Choices, Choices

My MP, James Cartlidge, recently chose to vote for cuts of £30 per week to the benefits received by sick and disabled people. My county councillor, James Finch, recently chose to vote for cuts to the fire service in Suffolk, as well as cuts to community transport, library services and childrens’ centres (and so many other local services I can’t list them all here). It’s hard to find out what my district councillor voted for recently, but last year she opted to sell off a rare vacant council house on the spurious grounds that- at 1.5 miles from the village centre – it was ‘remote’ (apparently people who need council houses don’t get to choose to live in the country).  What strikes me about all these elected people is not their enthusiasm for wielding the knife (whether socially or financially) but their continued insistence on presenting their actions as if they are immutable and inevitable.

The leader of Suffolk County Council, Cllr Colin Noble, has described their budget decisions in the letter that arrived with my council tax this week as “not ones we want to take, but have to take”. Yet their actions are far from pre-determined. They are, in fact, actions based on choices. People in government at all levels have to make choices a lot of the time – that’s what we elect them for. We don’t expect them  to be experts in everything, but we do, reasonably, expect them, as our representatives, to be able to weigh up the evidence in order to make choices on our behalf. And making choices on our behalf surely means choosing actions that will, at the very least, not harm people?  (After all it’s worth remembering that as our representatives they are supposed to act in the interests of  all of their electors, not just the ones who voted for them.) Actively choosing to harm people is so very much worse than inadvertently causing people difficulty, or not being able to make things better.

What is more, the choices made by one elected representative have a direct bearing on the choices made by another. The disabled person with less money to live on thanks to the choice made by James Cartlidge will be less able to get out of their house, and less likely to be able to access support from their local library because of the choices made by James Finch (and don’t get me started on how their health and social care is affected).  That’s an impoverished and lonely picture – with obvious knock-on effects to the people’s physical and mental health.  In sum, our elected representatives are each making choices that harm the wellbeing of people who have no choice about needing help in the first place, but without apparent consideration of the overall impact of their collective choices.

The party in control in my local council are the same ones in control of the government (this probably won’t surprise you). So in theory at least, they are freed from political difficulties and have the potential to make choices based on the impact across the system as a whole. But no, instead they each have their own set of knives AND their own chopping boards, and they appear to wield them in unconnected kitchens.

I really don’t know why it is that Conservatives are so good at presenting punishments for the elderly, infirm and disabled as necessary actions undertaken for our own good (though not for the first time I’m reminded of the bully in the school playground).  Or how they get away with pretending that there are no choices left for them to make.  But I’m pretty sure they would be the first to act differently if they found themselves on the receiving end of their own choices. And I’m very sure that if they were making choices relating to the viability of their own businesses, they’d at least be meeting in the same kitchen.





2 responses to this post.

  1. Presumably that ‘remote’ council house was remote when it was built. Or did it wake up one morning and find that the rest of the village had moved, leaving it behind?


  2. Posted by Peter Drew on 15 March 2016 at 10:56 am



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