Wednesday, 5 May 2010

There but for the grace of the Lib Dems go I...

I'm writing this on the eve of the UK general election and the hand of history looks set to throttle a sizable chunk of us as the Conservatives remain ahead in the polls. Shame really. Words cannot express how depressed this makes me feel - but my ego failed to stop me writing about it. 

If you haven't read Johann Hari's excellent piece, "Welcome to Cameron-Land" then you absolutely should and no excuses will be accepted. These are the heart-breaking stories of the poor in the care of the "compassionate Conservatives" Council of Hammersmith and Fulham. David Cameron claims to be proud of their achievements. Hari himself will walk you through what's wrong with that. 

I confess I have a vested interest in opposing the Conservatives but that interest is rapidly being nudged out of the way by fear. I live in social housing in the middle of Cambridge, in a flat that I'm charged a mere half of what they could get away with fleecing me for. Why? Is it because I'm a low-life, unemployed, junkie, crack-whore? No. Is it because I'd struggle to write my own name never mind get a job? No. Is it because I spent three years of my adult life in education and then went on to a further ten years working in social care while house prices rocketed sky-high? Well, yes. 

That's right, it's because I literally pissed away my time getting educated and caring for vulnerable people and failed to contribute to the glory days of the credit frenzy. I only have myself to blame. Apparently anyway. I live where I live because I really don't have any other choice. And my list of 'undesirables' above in no way reflects the actual terms I would use to describe any of those people by the way - they merely illustrate how lazy it is to label and pigeon-hole those less fortunate than others while conveniently making wild assumptions about everyone else.  It's these wild assumptions that I genuinely fear coming my way, courtesy of a Conservative government.

You know that lift/elevator at the Disney Haunted Mansion? The one that apparently plummets downwards but actually stays pretty much in the same place? It gives the appearance of you being much further down, cleverly, by raising the roof. That's the housing market. And it's affected me and thousands of others in exactly the same way as the Haunted Mansion lift. It makes us look like we've sunk a lot further than we actually have. 

My living conditions are considerably less dignified than they should be for someone of my age but there is little I can do to change this. Not because I'm useless or a sponge, but because I just don't have too many other options. If we were all fairly rewarded for hard work and ability, I'd be fine. I'd literally love to buy my own home. 

A few years ago, they sold off a patch of land on what was a garden area for us all and built some posh flats. The penthouse was on the market for £450,000. If you still haven't read Hari's piece then please do so to see how this would affect me and those like me. The Tories would see this as prime land and me, it would seem, the detritus obscuring the way. 

There doesn't appear to be a huge amount of sacrifice in running the flats either. Despite charging a reasonable rate to live there, they are constantly renovating and improving so they seem to have money spare. Clearly they're not suffering for having a social conscience and I will sing their praises for all eternity - but sadly I doubt it will make a difference. Judgements plague the have-nots of this world and the sweet feeling of a guiltlessness washes over the pious as they declare it's all their fault - you know, it's them 'others', the people who are not like us. If only they'd worked as hard, studied as hard, or been in the same right place at the same right time as us, they'd be fine, wouldn't they? 

No. Life is rarely so simple and my life is a glowing example of this. There are many things that I've done that I'm genuinely proud of but somehow these haven't transformed into fortune. So be it. But I'm still deserving of a roof over my head and am paying for just that. I shouldn't have to justify to others that my place has no place within the market forces. 

So, maybe change is afoot. Certainly Cameron and his slogan of "Changey, Change, Change" (or whatever it is) promise this to be so. I  just hope it doesn't mean the change that awaits these articulate and dignified people

By the way, Cambridge is a Liberal Democrat constituency. I support the good work that they have done!

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