye right.
And it doesn't take an Einstein to see where this tale of woe is headed. The Dad's already fractured health will completely fail as stress takes its inevitable toll. And then? Then it will be the hospital for dad and the three lads will have to taken into some kind of long term care.
The cost? Oh now we're talking. Now we get into the really big numbers. Three lads in permanent care? Oooof. We're looking at a minimum of a hundred grand a year plus the NHS bill to keep dad breathing. A million quid over the next decade all because the clowns have decided it's clever to tell sick people they ain't sick after all.
And then there was Kate. A voice on the phone, almost gagging with the shame and embarrassment of making the call. Because she never in a million years thought she would have to make the call. I told her our opening hours and she told me she was so riddled with arthritis she couldn't carry a bag of sugar let alone a bag of food.
No problem. Don't worry. I'll drop it off.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Too many thank you's.
I found her place a couple of hours later. I carried the bags into the spic and span kitchen whilst the sun poured in through the window. She sat and said how sorry she was and how ashamed she was and how she couldn't get her head around how her life had come to this. And within about a minute tears were pouring down her cheeks.
She told me she had been a social worker for twenty years until a variety of long term illnesses had forced her to give up work. As far as her GP is concerned, she is a very ill woman. As far as the DWP are concerned, she is fighting fit. So she is trying to get accepted for ESA and the DWP keeps on telling her to go jump in the lake. And of course every time she tries to get onto ESA, things go pear shaped and her benefits don't land. Which means her direct debit payments bounce which means all kinds of penalty charges. From the gas, from the electricity, from the Council Tax, from the phone company. It means there are several non negotiable deductions from her £65 which leave her with £53 a week. And the power company are demanding £35 which leaves her with £18.
Which isn't enough. It isn't even close to being enough. So for ten days she tried to get by on a 20p pack of noodles a day. When she saw her GP to get her sick line renewed, he had a duck fit on her. What on earth did she think she was playing at? Did she want to add malnutrition to her collection of ailments? He basically gave her a three line whip and insisted she really, really needed to swallow her pride and call First Base.
She swallowed her pride.
She called First Base.
And so here I was standing in her pristine kitchen whilst her frail body shook and the tears poured. I told her I would be round once a week and I told her there was nothing to be ashamed about and it didn't make a jot of difference.
And she made a really, really good point. At least once a month the social services call her up to pretty well beg her to come back to work because they are stretched to breaking point. And every month she has to tell them she would love to come back to work because she really, really misses work. And why on earth would she choose to eke out a miserable, desperate existence on £60 a week when she can earn £500 doing a job she loves and misses? Why on earth indeed.
And now? Same old, same old. her health with fail big time and it will cost more and more for the NHS to keep her breathing. £200,000 over the next five years or so? Probably. And when a ambulance comes for her, there will be no DWP lackeys to tell her she isn't sick.
So there you go. In the course of a few hours here were three cases where so called austerity had sent people right down to rock bottom. And over the coming years we will all have to shell out the thick end of two million quid to pick up the pieces. This is how the clowns in Whitehall have managed to double the national debt whilst completely screwing millions of vulnerable people. This is why these clowns will double the national debt again over the next seven years in the name of being strong and stable.
And the fawning media will cheer them every step of the way. You really couldn't make it up.