I try not to pay too much attention to the ideas and policies that are brewing in Whitehall. I fear for my mental health if I did, dashed as it would be against the twin imposing cliffs of this administration: the utter malignancy of their intentions on one side and, on the other, their delirious inability even to sit on a toilet the right way round. Obviously the crazy
will sluice down to the Lords at some point in the form of legislation, but for now the decks have been cleared in the upper House in expectation of a year spent banging on almost exclusively about reform of themselves. Occasionally, though, I do up-periscope and have a peek, listening with a shudder to the shrieks and curses echoing around the Cenotaph.
Oh look, here's a health minister implying that poorer average health in the north of the country isn't the result of a long history of industrial labour in the region but is due solely to people who live there simply being feckless and unwilling to take care of themselves
. She's doing more than merely reinforcing everyone's suppositions about the kind of person who lives in Guildford; in fact she's softening the ground for a wholesale abandonment of the universal principle of the NHS and its replacement, at least in the short term, with a moral thermometer
. (Remember how ZaNuLabLiOrz or whatever was accused of “nannying” us by encouraging us to exercise? That was nothing
next to this shit.) This has long been a dream of some Tories—a tax on those with the bad taste to get fat or sick from overindulging in working-class pastimes rather than expensive ones—and after the past two years I can't even be arsed to raise an eyebrow at the sight of the Lib Dems signing up to it as well.
The final stage envisioned for what was once the NHS can be perceived in this next development. Nick Clegg's pledge for more “social mobility” has come a step closer to being a reality with the news that university tuition fees will be made cheaper for the wealthy who can pay up front
. After all, a fast track and an easier ride for the wealthier is the natural endpoint
once you have discarded the notion of universal access. Incidentally, Clegg himself must be very proud that his main legacy from his time in office will be the new definition of “pledge”, understood by many who were first-time voters at the last election, as “hopeless drivel”.
And the proposals to “tighten up” freedom of information laws intend to introduce a crucial change: the activities of the Royal Family will in future be exempted from any FOI requests
, be they about the spending of government money, family members' diplomatic adventures with serial human rights abusers or indeed Prince Charles's incessant attempts
to meddle with government policy.
Meanwhile, the right wing continue to be weirdly furious about everything, apparently not having noticed that they are in power and winning. Amid the frothing you can just make out that they blame their Lib Dem coalition partners for not having made foreigners illegal yet or having abolished all public services, but their impatience merely reveals that they haven't quite appreciated their situation. A country that embraced and admired the creation of the welfare state—in a time of austerity when the country had no money, yet—is never going to take to its heart an aristocratic-tinged Tea Party, no matter how many flags got waved around and drenched over the jubilee, nor any moves to restrict abortion or indeed women in general. The right, in their fury, are behaving like an invading army—they don't just want to occupy the territory, they want to be embraced, even loved
. And, like many before them, they are going to have to learn that things just don't work out like that for invading armies. Witness for a start the popular revulsion at what, purely in terms of numbers, was quite a tiny example of what workfare can mean
. In the short term, the right can easily implement Project Rewind with no meaningful opposition and return us to 19th-century industrialisation (“it's unfortunate that the word 'poorhouse' has so many negative connotations”, “left-wingers always flinch when you use the word 'indentured', but you do have to admit...”)—but they can never force us to accept it.
“But surely they won't all sign up to it...” This lady
said it best: "@MrsVB I love it when the Lib Dems threaten to revolt. This will consist of Simon Hughes making a :-( on the news, and supporting the Tories anyway