IN MY VIEW
As David Cameron bowed out of Downing Street and ushered in Theresa May as the UK’s new prime Minister, his final performance at Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) showed the utter contempt he holds for the public.
In a speech which appeared to indicate he is either deluded, in denial, or detrimentally detached from the rest of society, he proudly pumped his chest out (and his record in office) like a male peacock who had accidentally ingested viagra.
The opening question regarding support for the Kurds against Islamic State set the tone for the rest of Cameron’s shameless display of arrogance. He agreed that one of his “lasting legacies will be supporting the Kurds against Daesh” – ignoring the fact that Britain sells around £45m worth of arms to Turkey every year. Weapons that are used directly against the very same Kurds, Cameron proudly claims to support.
This whitewashing of his record continued when probed by Jeremy Corbyn on levels of homelessness. The only answer he had to the fact that it has rocketed by 55% since 2010 was that “it is still 10% below the peak under Labour”, and that more houses needed to be built.
While, Cameron alluded to the fact that 700,000 homes had been built since 2010, he ignored the fact that social housing was in chaos, with only one home being built for every four that were sold off under “Right to Buy”.
He also said that:
because of Help to Buy and shared ownership, some people can get on the housing ladder with a deposit of as little as £2,000.
Little help to the 1.24m households currently languishing on waiting lists for social housing – a figure which hit a record high of 1.85m under his watch. Unperturbed, Cameron cited his favourite coverall – that all this was possible due to our “stronger economy”.
This “stronger economy” which Cameron professes to nearly every week in PMQs, was justly challenged by Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader stated that:
too many people, in too many places in Britain, feel the economy has been destroyed in the town they’re in; because industry has gone, because of high levels of under and unemployment […] there’s a deep sense of malaise.
This stark reality, which was put under the microscope with the EU referendum result, shows the disconnect between working class communities and Westminster, which appears unapparent to Cameron.
He happily rolled off a list of his greatest achievements; akin to a kind-of “Top Five” of Jack the Ripper’s finest moments.
He boasted that he and his governments had cut the deficit by two-thirds; that 2.5m more people are in work; that almost one million new businesses had opened; that there had been 2.9m apprenticeships, and that 300,000 fewer people (including 100,000 children) were now in relative poverty.
All this is, of course, wonderful. As long as you ignore the fact that:
- in cutting the deficit by two-thirds he has also increased the national debt by 50%;
- that while 2.5m more people are in work, by 2020 one million public sector jobs will have been axed;
- that while 1m new businesses have been created, over 40% of the rise in employment since 2010 has been due to precarious self-employment;
- that while there have been 2.9m apprenticeships, tuition fees have been set at an eye-watering £9,000,
- that while relative poverty has fallen, absolute poverty levels (the “poorest of the poor”) have risen.
All these points, and more, un-addressed in Cameron’s speech. He joked towards the end of PMQs, saying that:
I’ve addressed 5,500 questions from this dispatch box […] I’ll leave it to others to decide how many I’ve answered.
There’s now another set of questions Cameron will be able to get away with not answering. Those from the UN, who recently published a damning report into the five-years of Tory-led austerity and welfare cuts.
In short, criticisms were fired at the Tories over:
- the number of self-employed, part-time and zero hours contract jobs, and the effect on marginalised people.
- the housing crisis in the UK, including the lack of social housing, sky-high rental prices and rogue landlords.
- the “exceptionally high” levels of homelessness and the Conservatives’ inadequate response to this.
- the government’s record on education and failure to address inequality affecting pupil attainment levels.
- a failure to address food poverty and the heavy reliance by millions on food banks.
- the rising levels of poverty among marginalised groups, and the government’s failure to tackle child poverty.
While these are incriminating, Cameron and his governments have been criticised most for their welfare policies and relentless austerity. As The Canary previously reported:
The UN is saying that the government has forced through austerity measures without bothering to think or care how they would affect the poor, the disabled and the vulnerable – and that in doing so, they have flouted agreed international standards. The government had already been warned once by the UN in 2012 regarding this – but the Tories chose to ignore it.
You would, of course, be mistaken for thinking this report even existed – watching the soon-to-be-ex-prime minister’s performance at PMQs.
A performance so full of self-assured, arrogant bravado you’d also be forgiven for thinking the UK had become a glorious utopia since he took charge.
It hasn’t. As prime minister, David Cameron has overseen some of the most aggressive, regressive and near-Dickensian attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in society, in living memory. That’s without factoring in mass privatisation, a perpetual state of disaster in the NHS, the collapse of the UK’s steel industry; the list is endless.
Cameron finished with a quip about “Larry the Cat”, the animal that resides at number 10, Downing Street.
“Sadly I can’t take him with me. The staff love him very much, as do I.”
Larry the Cat, David Cameron, is probably very, very glad to see the back of you. As are, probably, most of the country.
Goodbye and good riddance. May you never darken the doors of government again.
Watch Cameron’s final PMQs:
Featured image via Screengrab/Tom Donnelly