In Sarah Teather’s Britain; social justice is meaningless
I wear my background proudly on my sleeve. I’m a white, working class lad from Leeds. I was the first member of my immediate family to go to university; so social justice should have something to do with me right? Wrong. It seems that social justice is like Ed Miliband’s spine… I’ve heard about it, but never witnessed it in action.
All jokes aside, this article is not a partisan piece of propaganda; rather a frank assessment of the state of our society. Importantly, I spent my formative years searching the left of British politics, waiting to be convinced that the Labour party or the Lib Dems were on the side of ‘people like me.’ I thought it was terribly unfair that some people were rich, whilst my parents struggled. I was in desperate need of some social justice.
After years of disillusionment, I began to realise that real social justice didn’t exist in Blair’s Britain. It was all hot air. We see again this week, that the phrase ‘social justice’ means absolutely nothing. Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem MP for Brent Central and former junior minister, is to stand down from the Parliament explaining that her party no longer, “fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration,” highlighting the welfare cap in particular.
To Sarah Teather, the definition of social justice is allowing some people to receive in benefits, more than the average family earns; equivalent to a pre tax wage of £35 000 a year. This is madness. Other than the obvious moral point; what about practicality? It is unlikely that most unemployed people would ever be able to sustain a standard of living that high if they returned to work. When did it become socially just to trap someone in the welfare state?
Also, there is one thing I can guarantee. The privately educated Teather has never had to work for minimum wage; watching as a painful proportion of the scraps she earns each month disappears in taxation to pay for those benefits.
Social justice has simply become an excuse for maintaining expensive privileges for special interest groups. We see in the case of the ‘bedroom tax’ that the very term has been hollowed out by hypocrisy. Labour bluster; the ‘bedroom tax’ is an assault on social justice, conveniently ignoring that they introduced the same measure for housing benefit claimants in the private rented sector when in government.
It is socially unjust to ask council tenants to accept reduced benefits in contribution towards their spare room, but NOT socially unjust to ask working people, often struggling to pay their own rent and living in overcrowded accommodation themselves, to foot the bill otherwise? Council tenants are to be provided with, at full cost to the taxpayer, the sort of extra space that many taxpayers themselves can only dream of…all in the name of social justice.
This is not socially just; measures such as this divide society, causing resentment amongst neighbours and local communities. Warping the very fabric of morality in the style of Orwellian doublespeak is demoralising to the many millions of hardworking families, struggling to get by, doing the right thing as they see it, without any help or acknowledgment.
We must restore sense and morality to our benefits system if we want any social justice in our country. No one should earn more from benefits than the average person does in work – not because we’re cruel – but because it’s fair. Working people have to choose a home based on what they can afford; this should be the same for housing benefit recipients – not because we’re cruel – but because of practicality. Burdening people with rents they could never afford if they moved into work compounds rather than alleviates social deprivation.
To me, social justice is not about stuffing the mouths of the needy with gold. Rather, it’s about rewarding people who do the right thing. It’s about a country where merit matters more than status; where no matter your background, you will always be able to get on if you are willing to work hard. Social justice is about enabling social mobility, not trapping people in the poverty from whence they came.
As a young person, whose only chance of success relies upon those things being true, I see no alternative but to vote Tory, no matter how much it upsets my grandparents.
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