The original title for this article was to be ‘Who is responsible for this mess? You are!’ meaning that the voters are to blame for voting in the government we have. But as I researched it, it became obvious that no one could have guessed at the extent of the antics of the Cabinet knaves who deconstructed our public services, could not deliver what they promised, bullied instead of negotiated, and lied and lied and lied.
Consequently, I offer you a tale of two countries for comparison: South Africa and England (mainly).
Two countries: South Africa
Let us examine a country where the voters have consistently voted as a majority for the same party no matter how bad they were and see what has happened. South Africa became a democracy with the election of the ANC in 1994, led by Nelson Mandela. In every election after that, no matter that key issues of violence, unemployment and inequality were not addressed, the voters voted for the ANC.
In 2009, no matter that there were charges of immoral behaviour and corruption hanging over him, the populist, Jacob Zuma, was elected president. Things went from bad to worse: public services were defunded, corrupt contracts for outsourced work were showered over friends of the politicians, while crooked outside oligarchs, the Guptas, pulled the strings and the state did their bidding. By 2016, the Guptas had profited by $3.5bn from the government, mainly by paying bribes to ministers for outsourced working and illegal contracts.
Here is what happens when people keep voting for a party that makes things worse even when led by a known liar:
- Defunded key public services that cannot deliver at national and local levels, e.g. roads, policing, school repairs.
- Corrupt government contracting and outsourcing, including bribery.
- Collapse of education and health services.
- Collapse of water and energy infrastructure, including rivers, due to underinvestment and corruption.
- Transport failure: today the railways are in a state of collapse, which began in 1991 before the ANC came into power, when they were privatised; now back under state control, they are ruined by constant reorganisation and theft.
- Huge expansion in wealth of the richest while most of the population is getting poorer, and fast.
Yet, still they voted the ANC in, even after President Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 through the work of the brilliant, courageous, female public protector Thuli Madonsela. In 2019 they voted in a new type of president, the rand billionaire, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is worth £367mn – and nothing has improved. The oligarchs are still rich, the poor are poorer, and the services are still crumbling. Oh, and unemployment has risen to 43%, while prices for essential goods rose by 30% this year alone.
Now, I ask you: who on earth would like to live in a country like that? These are the hallmarks of a failing state; but perhaps the situation in South Africa is understandable given that none of the ruling party had had any experience of running a country. Thank goodness that, thanks to The Reform Act of 1832, we in the UK live in a properly run democracy. Hmm.
Comparing South Africa with the UK – are they that different?
Perhaps the UK is also a failing state. It seems so, when, on this day, tens of thousands of nurses are striking. Surely this would only happen in a failing or failed state.
Working backwards from today, note the parallels with South Africa, following the resignation of Boris Johnson for “inflicting lies, fraud and chaos in the country” (leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer).
The UK’s current PM, Rishi Sunak, is, like Ramaphosa, a multimillionaire, and worth 70% more than his South African counterpart, even though he is 28 years younger. But much of his wealth comes from his wife. Until he became a politician, he had spent his entire career in banking, with Goldman Sachs and with two hedge funds, one of whose head offices are based in the Cayman Islands.
All Ramaphosa’s interests were in Africa, none were in making money from money like Sunak, and he sold his business interests when he became president. He is also courageous, having set up and led the most successful trade union against the apartheid government, for which he was detained by the South African regime.
Sunak the billionaire
So, South Africa at least has a president who understands reality and cares for his people, while the UK has the misfortune to have a leader who knows nothing about the real world – unlike his esteemed father-in-law, Naranaya Murthy. This wise, successful, and much-loved businessman would perhaps make a better prime minister than his son-in-law, who only understands the bankers’ playbook. (The comparison with the lamentable Truss and Johnson is more favourable still.)
Consequently, while we are suffering fuel poverty, increasing prices and devalued earnings, Sunak is focusing on deregulating the banks and lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses, and not capping energy prices. This is fiddling while Rome burns – rewarding the rich for adding nothing to the country’s wealth, only to the GDP, while the majority of the common people are struggling.
These are the banks that nearly brought the UK to its knees with their reckless investments in very high-risk financial products in 2008/9, which left the then Labour chancellor desperately looking to cover a deficit of £175bn to avoid a total collapse. By the way, that money went to the banks, not to their customers, many of whom lost everything. Most experts lay the blame 80% on the financial sector and 20% on the Labour government, which, in its favour, did spend money on Sure Start Centres and the NHS and other equalising policies.
Rewarding bankers, not nurses
So, the first question to the government is: why do the bankers deserve so much extra money when they are already wealthy, while some nurses have to go to foodbanks? The answer is they don’t to deserve that money; but that is all our prime minister understands – to his shame. With the connivance of the scheming Jeremy Hunt, the man who permitted the decimation of the NHS, the PM has enriched the rich and punished the poor. At least Ramaphosa has never intentionally done that.
This gives rise to the question, why did 357 Tory MPs elect such an unsuitable person? The answer is, the resignation of an even more unsuitable person, preceded by the resignation of an even more unsuitable person. Such is the judgement of the Tory MPs as to who should govern us.
Johnson and Truss no more represented this nation than President Zuma did South Africa, and they were just as irresponsible. Here is a list of what the Conservatives have delivered in the 12 years since they were voted into government. They can all come under the heading: WASTE, caused mainly by cutting costs and defunding. You have to ask yourself why the fifth-largest economy in the world needs to cut costs?
Conservative policies since 2010 – levelling down and hollowing out.
- Closed almost 800 libraries
- Closed 1,300 children’s centres
- Closed over 600 police stations, resulting in 20,000 fewer police officers
- More than 600,000 more children in poverty
- NHS waiting list now a record 7.21 million
- Local government funding cut by 60% in cities like Sheffield
- Number of emergency food parcels distributed via food banks increased from 61,000 in 2010 to almost two million by 2019/20, a 33-fold increase
- £10bn of undelivered PPE contracts, or unusable PPE, which threatened the lives of health workers as well as patients, especially those in care.
This itself makes sobering reading, and if we return for a moment to our list of failings with the South African government, the parallels are clear: defunded key public services; corrupt government contracting and outsourcing; collapse of education and health services; collapse of water and energy infrastructure, including rivers; transport failure: today the railways are in a state of collapse; huge expansion in wealth of the richest while most of the population is getting poorer, and fast.
It is impossible to ignore how closely the current situation in the UK resembles that other country’s failures. How on earth could a 200-year-old democracy exhibit the same level of incompetence as one that is only 30 years old?
Fair pay for nurses
Finally, I write this on the day 100,000 nurses go on strike because the gutless bully of a health secretary, Steve Barclay, refuses to negotiate wages with the Royal College of Nursing. The cry is that it is unaffordable. That is another downright lie. Of course, it’s affordable.
The money is there. They found billions for PPE and for Ukraine overnight. Liz Truss’s infamous mini-budget created the real risk of a £500bn loss to the DB pension funds, rescued only by £19bn of public money via the Bank of England. The nurses’ pay rise would cost £9bn, spread among more than 300,000 nurses, most of which will be spent locally on goods and services, the definition of the multiplier effect.
So, yes, I think we are in danger of becoming a failing state, but we are not a failing people; our dedication over Covid showed that. We now need to make a serious attempt to get rid of these failing politicians and de-centralise the tyrannical government.