I tend to follow the Chestonian view that “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.” Frankly the whole lot of them are so alike it would be difficult to tell them apart even though they wear different coloured ties.
Until I settled on distributism as a general political, social and economic view I suppose I was more or less a Labour supporter. That changed rather rapidly when Blair fitzThatcher took over and the astonishingly nasty Balls and Brown dark-comedy duo hit town.
Interestingly I see Fr Ray has this post with a link to this article which appeared in the Herald, and I never got around to reading. It’s a good article that explains how people like me ended up with no “politics” to speak of at all.
Some of you may remember how difficult I found it to decide how to vote at the last General Election. I knew from a tactical point I had to vote Tory, but most people of my age have a lot of memories of the Thatcher years and they aren’t good. I went to school in an area where within a couple of years of Mrs Thatcher’s attack on the unions we had a school full of kids on “free dinners” because their dad’s were suddenly out of work. Whole communities went to the wall – and frankly the Union grip didn’t seem to get any less. But I was just a kid – what did I know?
As a nurse however I saw something up close that I still think was so utterly unethical and wicked, I am amazed there was such silence on it. It was the full on attack on those who had long term serious illness.
Most people noticed that “Care in the Community” was nothing of the sort. Beds in psychiatric hospitals closed with a startling correlation on the number of people with mental illness in prison and the rise in homeless figures. Like many nurses in the ’80s I saw people who had once been patients begging on the streets.
But for me it was one patient that made me swear never to vote Tory. Let’s call him Jim. He had schizophrenia. It had not been all that well controlled and he had been in and out of hospital and sectioned more than once. Then one day out in the community he had been attacked and left with brain damage. He had been transferred to the psych from general and once his schizophrenia was controlled I had received him for rehab. By this point he had been in hospital a good number of months. He had to deal with trying to get well, and coping with the permanent damage he had been left with thanks to his attackers. (I don’t think they were ever caught).
Jim had a flat in a high-rise which he had continued to pay rent on while in hospital so he would have a home to go to. Unfortunately, his brain damage and the uncertainty of the effects this would have on his long-term mental health meant we no longer deemed it a safe place to be discharged to. Thankfully Jim had a good mother. She was getting on a bit and just about making ends meet on her state pension but she was willing to take care of her son and keep an eye out. All we needed was a change of tenancy so he could live on the ground floor and near her. SIMPLE.
However, sneakily Thatcher and her buddies had changed the benefits system. Once a seriously ill person had spent more than a year in hospital their benefits were drastically cut. No appeal. Just cut. So Jim received weekly benefits that were less than his weekly rent. This put him into rent arrears obviously and also meant he couldn’t even buy basics such as toiletries. – just at a time when hospitals were no longer helping out there either.
Like many student and qualified staff back then, we bought stuff for our patients because they wouldn’t have them otherwise.
Being in arrears meant Jim could not have a change of tenancy even with the maximum medical points that he had. In the end his mother had to try and pay off his debt out of her state pension. I can only assume she went without a great deal to do this for her son. God bless her.
At last we were able to get Jim the flat near his mother that he needed. No thanks at all to the astonishing attack on the truly vulnerable from that Tory Government.
Tony Blair was pretty dreadful and nick named “son of Thatcher” for a reason. But he did at least ensure nurses got a reasonable wage, eventually.
As a distributist I believe that families should be left with their own money so they can take care of their own and that with local funding and charity projects the truly vulnerable will be known and not slip through the enormous holes in the net we have now.
Jesus said “The poor we will have with us always,” but He never said, “So lets make the really vulnerable as poor as possible.”