Letters The Guardian,
When I was a child, my father, Hilary Marquand, used to invite members of the Labour cabinet (during the 1945 Labour government) to our house where they would discuss their hopes for the future of the welfare state. One of their discussions particularly interested me: should the Labour government abolish private, fee-paying schools?
Later, as an undergraduate at Cambridge, I met a great many young men who had attended these so-called public schools where they had suffered an initiation period of subjection to bullying, beating and, frequently, sexual abuse from older boys. The expectation was that they would then mete out this treatment to younger pupils as they got older.
The purpose of this torment was to teach them to “take it like a man” and “keep a stiff upper lip”.
There is no need for the current austerity cuts.
The current coalition is pursuing the “shock doctrine” economic theory as described by Naomi Klein.
The aim of the shock doctrine is to impose a rapid series of social changes upon the people, which supposedly puts us all into a paralysing state of shock, while the rich strip us of our assets. In the case of Iraq it was the oil; in the case of the UK it is the health service, welfare, housing.
But perhaps the worst shock to most people is the moral issue: the realisation that this Tory-led government has no capacity for compassion or empathy and no desire to understand how it feels to be elderly, sick, disabled or traumatised.
The fact that they are pushing the economy into triple-dip recession is not as worrying as their evident belief in the “survival of the fittest” – with they themselves, of course, deciding who is and who is not “fit”.
• I imagine, after reading your report (Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed, 28 December), that champagne corks will be popping behind securely closed Tory doors as glasses are raised to toast George Osborne as the most successful Tory chancellor for more than 50 years.
The chancellor may have failed to meet many of his publicly stated targets, but on the hidden agenda – the Tory party dream of dismantling the welfare state, as outlined in 1982 – he is bang on track. The fact that he is managing to achieve this without the public appearing to notice is not really surprising, with minds fixed on the day-to-day struggle to survive and distracted by the bread and circuses of the Olympics.
That this dismantling is being aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats is almost beyond belief.
I fear we shall only realise what we had once it’s gone.
• The secretary of state for work and pensions uses his office to exaggerate the small amount of benefit fraud (Report, 31 December).
He claims the benefit system “is out of control and unfair for hard-working taxpayers who have lost £10bn due to illicit claimants and fraudsters”.
That needs some qualification.
The Office of National Statistics shows that 0.7% of total benefit expenditure was overpaid as a result of fraud in 2011-12 among the 5.9m working age benefit claimants and the 10.6m state pensioners.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
• An anonymous cabinet minister says that Iain Duncan Smith‘s universal credit is a “disaster waiting to happen”. It will be happening in Haringey – one of four pilot locations – from April. The system will be unleashed on an area of London with high levels of poverty and among the highest unemployment rates in the capital.
Secretary, Haringey Trades Union Council