Last weekend, in an opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron attacked fathers who fail to face up to their responsibilities while commenting that many single mothers did a heroic job. I commented at the time that, coming from the Tories, this latter comment was something of a step forward. I spoke too soon: a report issued today by the Fawcett Society shows that Cameron’s words hid a vicious assault on the living standards of single mothers and the children they care for.
The Fawcett Society’s conclusions are horrifying. While they show that living standards for all groups in society will fall, those of single parents – who of course are mostly (but far from entirely) women – will fall by an extraordinary 8.5% per year to 2015 as a result of coalition policies. More than a month’s income – just imagine the effect of being told you won’t get paid at the end of one month a year. That is what the Coalition has determined should happen to many of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society – amounting to about 10% of all families. The major causes include cuts to housing benefits, Sure Start maternity benefits, the childcare element of tax credit and the freezing of child benefit. And, as the report points out, the context is getting harder and harder – more pressure to find a job when there are fewer available and soaring childcare costs.
The most staggering figure is that if you convert the cost of loss of public services into cash, lone parents stand to lose 18.5% of their annual income – more than a sixth, and far higher than any other social group.
It’s horrifying. Remember these are the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
But it’s no accident. These numbers come at a time when there is growing evidence that the Government is quite systematically demonising the disabled, and leaking misleading information to the media about the nature of the benefits that disabled people recieve, most notably to the effect that disabled people are being handed out BMWs on the state (a repeat of a particularly pernicious lie about immigrants from days gone by that they were handed a brand new car on arrival – there’s nothing really original in the latest outbreak of bigotry). Ian Duncan-Smith claims that the disabled contribute nothing to society; Philip Davies MP introduces a Private Member’s Bill abolishing the minimum wage for people with disabilities. I’ve written before about the Tory culture of bullying – what we are witnessing now looks like a sustained and wholly vicious campaign to vilify, injure and demonise those in society who are less fortunate. We appear to be heading towards something almost like a social apartheid system in which only those who conform to Daily Mail-like stereotypes of normality are allowed the status of legitimate citizens.
Let’s stop using polite language. The coalition are behaving like bigoted bullies. The face of coalition government is the malicious sneer of the Bullingdon boy breaking up furniture in an Oxford restaurant – the same overweening sense of entitlement, the same contempt for the poor, the vulnerable, for those who are excluded from the same privileges – and, above all, for women.
Of course, there is a silver lining. The bankers are still getting their bonuses.