Maybe it’s the effect of the poppies but this government seems to have severe, selective amnesia.
Just last week I was aghast listening to a story of a London organisation that vacuums up single homeless men and puts them in homes fit for rats. It does this in order to make a profit by cashing in on housing benefit. As we all know, ex-servicemen are disproportionately represented among the homeless. This is immoral but not, apparently, illegal. All while the government are making a crusade out of cutting benefits to the vulnerable.
Despite their significance from 1915, it was not until the 1920s that the Flanders poppy became an established remembrance symbol of the unimaginable suffering and loss of WWI. But an idea that took on more immediacy was that of homes fit for heroes. One wonders what Lloyd George would have made of the above scenario or the bedroom tax or the attempted cuts in tax credit that currently keep many working families in the UK just above the bread line.
Move to WWII and yet again the idea of a better life for those who sacrificed so much was the order of the day. Of the 1m houses built by Attlee’s post war Labour government 80% were council houses and many built to replace those destroyed by Hitler. The selloff of those properties by Margaret Thatcher – a policy endorsed by the current administration – has done more than any other to put the low paid at the mercy of the worst elements of the private rented sector and exacerbate the problems of homelessness.
An NHS free at the point of use was another Attlee vision, not one that has become an underfunded postcode lottery with many sections made vulnerable to profiteering.
The working classes were to be offered a decent education; one that would give them a chance to compete with the well-heeled. In 2015 in the UK we know that a child’s circumstances at birth will influence its life chances more than any other single factor. The time when those at the bottom could rise according to their abilities was a brief flowering of egalitarianism, quickly stamped out by the establishment. The introduction of tuition fees is part of the same pattern and a recent announcement stated that even the grants made to the very worst off students are now to be converted into loans - debt.
As I battled on Sunday through the Remembrance Day crowds in Edinburgh to a service at my own church I was chilled by more than just the rain and the wind. Just what has happened to our hopes and dreams of a fairer society since the guns fell silent on the Western Front in WWI? Woodrow Wilson called it a war to end all wars but 1939 saw the dawn of a second ‘great’ war. At the end of each, the hope for a fairer, more peaceful world was great.
But in this country the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown exponentially since the 90s into a vast chasm.
Instead of a fighting force engaged in security measures we are enmeshed in the global aftermath of one of the most stupid, testosterone fuelled bits of international madness any government ever engaged in to the point where we are morally constipated. We make embarrassing overtures to the Egyptian leader in the hope that he will help sit on ISIS while ignoring any number of human rights abuses in the attempt to make the sticking plaster of risible international diplomacy stick. (I already covered our embarrassing slavering to the Chinese a couple of weeks ago).
We managed D-day but couldn’t repatriate a few hundred holiday makers from sharm-el-sheikh. In WWII we (belatedly) took in Jewish refugees without complaining about school places or benefits. However, having failed to stop Assad’s apocalypse we bellyache about taking in Syrian refugees. People had so much less then. Is that maybe why they were more willing to share?
We defeated Hitler and Mussolini but there was an embracing of Farage and his watery nastiness at all levels that made good people nauseous.
Why do we remember the lessons of the two great wars for just one day a year?
Give us an administration that cares all year and remembers the hopes and dreams of those who survived the horrors. We’ve no use for a poppy-one-day-a-year government, shafting ordinary people the other 364 days.
If this government want to truly honour the war dead and the sacrifices they made for freedom and a better life, let’s see more fairness. Let’s see better schools, better health care and let’s see the very comfortably off (and eye-wateringly wealthy) friends of those in power paying their bloody taxes.