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Pickles : Bad for the Tory Image ?
Last uploaded : Thursday 14th Apr 2011 at 13:04
Contributed by : Carol Gould



I sat lastnight in utter disbelief watching former Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles, now ‘Communities Secretary,’ expounding on BBC ‘Newsnight’ on the evils of local councils hiring new staff. This is not Ripley's Believe it or Not, but his complaint is as follows: the level of hiring still being undertaken by municipal authorities across the nation is unjustified. He actually said it is wrong for councils to continue recruiting.

This is the same government that has been hounding unemployed, sick and disabled people since they came into office in May, and the same party that was denouncing sick and disabled people at their 2009 Conference. This is the same government that is bellowing at the jobless to ‘get on a bus’ and get a job. (The Tory Cabinet, nineteen of whom are millionaires, should be reminded that it costs £1.30 each way to get on a bus in London and if claimants are on £80 a week that can go quickly.) This is the same government that thinks it can get a million people ‘back into work’ whilst shutting down the British Film Commission, which backed the Best Film Oscar-winning ‘The King’s Speech,’ and potentially making thousands of people redundant by recommending the closure of all NHS Primary Care Trusts.

This is the government that wants to create the ‘Big Society’ by suggesting that millions of already hard-pressed Britons go out and ‘volunteer.’ I wonder how Cameron, Clegg, 500-pounder Pickles and the equally corpulent Ken Clarke and Company would last working as volunteers?

(It needs to be noted here that the misleading figures released yesterday on the national media suggesting unemployment has fallen in the three months to February are a nonsense. In November every newspaper is full of advertisements for temporary Christmas staff who remain in jobs in supermarkets, high street shops, malls and department stores until the sales have ended in February.)

This is the government that allows Britons with savings, who have already suffered three years of having to dig into their capital to make ends meet, watch the Royal Bank of Scotland, bailed out by the taxpayer and 83% owned by us, award one hundred employees £1 million each. Are these same savers expected to be ‘volunteers‘ whilst a renegade bank that is deeply in the red pays obscene sums to its One Hundred Club? Were I chairman of a plc and my company showing a negative balance sheet in the multi-millions, would my shareholders allow me to continue in my position if I distributed vast sums to employees but nothing to the investors? Perhaps this has a ring of amateur Marxism but might it not be appropriate for RBS savers to receive a small payment form the £323 million pool as a gesture to show their loyalty is valued? Has anyone ever contemplated the consequences if all savers at RBS withdrew their funds ?

Eric Pickles, already corpulent in his days as Tory chairman, is now so massively overweight that his eyes cannot even fully open. He is energetic in his assertions on live television and does not seem an ill man, which leads me to believe he is a fit person who just likes to eat. Right now I have one friend whose fixed income as a pensioner means she can only afford one meal a day. I have another friend who is afraid to turn up her heat as she simply cannot afford to keep warm if she is to buy food. The idea that a man of his insensitivity and obvious wealth can be ‘Communities Secretary’ at a time when communities are suffering unprecedented hardship and deprivation is a sin.

On the ‘Newsnight’ segment last night a Conservative Westminster councillor said his authority would lose only one library. I had only just been assured by a local Tory committee member on Monday of this week that there will be no library closures in Westminster. The lack of transparency of this government’s spokespeople is breathtaking. The fact that libraries are being shut is criminal. This is not a third or fourth world country; the nation of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton and Keats looks a shameful shadow of its former self when it shuts libraries and eliminates its Film Commission. Everyone knows that unemployed, disabled, older and elderly people spend whole days in libraries to keep warm. They can barely survive on their miserable pensions and are relieved to be able to sit in a quiet, warm environment and read the newspapers or a book. That this government can allow libraries to close strikes at the heart of compassion and is the manifestation of what I see as the ‘decaying soul of this country.’ There are tens of millions for football stars and for celebrities but nothing for the literary heart of Great Britain’s heritage.

This government has stood by and watched as the Arts Council slashes grants from cultural icons. The Tories will argue that these cuts were already mooted under Labour but the noblest act they could undertake is the elimination of cuts.

Shame on Eric Pickles and his heartless Coalition government. I fear, as many other journalists before me have as well, we will have blood on the streets if the increasing inequities in this society are not rectified and if we do not return to being the compassionate country we were a generation ago.


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