I watched the Sky-Channel 4 ‘debate’ that kicked-off the series of
television programmes covering the upcoming UK Election.
Of course, it wasn’t actually a debate: Tory leader David Cameron
refused to take part in a head-to-head with his Labour counterpart Ed
Miliband. So, instead, we had the two men separately interviewed by
Jeremy Paxman and questioned by members of the public.
I thought Cameron was extremely poor, looking nervous and
tired. He also struggled with some of Paxman’s questions, not because
they were hard to answer but, rather, through a lack of knowledge on the Prime
The leader of the Conservative Party didn’t have a clue about the
number of foodbanks currently operating in the UK. He didn’t know because
it isn’t something that bothers him. His children aren’t starving, so why
should he care about the need for foodbanks?
It was the same with zero-hours contracts. According to
Cameron, people actually want jobs that don’t guarantee hours or wages and,
when work is available, provide poverty-level pay.
Ed Miliband came across slightly better: but that really isn’t
much of a compliment.
The Labour leader admitted his party had got it wrong on a number
of issues when they were last in government. The supposedly razor-sharp
Paxman missed the obvious question that stemmed from Miliband’s admission: why,
then, should we vote for people who have already proved they are not very good
at running a government?
One of the things Miliband accepted Labour had got wrong was
‘inequality’. The former government minister and adviser to the
Chancellor of the Exchequer said the last Labour Government had been “too
relaxed about inequality”.
How can anyone who seeks to run a society be ‘relaxed’, never mind
‘too relaxed’, about inequality that creates unemployment, poverty and
deprivation? How can society be changed to provide hope and opportunity for
everyone when the government is made-up of people who are ‘relaxed’ about the
suffering caused by inequality?
Cameron and Miliband came across as very out-of-touch with the
people they seek to govern.
Certainly, these two men have nothing in common with the vast
majority of people across the countries that make-up the United Kingdom (which
is neither united nor a Kingdom).
The two party leaders will think they know about the lives of
‘ordinary’ people, but they don’t. Cameron and Miliband could not even
begin to imagine how it feels to be without a job and not know how you are
going to feed your children. They will also fail to realise or care that
the struggle of ‘ordinary’ people doesn’t just happen, nor is it the result of
an evil spell cast by bad pixies. ‘Ordinary’ people are struggling to
survive every day because of decisions taken by politicians like David Cameron
and Ed Miliband.
When MPs are so socially and financially insulated from the people
they claim to represent, they base decisions not on what is best for society
but on what those who are doing well think the rest should have.
Cameron would know how many foodbanks operate in the UK – and why
they are needed – if he and his family were not cosseted and protected from the
reality experienced by the majority.
Miliband and his party could only become “relaxed” about
inequality because they, themselves, are high-earners for whom poverty and
deprivation are unknown territories.
Of course, not all politicians are so remote and uncomprehending
of how ‘ordinary’ people live. Take the leader of the Scottish National
Party, for example.
Nicola Sturgeon is a working class girl who grew up in a council
house in Dreghorn, North Ayrshire. She went to Greenwood Academy, the
local comprehensive secondary school. Nicola is not the type of person to
forget her upbringing and the honest, decent people who shaped her life.
Nicola Sturgeon knows why foodbanks exist – because of vicious policies
imposed by out-of-touch politicians in London – and would never find herself
being “relaxed” about inequality: she saw its effects all around her as she
grew up in North Ayrshire.
Scotland needs to be rid of politicians – Tory, Labour, Lib Dem
– from privileged backgrounds who think they know what is good for us
‘ordinary’ people, despite them having no knowledge of our lives and the
society they have created for us.
The UK Election on May 7th can be a major stepping-stone to a
Scotland where posh-boys like David Cameron and Ed Miliband no longer impose
their will on the ‘plebs’, as another senior Tory might have put it.
We can start by putting first the interests of the people and
removing from positions of power the Blue and Red Tories who created this
society of foodbanks, zero-hours contracts and inequality.