HARGEISA, 20 October 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Ahh bless. Just like us ordinary folk they just want things to improve in the UK. They, like us, understand how difficult the last two recessionary years have been on individuals and ordinary families who have been unable to fulfil their “responsibility” to provide for themselves and their families as a result of mass redundancies. They also point out that under our current one eyed, Scottish leader, Mr. Brown, Great Britain has lost its moral, economic and political direction as a result of his overspending on essential public services and his attempt to spend his way out of a recession. Britain, in order to be great once again, needs its modern, reformed, ordinary blue knights in shining armour led by David Cameron to rescue it from economic and social oblivion.
At the last Conservative party conference before the general election, David Cameron outlined his vision for Britain in a bid to win over voters with his understanding of the difficulty of the road ahead to be taken by the next government and his solutions to repairing “broken Britain”. He also went on to say that the Conservative Party he leads is no longer the nasty party of the past who are still remembered for the Poll tax, poor spending record on key Public services and mass class inequality in all spheres of life from education to employment. Mr. Cameron was determined to convince all of his audience, both in the auditorium and on television, that not only has the Conservative Party changed under his reign but it has also become what New Labour had promised to be in 1997, a CARING Party.
Addressing the thousand or so delegates who gathered in Manchester to hear his key note speech, Mr. Cameron stated that his new caring Conservative government “would “reward those who take responsibility, and care for those who can’t”. He made reference to three people who had written to him complaining about New Labour’s injustice and backwards policies that have penalised the hardworking and elderly whilst rewarding the lazy and criminals with broken families. As if to mock New Labour on its core policies and its ideological commitment to social justice, equality and fairness, Mr. Cameron went on to accuse them of betraying the very poor they promised to lift out of poverty for the last 12 years of their administration through the equivalent of a stealth tax if anybody within this group tried to escape the cycle of poverty by seeking employment. Yes, he said, he will be forced to cut public spending but he would, as soon as he could, start reinvesting in public services, unlike other Conservative Prime Ministers like Thatcher and John Major before him. In addition to this, Mr. Cameron also spoke about the reasons why he felt he was fit enough to lead Britain to better days ahead and he concluded with his vision for a Conservative Britain come next election:
“I see a country where more children grow up with security and love because family life comes first. I see a country where you choose the most important things in life – the school your child goes to and the healthcare you get. I see a country where communities govern themselves – organising local services, independent of Whitehall, a great handing back of power to people.
I see a country with entrepreneurs everywhere, bringing their ideas to life – and life to our great towns and cities. I see a country where it’s not just about the quantity of money, but the quality of life – where we lead the world in saving our planet. I see a country where you’re not so afraid to walk home alone, where you’re safe in the knowledge that right and wrong is restored to law and order. I see a country where the poorest children go to the best schools not the worst, where birth is never a barrier.”
After such a sombre speech glazed over with hope, one would be forgiven for falling for Cameron’s charm and common sense approach to tackling Britain’s huge economic deficit and many social problems. But have the Conservatives really changed? Can Cameron be trusted? Can choice really free individuals from poverty and extensive control from big government? Despite his dreamy, utopian Britain, one must ask, what does Mr. Cameron’s vision for a conservative Britain mean for the Somali community and the new immigrant communities in the UK?
For some, Mr. Cameron’s vision will deliver great hope and prosperity especially if they are able to choose the important things in their lives such as their children’s education and healthcare. The proposed consumer choice will lead to competition within the individual markets which in turn would lead to excellence and even price wars if there are enough providers of these services. However, for most, especially the poor, lower middle classes on low incomes and immigrants who generally rely on New Labour’s large state for vital support, Mr. Cameron’s choices will bring misery as they will not be able to afford it.
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The facts are that, despite Mr. Cameron’s leadership and his attempts to change the Party, the Conservative Party in the UK is still the party of big business and the few over the masses. They still remain committed to lower taxes, repealing the European Convention on Human Rights 1998, privatization of key public services as well as educational inequality through the promotion of grammar schools and parental choice based on parent’s ability to pay for their children’s education and not the Childs ability.
Mr. Cameron’s long winded speech attacked New Labours Policy record on all fronts but despite been rich in rhetoric; his own speech was policy free. Whilst he accepted that he would have to make the difficult choices if and when he won the next general election, he made no attempt to discuss his policies, if he had any, with his audience. This was not surprising as his only policy was properly to cut, cut and further cut public spending in all areas.
Public spending is and has been crucial to the survival of the new immigrant communities such as the Somalis in the UK as it has provided for them when they were unable to provide for themselves. Most Somali and immigrant families depend on welfare support provided by government to house, feed and clothes themselves and whilst it may not be much, it has been enough to allow for a generation of Somali children to be brought up and educated to take this burden over from the State.
Whilst the Labour government spent generously on all public services such as the National Health Service, Social Housing, welfare and benefits as well as education, the Somali community and the new immigrant communities such as the Kurds of Iraq cannot rely on this level of generosity from the Conservatives. In fact, the Conservatives party has pledged to curb immigration as well as swiftly return failed asylum seekers back home to their countries. This arguably is why Mr. Cameron has been campaigning tirelessly for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 which makes it difficult for any of its signatories within the EU to send back an asylum seeker to a place where their guaranteed Human Rights could or would be breached by the receiving State. Even if they maybe lucky enough to receive asylum under the Conservatives, many vulnerable asylum seekers will receive the most minimal, if any, support at all from the government in terms of food, shelter and education for their children if Mr. Cameron manages to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with his own watered down, loop hole ravaged Bill of Rights.
Mr. Cameron sees a country full of entrepreneurs and individual and familial choices. He has made responsibility and family the centre of his vision but he has forgotten that in order for the public to take responsibility for their lives they need employment which is not available to them at present due to the recession. The future cuts in the education budget will ensure that those who want to learn the skills to enter the job market will have no choice but to stay in the benefit system because there just will not be enough funding to participate in the courses freely as most do now under New Labour. Worst still, as the education cutbacks will also be targeted at secondary and primary schools, the children of these immigrants can look forward to an educational experience and future characterised by post code lottery, privatisation, league tables and less teachers and equipments.
If Cameron does win the next general election and does as he has promised at the conference then perhaps the party he leads can shake of the nasty party image that it has nurtured over its political history. However, I do not believe that this is possible.
The fact is that Cameron and the conservatives just want to win power and will say anything to win the next election, but history tells us that despite much promise of reform over its political history the conservative party still remains the party of the few and big business. Edmund Burke the Statesman, MP and the man many historians dub the father of modern Conservatism argued that in order to conserve, the Conservatives must change and by changing its image, Cameron wants to Conserve the core values of the party he leads. These core values are public spending cuts and privatisation, both of which immigrants cannot afford.
Of course, the next Political party that wins the British elections will need to make public spending cuts in order to pay back the national debt but, whilst Labour promises to do this temporarily until the books are balanced, Mr. Cameron will not be satisfied until the Public sector is on its knees and what ever public services left operating are auctioned of to the highest private bidder.
Cameron’s Britain promises to be different but it will be a Britain characterised by inequality, social injustice and division. The choices he promises come with price tags which most ordinary people cannot afford and those most vulnerable in society will fall victims to the Conservatives misguided Darwinian social philosophy. Cameron’s Britain promises many winters of discontent for the majority in the UK, especially for the new immigrant communities such as the Somalis who cannot afford his proposed choices.
Liban Obsiye, Bristol
Views expressed in the opinion articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editorial