Wednesday, 21 April 2010

David Cameron says "Family is the best welfare state..."

On this video, David Cameron makes the claim that ..." is the best welfare state we ever had..."

Is it indeed....? So the 35 million Americans with no health insurance, and the 100 million or so with inadequate cover, can turn to their families when they need an operation or an expensive therapy or drug regime to save their lives or their quality of life?

Closer to home, can the ordinary person in the UK afford the best education for their kids from an average or below average weekly wage? I really, honestly, think not.

We in the UK have been fortunate indeed that the last century has been one of real progress on the social front. My grandfather was a day labourer, standing on street corners for the gaffer's nod.  In all of his life he never earned more than a pittence.  When his family needed help he went to "the parish", a sometimes grudging and judgemental provider of last resort and of cold charity. My father told me of going to school in parish boots and clothes. That family, my father's family, my family, however tight knit and supportive, had no chance in hell of providing more than the bare essentials, and sometimes not even those. Decent hospitals? ... no chance...A doctor to call?.....only if you've got half-a-crown...Schools with a sufficency of books and jotters and pencils? Forget it.  University.. you must be kidding missus, that's on another planet. Oh you mean as a shoe-polisher to the gentry? Now that's different...that we can manage.

Over the years, things got better. Gradually and grudgingly, thanks to Trades Unions and Labour politicians and people who cared about other people, the Conservative establishment was forced to give better rights and better conditions to the majority of our citizens. They didn't relinquish those right willingly: even at the formation of the NHS, Ernest Bevin  complained that he had to "stuff the mouth's of the consultants with gold" to get them to agree to a better, more universal and fairer health service for all.

Poverty is not what it was in those days, and a good thing too. But the lesson remains the same: the best services for the most people are best provided by the community acting through the state.

Maybe David Cameron thinks that his family is like all families. That one only has to cough and a distinguished physician is at one's right elbow with a soothing word and bottle of the latest curing tincture.  But it's decidedly not like that for the rest of us.

Getting the best health care or schooling (or indeed any healthcare or schooling) might be ok if your family is upper middle class, well off or even millionaires like Cameron and Osborne and most of the Tory front bench.... but isn't the lesson of the last 100 years that we, all of us, are better off as a nation if we pool resources, not just as families, but as communities. And the state can deliver much better social provision to a much greater number of citizens than family or cold Victorian charity?

David Cameron makes much of his conversion to being a supporter of the NHS through experiencing the unfortunate illness of his son. I read that, and today's statement only confirms my suspicion, as a sign that Mr Cameron lacks the imagination and historical perspective to understand the needs, wants and requirements of the people he desires to lead, and a real commitment to the institutions that the country needs to deliver those requirements to all, for the good of us all.

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