Eton Whine

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The other day I heard a recording of a Thatcher speech on the TV. It was one of those awful repetitive dogmatic dirges she was so fond of. Immediately the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I felt my hackles rise.

It's amazing that after all this time she alone of politicians of my lifetime can produce such deep loathing and an urge to do something unspeakably violent.

There have been plenty of other politicians I have detested, yet none quite trigger the same feeling, and I'm aware it's not entirely logical. I mean there is so much to loathe about Cameron, Osborne and Clegg, smarmy sons of privilege, hiding truly vicious politics behind vague social liberalism.

When Cameron makes an appeal to racists you don't get the crude "swamping" style speech of Thatcher. It is dressed up with some "nice things" being said about immigrants. The appeal though is largely the same, and its aim entirely the same, to tie the racist vote to the Tories.

Nor is it just race. This Tory regime, along with its Lib Dem allies, is introducing attacks both practical and ideological on the welfare state that Thatcher could only dream about.

Take George Osborne and death duty. When he announced in his budget speech that if you left money to charity in your will this would be deducted from death duty he was saying something very pernicious and something deeply allied to the current Tory view of the welfare state.

The message is very clear: tax is a bad thing, charity a good thing. Instead of the state looking after the poor, the old, the sick and the vulnerable, such things should be at the behest of rich individuals who can decide who is deserving of their largesse and who isn't.

In other words the little bit of democratic control of spending we do have should be removed and decisions should be left to each wealthy individual. If that individual decides to leave their money to a dogs' home, or even, believe it or not, Eton College, then the amount they leave will be taken away from the public purse which is spent on the likes of the NHS, education or care for the elderly.

There has been much talk about the confusion of what David Cameron means by the "Big Society", but it's clear that what lies behind it is "big state" (ie the welfare state) bad, "do gooding" good.

This is at the heart of everything the Tories are doing, and there is no doubt they have been helped by the way a watered down version of this message was carried through in the Blair/Brown years. But the Tories' ambitions in this direction go much further.

Their aim is to carry forward a rich man's charter on the question of tax and wages.

Recently I listened to one of their policy wonks explain that high taxes on the rich, or on bankers' bonuses would just drive "all the entrepreneurial talent out of the country" (good riddance, I hear you say), yet within two sentences he was explaining that British workers had to be realistic about wages or they would be priced out by foreign competition.

Now just think about that for a moment: what he was saying is that bosses have to be paid more because of foreign competition, but workers have to be paid less for exactly the same reason. Combine that with attacks on benefits and hey presto, the gap between rich and poor just grows and grows.

They back this all up with the nastiest divide and rule rhetoric. Remember the argument about council tax benefit capping. It went something like this: "Hard working low paid Bert can't afford to live in Westminster, yet feckless out of work Freddie can, due to his housing benefit. How can this be fair?"

This was designed to make Bert hostile to Freddie without Bert ever having a chance to move into Freddie's house. No, when Freddie has to go, Tarquin the stockbroker will move in!

It is all so cynical and nasty, and while the ideological assault goes on, so do the dangerous reforms around school academies and effectively privatising chunks of the NHS, although thankfully both Gove and Lansley have proved to be spectacularly incompetent in carrying these things through.

After all, when even Thatcher's old henchman Norman Tebbit says that the Tories are attacking the NHS, they just have to know they've mucked up.

Yes, this really is a nasty government. Is it just me or is the Eton whine beginning to become as revolting as the Grantham Groan?