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We need to have a few words about Martin.
It probably did us all a lot of good to learn that a disillusioned Conservative voter calling himself by that name has coughed up around £16,000 to publicise his opinion about David Cameron and George Osborne’s leadership of the UK.
He made his points in a full-page advert in The Times newspaper yesterday, taking the form of a letter to the comedy Tory double-act. It’s just a shame that most of it is an unrelenting flow of bilge.
But then, he is a Tory.
Most of his bile is reserved for the web of regulations which he seems to believe is stifling the economy, and the civil servants who run it. Health and Safety regulations, in particular, come in for a battering.
Martin wants the Coalition to eliminate “whole departments of government whose sole function seems to be to ensure that our children never learn that fires burn you and who, never having climbed a ladder for a living themselves, instruct everyone else on how to both place a ladder, operate a hand tool and wear a harness when cleaning windows. They do all this at great cost to the economy and for no real benefit.”
It’s very easy to mock Health and Safety regulations when it comes to the small stuff, but the simple fact is that ‘light touch’ enforcement of these rules has inflated the numbers of people on sickness, incapacity and disability benefits. Does Martin want his money to pay for his silly one-page ad campaign, or to pay for more of these people to sit at home, doing nothing, when they could be at work, helping to restore the economy?
His comments are so naive, one has to wonder if he has any experience in this field at all. I do – as has been chronicled many times in the past. Mrs Mike – my partner – used to work at a factory where Health and Safety monitoring was so lax as to be nonexistent – in fact, supervisors actively bullied workers into cutting corners. This regime was supported by Gordon Brown’s ‘light touch’ enforcement of regulations which meant the firm was always given prior notice of ‘surprise’ inspections, allowing time to put safety equipment in place before inspectors arrived.
Eventually – we believe – the repetitive nature of the work, in poor conditions that forced her to adopt an unhealthy posture, damaged my partner’s body. At first she tried to soldier through, but ended up taking so much time off work (in agony, I must add) that the company decided to sack her. She tried to get help from her union, but the shop steward seemed to be in cahoots with company bosses and failed to represent her in a reasonable way.
Now, thanks to the policies of the Coalition government for which Martin presumably voted, she is facing the possibility of having her Employment and Support Allowance cut off by officials who seem to think that her progressively-worsening condition is going to be cured by August, despite there being no evidence whatsoever to support the assumption.
Is this what Martin wants? The relaxation of what little Health and Safety regulation there is, creating a legion of people who are unable to work due to injury, and who are forced into poverty because government policy is determined to say that the damage is all in their mind, rather than admit the facts?
But then, he is a Tory.
Moving on, it becomes clear that Martin would fit in very well as part of Michael Gove’s Education Department, because what he really wants to do is destroy the Civil Service – the professional organisation that actually ensures government runs smoothly and prevents politicians from making fools of themselves on a daily basis. For every briefcase full of secrets that is left in a taxi, there are dozens of other cock-ups that are prevented by a paid officer’s quick thinking, I assure you!
He wants to “get rid of at least one in four of all the senior civil servants who earn more than two-to-three times the national average wage. The remainder can work harder for their lavish salaries and index-linked pensions or go also. And yes, by Civil Servants I mean everyone paid more than 50 per cent of their compensation – directly or indirectly – from the public purse.”
What a disaster that would be for the United Kingdom. Martin is calling for the elimination of the vast majority of the expertise that has been learned over years of service to the national interest (note that I say ‘national’ interest, rather than the interest of any particular political organisation). In one stroke, he would knock one of the most professional and experienced administrative systems in the world back to amateur status – much as Mr Gove is attempting in his own department, to the great despair of most of those working in it.
But then, he is a Tory.
His parting shot, at Cameron and Osborne’s counterparts in the Labour Party, is also wide of the mark. While his opinion that the two Eds could not do a better job is his own, his assertion that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown “got us into this mess by exploding government spending for little positive benefit” is utterly incorrect. For the vast majority of Labour’s 13 years, government spending was less, per year, than during the previous 17 years of Conservative rule. It was only after the banking crisis that government spending increased – due to necessity – and we’ve already discussed whether Martin would have been able to take out his expensive advert if he didn’t have a bank account. Conservatives have been trying to sneak falsehoods like this under our Radar for more than three years, now, and it is up to all of us to be vigilant against it and remind everyone of the facts.
But then, Martin is a Tory.
Some of his comments are right on the money, though. He starts: “I realise… you really cannot afford the time to actually think about us mere taxpayers and citizens.” Absolutely correct – they’re too busy thinking about important people like the bosses of the big firms they are helping to avoid paying UK tax.
On cutting the civil service, he writes, “that DOES NOT MEAN reclassify them as consultants at greater cost – it means TOTALLY eliminating their costs, direct or indirect, from the public purse”. It is true that – for the most part – employing consultants is a huge waste of time and money.
He wants the banking system sorted out (don’t we all?); he wants money spent on capital projects that benefit British firms, rather than “bolting together foreign-bought trains in a new UK factory”; and he rightly says, “let’s cut out this soundbite about the one million new jobs you have created. It is offensive to those desperately looking for employment. Unemployment is appalling, youth unemployment is worse, and your policies encouraging unpaid work experience smack of a clever form of slavery”.
Liam Byrne, please take note of the last comment, remember that it comes from a Conservative, clear your desk and quit as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.