Labour's landslide election victory in '97 ushered in a new era, a new marriage, one of the state and the private sector. Contracts were tendered and bids were made, this was the future. The Social evils of crime and substance misuse, poverty and deprivation were to be addressed. We would be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, more than three thousand new criminal offence laws would see to that. And children would be lifted from poverty and the opportunity to attend university would be there for all, for a fee of course.
This was called progress, all the free marketeers said so.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but foresight even better. Back in 1983, 1990 or 2003, who could have possibly envisioned a society of working poor, collecting their groceries from the food bank and not the supermarket, of parents skipping meals in order to feed their children, of young people leaving university with debts amounting to more than fifty thousand pounds. A society where food or heating is the recurring daily dilemma. And who could have known that by 2013 plans to build a new super prison would be underway, a prison so huge that it would be unlike any other we have ever known, and run by the private sector of course. And who could have known that mass unemployment would one day return; that a bedroom tax and poll tax mark 2 would re-emerge. Who could have known all that?
As the rhetoric turns to the unemployed and the single mother, the drug addict and the drunk, the feral youngsters and the under performing NHS, the contracts are out for tender, and the future is assured...
"There's no need for us to talk about drink or laziness," returned Owen, impatiently, "because they have nothing to do with the matter. The question is, what is the cause of the lifelong poverty of the majority of those who are not drunkards and who DO work? Why, if all the drunkards and won't-works and unskilled or inefficient workers could be by some miracle transformed into sober, industrious and skilled workers tomorrow, it would, under the present conditions, be so much the worse for us, because there isn't enough work for all NOW and those people by increasing the competition for what work there is, would inevitably cause a reduction of wages and a greater scarcity of employment. The theories that drunkenness, laziness or inefficiency are the causes of poverty are so many devices invented and fostered by those who are selfishly interested in maintaining the present states of affairs, for the purpose of preventing us from discovering the real causes of our present condition." (The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Tressell, 1914)