Starvation Strategy?

Longer than my usual but really worth the read!

Dear Mr Cameron,
I have taken the liberty to write to you following an article that appeared in the Guardian a few days ago. I have a specific question that I would be grateful if you could answer but first let me outline the reason for my writing.
I have just read of the tragic story of Mark Wood, who was a 44 year old man with a number of complex mental health conditions. Mr Wood starved to death at his home last August, months after an Atos fitness-for-work assessment found him fit for work. This assessment meant that the jobcentre stopped his sickness benefits, leaving him just £40 a week to live on. His housing benefits were stopped at around the same time. This was despite a plea from his GP not to stop or reduce his benefits as this would have ongoing, significant impacts on his mental health. Mr Wood’s doctor told the inquest that the Atos decision was an “accelerating factor” in Mr Wood’s eventual death. He was very distressed that his housing benefit had been cut off, and by letters about rising rent arrears and warnings from the electricity company his supply would be cut off.
I have no personal knowledge of Mr Wood but for 15 years I have worked, and continue to work in mental health and know that Mr Wood’s tragic circumstances are far from unique. Mr Wood had struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues all his life, which made it impossible for him to work. Although his family ‘worked for years to create a place for him to live safely, this stopped when his benefits were stopped. He tried so hard to survive’. Mr Wood’s sister was distressed that Atos did not seek medical evidence from her brother’s GP, and made the assessment that he was capable of preparing to return to work after a half-hour interview at his home. The Atos report concluded his mental state was “normal”.
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind confirmed that this tragic case was not an isolated incident for people ‘struggling to navigate a complex, and increasingly punitive, system.’
And now to my query. Mr Alan Budd, who in May 2010 came out of retirement to be the interim Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility was, as you know, a chief economic advisor to Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. Mr Budd has since gone on record in an interview with the Observer in 1992 to confirm that
“…the 1980’s policies of attacking inflation by squeezing the economy and public spending were a cover to bash the workers. Raising unemployment was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working class. What was engineered –in Marxist terms-was a crisis of capitalism which re-created a reserve army of labour, and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since” (pp 284-285).
At the time it was always assumed by most that any political activity was always in the interests of the population. This quote served as confirmation that the raising of unemployment during the Thatcher era was a deliberate tactic. As unthinkable as that might have been at the time, there was a clear decision to destroy lives for political capital. My question, and I ask this in all seriousness is whether your administration is currently also having a different set of private conversations to those that the public hear. Just as the Thatcher administration reassured the public they were trying to lower unemployment when they were intentionally increasing it, can I ask whether your cabinet has had conversations about how desirable it would be for a few vulnerable people to starve to death. It could be seen after all that a few examples of what can really happen when the safety net is removed might mobilise others who draw on benefits to stop ‘scrounging from hard working taxpayers’ and move toward the labour market. So my question is
a. Have you deliberately set out to drive a small number of British people to starvation as a political tactic?
The reason I moved to ask such an extreme question is because to make someone die of starvation in a western democracy in 2014 isn’t actually a very easy thing to do. It needs an awful lot of very specific activities to conflate at once in order for it to become possible for vulnerable people like Mr Wood to starve to death. You would need to put in place a systematic regime of wage stagnation, a raft of brutal benefits cuts that disproportionately attack the vulnerable and disabled. You’d need to develop and sustain an orchestrated campaign of misrepresenting vulnerable people through the media and you would need to put in place a privatised work assessment regime that rewards morally bankrupt companies who assess people as fit for work regardless of their circumstances. To achieve this you would need to make possible the most hideous and inhumane political coalition since Asquith’s feckless cabinet contributed to 1m deaths at the Somme.
Regardless of whether a starvation strategy has been deliberately orchestrated or is a tragic by-product of one of the most sustained political failures of modern times, I do wonder Mr Cameron whether you will see Mr Wood’s emaciated and desperate face when you close your eyes to go to sleep at night. For the sake of the many other people around the country approaching such extreme destitution, I genuinely hope that you do.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Carl Walker

From: Since 1545

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by zedster66 on March 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    I recently had my benefit cut off. I received a form to fill in and return to BA telling them what I intended to do when my Permitted Work finished on 30th Jan. I sent it off on the 29th as I’d just decided after doing accounts. The same day I got a letter telling me my ESA was suspended from 17th Jan because I didn’t reply. There was nothing to indicate when the form had to be returned by (I got it around the 13th Jan) and instead of worrying that someone in receipt of ESA who hasn’t replied might be ill, need help, be dead, they decided I obviously couldn’t be arsed and didn’t really need my benefit anymore, that’s so likely, obviously. Oh, and then they apparently ‘lost’ the form, so I was without ESA for 4 weeks. Those people are brainwashed to be part of a system. They don’t see us as people, just figures.

    Reply

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