Written By: - Date published: 9:13 am, May 27th, 2013 - 160 comments
Categories: accountability, benefits, child welfare, class war, democracy under attack, greens, hone harawira, jobs, john key, labour, mana-party, poverty, same old national, slippery, spin, welfare - Tags: dickensian values
John Key has been shamed by Hone Harawira’s “feed the kids” private members Bill, and is attempting to regain the upper hand . He is responding with a sly, use of PPPs and charities to absolve the government of responsibility, while falsely presenting a caring face.
It will do nothing to turn away from his and Paula Bennett’s approach of running a clear and destructive division between the deserving and undeserving poor. As reported (again uncritically) by Adam Bennett in the right wing NZ Herald this morning, in justifying is lesser approach to feeding the kids, Key claims,
“Some people will say we shouldn’t do it because parents should look after their children and feed them, and if they don’t they’re not carrying out their responsibilities.”
However, “if the child is not fed … we know they don’t learn.
“In the end they are a victim, they may well be a 6- or 7-year-old victim that can’t stand up for themselves so we have some responsibility to do something about that.”
The fastest way to tackle poverty remained through work and education and he told party members that controversial welfare reforms, led by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, “may well prove to be one of the great legacies of this Government”.
Staking out the ground for next year’s election, Mr Key said it would be “quite a different election to what you normally see”.
“Normally elections are fought between the centre-left and the centre-right. That is not what’s going to take place next year. David Shearer has cut his cloth and it is wrapped around Russel Norman.
“But that now becomes an election between the centre-right and the far-left.”
The actual difference is between John Key’s return to destructive and divisive Victorian-era charity that ultimately benefits the wealthy and marginalises the poor. The difference is between the Key-Bennett war on the poor, and Green and Mana’s social justice platforms of a fair go for all. Green and Mana, along with Labour progressives, support policies that will create something closer to a level playing field for those currently socially and economically disadvantaged.
The Key-Bennett agenda, is following that of David Cameron’s government in the UK: one often labelled ‘Dickensian”. In contrast, Dickens’ novels highlighted the nasty result of the kind of charity-focused agenda that Key and Cameron favour. The Key-Cameron agenda is a rehash of the nastiest Victorian values, albeit given a new, shiny, glossy, and very superficial make-over.
As Hilton Dawson wrote in the Huffington Post in 2011, in his critique of UK PM David Cameron’s austerity approach to cutting public services,
We accuse the prime minister of spearheading a return to Dickensian values, where judgements of morality take precedence over basic human decency. He stands as a modern day Mr Bumble, deciding how much thin gruel to dole out to whoever he deems to be most worthy. The fact that he himself has emptied the cook pot seems to pass him by, “never mind, it’s the pauper’s fault for needing gruel in the first place!”
Dickens came from a poor background and his father was sent to a debtors’ prison. Dickens appeal for social justice, was not fueled by any find of Marxist agenda, but from a realisation of the destructiveness of Victorian British society, based in institutions that benefited the better-off classes.
John Key and his anti-public sector cronies want to return us to that soul-destroying Dickensian world. If he really wanted to “tackle poverty” and end the appalling spread of child hunger in NZ, John Key would have got on board with Hone Harawira’s “feed the kids” Bill. And he wouldn’t be supporting Paula Bennett’s nasty war on the poor.
Harawira’s Bill is part of a wider approach, with the state taking more direct responsibility for tackling a range of problems that are harming those on low incomes, as outlined in Mana in Parliament 14-16 May 2013. This looks to a new kind of socially just future; one that turns us away from John Key’s return to the nasty past.