If Eric Pickles is Minister for Community Cohesion, I’m the Taliban’s Minister for Women. With 15 months to go to the next election the politics of prejudice has only just begun. Having no doubt conducted a focus group in Basildon, Travellers were identified as the ethnic minority that would yield least votes and for whom there is no celebrity on speed dial if singled out for a good kicking.
Pickles is doing what Michael Howard did during the 2005 Tory election campaign, picking on Travellers in a bid to deflect the gullible public from scrutinising their policies. For example, if you dig beneath the surface, you’ll find that the term “austerity” is actually a euphemism for stealing from the poor to give to the rich. If they can pick up a few votes from UKIP while they’re at it, all the better.
Instead of maligning an entire community based on briefings from his Oxbridge intern, Eric Pickles, like his colleagues, needs to get out more.
Pickles’ defence for picking on Travellers is that they should be made to obey the law like everyone else. Not quite everyone. There are some exceptions, aren’t there Eric. Five years after the global financial crisis, which has driven countless ordinary people to destitution and, in some cases death, not one senior banker has faced criminal charges in this country.
At the same time as the most vulnerable people in society are facing cuts to jobs, wages and benefits, corporations like Starbucks, Google and Amazon are finding loopholes in the law enabling them to avoid paying full tax on profits made in this country. Utility companies are accused of price rigging and exploiting impoverished customers. The wealthy, it seems, are allowed to evade and circumvent the law with government impunity, while ordinary people pay the price for their recklessness and greed.
If different rules apply for the privileged, the principles of fairness and justice that underpin a democracy are severely undermined. These are the issues the Tories will face during the election campaign and no amount of dog whistling will throw us off the scent.
See an earlier blog re the Eviction of The Dale Farm Travellers to get an insight into the human beings behind the misinformed, misleading stereotype.