I’d like to put my serious face on now, if I may, because I want to talk seriously about David Cameron’s response to the Leveson report. I want to talk seriously about the phrase “freedom of speech”, and I want to talk seriously about the distance between this government and the people they are meant to be fighting for.
Last Thursday, David Cameron rejected the finding at the heart of the Leveson, which was to create a statutory body that would oversee the independent press regulators. His main concern at the heart of all this was that by blurring political and press lines, the freedom of speech is at the centre of how the press in this country could be at risk.
Reducing the role of government in public life is a big part of Conservative doctrine on either side of the Atlantic - I can still hear the dim warbling of Republicans from across the tides bemoaning the very existence of the NHS in this country. Under Tory government we’ve seen the majority of cuts in this country applied to the so-called Welfare State, the bastion of Big Government - one at-home carer at the time, one breakfast club, one community centre.
And we are used to this. It makes our blood run cold every time we hear someone say they don’t want to pay taxes “for people to sit on their arses and do nothing”, but ultimately we are used to it. We’re also used to politicians harping on about how it’s all for the good of the community and the society. Just like David Cameron was when he started running his mouth about “freedom of speech.” But in invoking human rights as a reason for rejecting the statutory body that would give the independent regulator it’s authority, I would like to personally invite David Cameron to shut the fuck up.
I don’t want to be dramatic here. Being dramatic is exhausting. But I am livid, and I’m heartbroken. How dare this man condescend us about our human rights? How dare our PM tell us that our freedom of speech will be curtailed by a government authority over the press, when the cuts imposed by his chancellor on this country curtail the Right to Housing, the Right to Education, the Right to Health of the most vulnerable people in our country? How very well dare he. If this is a man who is demanding that we actually pay attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then maybe he should start by with his budget.
In the past week alone I’ve seen the excellent 25, a play by the Hull-based community theatre Middle Child, that explores what cuts to benefits mean for the people that depend on them, and then a few days I watched Inside Claridges on the BBC, a fascinating and horrifying display of extreme wealth and unmeasured extravagance in the heart of the British capital. These are two drastically different portraits of life in a recession, and it doesn’t take a genius to see who is suffering the most for it.
There is an enormous problem with socio-economical disparity in this country, and there is an enormous problem with the depreciation of the basic human rights of the most vulnerable in our society. Those two things are related. We can only address the preservation of our universal rights in this country if more money goes into them, not away from those that depend on them.
As far as I’m concerned, David Cameron telling us that statutory authority on an out of control media culture would infringe on our human rights was the final straw. I can deal with rolling my eyes at the rhetoric that asserts that tax cuts to the rich helps create economic growth, but I cannot deal with being patronised about small government being good for my human rights, when I pass the same homeless man every morning in a country that is constantly cutting programs to help the homeless. These rights - Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, the Right to Education - these rights were created to ensure the limitation of the marginalisation that decimated our global society in the 20th Century. We fight for those rights because they make our society a better place that is safer from exploitation. They are to be protected, not to be bandied about when it suits us. It was governments that signed that declaration, and it’s their duty to uphold it.
At the time of writing, George Osbourne has just announced further cuts to welfare, cuts that will directly impact the very poor reliant on state benefits, and cuts that will affect the economical middle classes. Meanwhile, the already well protected “upper classes” are, once again, just...fine. So please don’t talk to me about our human rights as a society when the cuts that have just been announced mean another family holding onto their homes by the skin of their fingers. Before anything else, it’s just bloody rude. How very un-British of you David.
Image via University Hospital Birmingham's Flickr