Amber Rudd’s rebuttal of the UN’s report on British austerity can be summarised as this: “if you disagree with my ideas, you must be politically biased.” Rudd will lodge a formal complaint with the UN regarding Alston’s, a prestigious Human Rights lawyer, methods and conclusions pertaining to the report. This is akin to a university student lodging a complaint because they did not get the grade they had expected, knowing full well they do not deserve it. And How often do with see this inability to engage with substance and merits of a critque, instead choosing to label anyone who disagrees as simply biased and saboteurs of a great project?
The report does not abstain from editorialising its distain of austerity in Britain, concluding the UK government had inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies motivated by political convenience and an apparent goal to re-engineer the social mechanics of Britain: enthusing rather than narrowing inequality.
The government believes Alston could not have been scrupulous enough in reaching his conclusions after having spent just 11 days in the UK; last November he visited nine towns and cities from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, meeting the actual people effected by austerity policies by visiting food banks and holding town hall meetings. I can only imagine the government becoming more red-faced if he had, in fact, spent more time in Britain, becoming more immersed in it’s culture of food banks, homelessness and hopelessness.
In a statement, the government critiqued the report as “a barely believable documentation of Britain based on a tiny period of time spent here” and “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty.” The government defends it’s Universal Credit system, a scheme the report labelled as “Orwellian,” as helping people get into work faster. The government’s defence of such a policy, however, also illuminates it’s weakness; as, if you are unable to rapidly attain a decent working wage, then the Universal Credit welfare system will soon become inadequate – resulting in an accentuation of poverty, rather than the claimed decline; just as the report stated.
Rudd’s critique of the report, moreover, neglects to mention that Alston not only did an 11-day round trip of the UK, but also acquired information from three government ministries, the National Audit Office and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Alston also analysed data from organisations, which included the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the Joseph Roundtree Foundation and the OECD. If only Rudd, the Secretary of State of Work and Pensions, would do such work to understand the county she is tasked with nourishing
The government’s rebuttals are vacant shells, devoid of any counter evidence, and simple attempts to avoid ownership of the consequences that their policies have materialised. Their strategy is, as always, to complain, smear and dwell in their own cognitive dissonance. The provisions that social security and the welfare system have provided for nearly 70 years are becoming the remnants of a dream and something that only the history books, rather than our own present society, will contain.