Bernard Ingham: Poverty of politics leaves us paying the wages of sin

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband
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This confounded election is driving me up the wall. It is so packed with political sinners that I wonder whether I live in the same country and speak the same language as most of them.

To hear the Nationalists, Greens and even Ed Miliband talk, you would think we are a poor country, with thousands on the breadline.

Yet we are the fourth richest nation in the world, suffering from an obesity epidemic and the consequences of other lifestyle extravagances while life expectancy inexorably rises, even though the NHS is allegedly starved of cash.

Average earnings are around £23,000 and the cap on welfare benefits is even higher for couples at just over £25,000.

Of course, some people earn less and others more – a lot more – than the average.

But with employment at a record level I find it hard to understand why we need food (and now fuel) banks and why anybody should be living on the streets.

Efficient local authorities would routinely identify and 
help those in real need and the police would just as routinely arrest beggars and rough sleepers. Vagrancy used to be 
a crime.

Instead, David Cameron’s long-standing but unsung Big Society does its best to look after the most vulnerable only for its 
Good Samaritans to be exploited by the unscrupulous who can afford to buy their own food 
and turn up to beg with a dog, 
the better to milk public sympathy.

The really deprived are probably pensioners born of an independent-minded age who abhor charity. But again they are not necessarily destitute.

Instead, they may have been cast adrift by the break up and increased mobility of families and desperately need the solace of company and attention.

So, I am not pretending that everything in our well-endowed country’s garden is lovely.

Far from it with that 
bouquet of deadly nightshade – Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Natalie Bennett (Greens) – too often on display.

But manufacturing poverty – a relative term – where none exists is contemptible.

It is also a figment of their and Miliband’s imagination that the NHS is not safe in Tory hands.

Over the past five years of necessary but moderate austerity, the Tories have put 9,500 more doctors and 6,900 more nurses to work in the NHS.

I mention this because I had the same problem when I was chief press secretary in No 10 in the 1980s.

You might then have thought that Aneurin Bevan’s 1948 creation was collapsing.

Instead, the NHS record showed that after seven hard years from 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was trying to turn 
the country around there 
were 20 per cent more 
doctors and dentists than 
when Labour were last in office and 15 per cent more nurses and midwives.

The only collapse was in doctors’ patient lists – by 11 per cent.

This brings me to the language of the day. A Tory “threat” to the NHS or anything else translates as heralding imminent improvement; “affordable housing” means subsidised homes; “progressive parties” means those leading us to early bankruptcy; and “investment” means spending money we haven’t got on a grand scale just like Gordon Brown.

Modern politically correct politics suffers from euphemisms that have already taken us to the cleaners.

And so, as the insufferable continue to devalue politics, the truth and the language, we come back to “poverty”.

Upward mobility has never been greater.

Not even Mars may be the limit for today’s kids, both boys and girls. But – and it is a big but which condemns the Miliband, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett prize quartet of spendthrifts – 
we are a nation wallowing in debt.

We are still spending at least £75bn a year more than we 
raise in taxes and total public debt of around £1.5 trillion is a long term charge (with interest currently £45bn a year) on 
our children and grandchildren – and on our great-grandchildren if the prize quartet get anywhere near the nation’s purse.

Today it is a £23,809 millstone round each of our necks – and rising.

It particularly inhibits spending on security and so encourages the likes of Vladimir Putin and ISIS to believe we would be pushovers.

Most of our political leaders are so imbued with the class war that they are incapable of recognising that spending the earth to eradicate imagined poverty and raise debt is 
truly a mortal sin with many dangerous consequences for “working people”, Miliband’s allegedly downtrodden constituency.

Their wages of sin are our bill. And these sinners are not coming to repentance.