Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Brown and ‘fairness’. Again. (from Chicken Yoghurt)

This is quoted in full - a piece written by Justin McKeating at Chicken Yoghurt.

Seen first on CF's place.

Mrs Rigby hopes the author doesn't mind too much that his excellent article is reproduced in full, but she thinks it's worth it.
The trouble is, you can spend so much of your time worrying about the theoretical horrors of a Tory government that you forget the practical horrors of a New Labour one.

Complicity in torture. Chemical weapons in Iraq. The children of refugees developing post-traumatic stress disorder in internment camps. Women who clean the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s office living on lentils to pay for a school uniform. Should I go on?

You listen to Brown make his ‘barnstorming‘ speech to Citizens UK with its ‘compassion’, ‘goodwill’, ‘fairness’, ‘duty’, ‘friendship’, ‘justice’, ‘dignity’ and ‘good society’, and you wonder how we reconcile those with the above list of grotesques. I’ve said it before and I’ll damn well say it again, Brown invokes the decency with which he says he was brought up and you wonder what the hell happened to it. The rhetoric is a long way behind the reality.

I don’t think he’s that good an actor which rules him out as a pathological liar. Look at this letter from Brown to Open Kingdom on the subject of the detention of child refugees. As someone with a horrified fascination with what our so-called civilized society does to these children, I could spend all day pointing out what I’ll charitably call errors in his letter, much of it contradicted by many an unread and unreported study.

Brown clearly believes what he’s saying and writing (or written for him), so is he deluded, in denial or so insulated from the real world by his handlers that he has no idea of the terrible things his government does in his name? His letter to Open Kingdom makes me think he either has the facts but doesn’t wish to admit them or someone is keeping the facts from him. Does he close his eyes and ears or does someone blindfold him and cover his lugs for him?

Whatever the reasons it’s no way to run a country while laying claim to the virtues of compassion and decency. Brown’s running a government that’s yet to find a minimum standard of human decency let alone the lofty peaks of sainthood he tries to scale with his cheap talk.

‘If you fight for fairness, you will always find in me a friend, a partner and a brother,’ said Brown in his speech yesterday. Reading that next to an account of a child refugee screaming in the night at Yarl’s Wood makes my lunch rise. (Brown was non-commital at best when question about child detention. He ‘wanted no child to suffer’. Which is nice.) It reminds me of what Jamie Kenny said about George Best when the old bastard died:

I’m a football fan, but fuck the football too. It meant nothing from the moment he first raised his hand to his wife. If he could have avoided living like a swine by staying in Belfast and working at Tesco’s, then he should have done that.
I’m a fairness fan, but fuck the minimum wage too (wave it at the family living on lentils)**. Brown’s ‘achievements’ meant nothing from the moment that child first started to scream.

(I hear a lot about how the Tories would have done the same or worse had they been in power for the last 13 years. I don’t find it very comforting or persuasive when feeling pressure to vote for New Labour. And anyway, I don’t have the same knack of peering into alternate universes as some people. Maybe what we need is another theory like Schrödinger’s cat or McKeating’s Niqab. Let us call it McKeating’s Cameron. We shove David Cameron in a box. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that until the votes are counted on Thursday night, he is simultaneously the benign change we need and a complete bastard.)
Now you've read this, you should hop over there and cast your eye over some of the other pieces on the site. They're worth reading.

More about the family living on lentils here
Before Brown’s speech (on 3rd May 2010) came Martha, 62, and her daughter Sandra, cleaners who – deliciously neatly – clean the chancellor’s office. They earn £6.95 an hour, explained Martha, and have to get up at 3.30am to take a tortuous bus journey because the tube is too expensive. In order to buy her granddaughter’s school uniform, the whole family had to eat lentils for a week.

It was then the turn of the granddaughter, who broke down at the lectern. “If they were paid a living wage,” she sobbed, “we wouldn’t have to eat lentils for a week. If they were paid a living wage, my mum could afford the tube and I would see her for three hours more a day …”

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