Butchering the Poor, the Ill, the Weak, the Dispossessed and the Marginalized: Welcome to Cameron and Osborne’s Heartless Britain


For those who think the new coalition government’s much-vaunted promise of “fairness” means using the deficit triggered in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as an excuse to destroy the welfare state, and to take an axe to the State in general, George Osborne’s unprecedented assault on the poor in yesterday’s spending review will have come as welcome news.

Personally, however, I feel both sick and wretchedly angry that a party that didn’t even win a mandate in May’s General Election — and is propped up by the suicidal Liberal Democrats — has gone much further than promised in its manifesto, and is using the deficit as an excuse to undertake a malignant ideological transformation of the UK into a more divided nation than at any time since the Victorians.

The alarm bells rang early, when the Butchers of the Bullingdon Club demonstrated a worryingly gleeful enthusiasm for launching an assault on the unemployed at the same time as promising horrendous job losses — 490,000 public sector jobs, according to the government’s own estimates, with an equal number of losses expected in private sector companies reliant on the public sector.

Not only is this butchery likely to backfire, reducing tax receipts still further, requiring government assistance to the dispossessed, and risking a dreaded “double-dip” recession, but lacking in any of it is a realistic proposal of where the government’s promised 2.5 million new private sector jobs, to replace the million jobs lost, will actually come from. Back in 1979, Margaret Thatcher at least had a vision — however bitter — of how to crush workers while embarking on wholesale privatization and removing regulation for those driven by greed. The much-touted “trickle-down effect” never materialized, of course, and communities — and the sense of community — were destroyed, paving the way for our current dystopia of selfishness and self-absorption, but at least there was a plan.

Now that Thatcher’s revolution has turned full circle, and the banking sector has shown what unfettered greed means, taking down whole economies with its unprecedented short-termism and insatiable greed, we have run out of miracles. The message of Cameron and Osborne — backed up by Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander and all the other LibDems who have bought into this malignant ideology — is relentlessly negative. Far from being saviours of any kind, they comprise the harshest and least inspiring government in living memory, with job creation unimaginable while all the Western economies suffer, when consumer confidence has no reason to recover, and while the banking sector has been free to resume its deadly intrigues, and is planning a new wave of huge bonuses for its most energetic thieves.

The launch of attacks on welfare at the same time as promising swingeing job losses is a combination of factors that, if compassion were not in such short supply, would be regarded as unprecedentedly cruel. In a kinder world, politicians can only really justify an assault on the poor at a time of maximum employment, and need to protect the unemployed during the fragile years of a serious and ongoing economic crisis.

However, by tapping into the baser instincts of today’s citizens (for whom compassion and empathy appear to be alien concepts), Cameron and Osborne have, to date, successfully sold a deeply unpleasant narrative of modern life, in which workshy scroungers can be blamed for all of society’s ills, and everyone can overlook the fact that those at the bottom of society actually include large numbers of the ill and the vulnerable. The sheer scale of the assault beggars belief. Slashing benefits for those with mental or physical disabilities, capping housing benefit as though it were those claiming the benefit — and not the landlords — who are to blame for extortionate rents, and proposing a tripling of rents for new social housing tenants are just part of the torrent of abuse flowing from the Exchequer.

To sweeten the pill for those whose hearts have not yet turned to ice, George Osborne pretends that the pocket money skimmed off the rich, in capping child benefit for those in the highest tax bracket, somehow compensates for this disproportionate assault on the poor, but no one should be fooled. By some alchemical sleight of hand that has not yet been explained, Osborne claimed yesterday that cutting child benefit from the rich would save £2.5 bn rather than £1 bn, as previously stated, but even if this is the case, it pales in comparison to the £7 bn welfare cut, added yesterday to the £11 bn cut to the welfare budget that was announced in June.

If the Chancellor was really interested in “fairness,” he could have cut further universal benefits — child benefits for the over-16s, and, as Mark Littlewood explained in the Guardian, “stopping elderly, affluent people from receiving free bus passes, winter fuel payments and free TV licences.” As it is, however, the middle classes have only been mildly inconvenienced (except, of course, for those who face losing their jobs), and the poor, the ill, the weak, the dispossessed and the marginalized have been hit the hardest.

I hope that this injustice will be a step too far, and that people will realize, in significant numbers, that resistance is required. On a personal level, we need to discover compassion and empathy, and if we can embrace the bigger picture we need to challenge the shameful manipulation involved in the Tories’ hatred of the State, to point out who caused this crisis in the first place, and to set our sights on the City, and on corporate boardrooms, asking why the poorest people are losing money that they can ill afford to lose, when so many of the wealthiest still pay nothing at all.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

20 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention Butchering the Poor, the Ill, the Weak, the Dispossessed and the Marginalized: Welcome to Cameron and Osborne’s Heartless Britain | Andy Worthington -- Topsy.com says...

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dominique Rodier, Andy Worthington. Andy Worthington said: Butchering the Poor, the Ill, the Weak, the Dispossessed: Welcome to Cameron and Osborne’s Heartless Britain: http://bit.ly/dxkn0h […]

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Ann Alexander wrote:

    Well said, Andy. Your article should be front page in the Guardian.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Hélène Lomenech wrote:

    Indeed these two make a right nasty pair!!!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    L’hadi Bendebka wrote:

    i like your works even if the “police” here don’t let me read them!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Mari Luz Bodacia wrote:

    yeah and even at that the u.s. naturally had a hissy fit over the u.k. 25% defence reduction. complaining about their special friends of nato being weakened. loool!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Glass Thimble wrote:

    The simple maths that 18 billion is a huge proportion of the 81 billion this ‘Fair’ – sorry struggling to find a reasonable language here – the higher income families will contribute 2.5 of the 18 billion + I am meant to believe they are paying proportionally more than the poorest in our society?!? we once upon a time lived in a country proud to stand up collectively and say no to blatant miss use of powers in the form of civil demonstration, that was before thatcher scared the hell out of us by legalislating to prevent us exercising this collective right + Blair outrageously disregarded the last big public outcry against going into an illegal war… if there was any where else to go in the world

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. That would be nice, wouldn’t it, Ann?!?
    And L’hadi, is it the “police” or are you using Explorer 7? Most access problems seem to have stemmed from that (you can upgrade to Explorer 8 to solve it), although there may be censorship issues too.

  8. Sabine K McNeill says...

    Dear Andy

    Maybe the magic of trackbacking will reveal that I’ve just linked to your EXCELLENT article and remarkable blog-site!!!

    I just wonder how you can stand the pain of Guantanamo!…

    I’ve been feeling helpless and powerless hearing stories from victims of financial exploitation and legal oppression – one by one – as organised white collar crime.

    Cameron wants to ‘take it as seriously as any other crime’, but when and how as he’s cracking down more and more???

    Let’s hope the Coalition of Resistance will deliver what it promises!

    Yours most likemindedly,

  9. Paul says...

    It is interesting that you mention lack of compassion and empathy. This poisionous thread, trailing right back to Thatcher, was picked up by George Monbiot in a recent article:


  10. Norwegian Shooter says...

    Wow, this makes me actually feel not so bad about America. At least until the GOP takes over the House.

  11. Macca43 says...

    Channel 4 news report that two-thirds of the population support the welfare-slashing measures. How many even know what they are, or are they ever fooled by the mantra that ‘those in genuine need will be protected’. A country full of zombies.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Macca. Zombies indeed — or hateful lost people looking for scapegoats.

  13. Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology — and Praise for UK Uncut « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] October, when George Osborne announced the government’s comprehensive spending review, gleefully cutting £81 bn of spending over the next four years, students, schoolchildren and university staff immediately responded to […]

  14. The Year of Revolution: The War on Tyranny Replaces the War on Terror « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] just spawned a rapidly spreading offshoot in the US — indicates that the British government’s vile, ideological assault on the British people (with the exception of the rich and the super-rich) is likely to meet with […]

  15. Brutal UK Benefit Cuts For Disabled Leading To Suicides - OpEd says...

    […] reform, and my despair at my fellow citizens, see the following articles that I wrote last year: Butchering the Poor, the Ill, the Weak, the Dispossessed and the Marginalized: Welcome to Cameron an…, Critics Attack UK Government’s Cruel and Ill-Conceived Assault on Welfare, The Cruelty and […]

  16. Andy Worthington’s Blog: ‘Brutal Benefit Cuts for the Disabled Are Leading to Suicides in the UK’ | Black Triangle Campaign says...

    […] reform, and my despair at my fellow citizens, see the following articles that I wrote last year: Butchering the Poor, the Ill, the Weak, the Dispossessed and the Marginalized: Welcome to Cameron an…, Critics Attack UK Government’s Cruel and Ill-Conceived Assault on Welfare, The Cruelty and […]

  17. The UK “Riots” And Why The Disproportionate Response Made Me Ashamed To Be British - OpEd says...

    […] failing to secure a majority of the votes cast in the general election, the Tories, led by the horribly arrogant but totally inexperienced Etonian double-act of David Cameron and George Osborne, formed a coalition with the Liberal […]

  18. The UK “Riots” And Why The Disproportionate Response Made Me Ashamed To Be British – OpEd | | The London RiotsThe London Riots says...

    […] failing to secure a majority of the votes cast in the general election, the Tories, led by the horribly arrogant but totally inexperienced Etonian double-act of David Cameron and George Osborne, formed a coalition with the Liberal […]

  19. Sue says...

    Andy please carry on this good work l think you are doing a fantastic job and deserve a medal. Its good to find the disabled particularly have a champion. Along with the other good causes that you are fighting as well. Don’t give up!

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sue. I will certainly keep on trying to draw attention to the undeserving victims of the Tory-led government’s cruelty. I’m near the end of a two-week holiday in Italy, which has been a welcome break from the anger that is part of any sentient person’s existence in the UK these days, but will be agitating for the necessity of compassion on my return.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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