Monday, 11 November 2013

Hypocrisy, thy name is UPPAL

My MP is Mr Paul Uppal. He is a multimillionaire property developer with a fairly distant relationship with Truth and Honesty, as I've chronicled over the three years since his marginal election.

One of Paul's proudest boasts is that he has never ever voted against a single Government measure, despite supposedly representing one of the poorest, hardest-hit areas in the country. Disabled children's support? He voted to cut it. £9000 tuition fees? Yes please. The bedroom tax? Get those shirkers! NHS privatisation? It couldn't come fast enough for him. Education Maintenance Allowance? A disgusting subsidy. Sweep it away!

And yet, what's this? Paul and I have both signed a petition opposing the closure or sale of the local municipal swimming baths! He objects to any 'front-line' service cuts'. What can possibly be going on? I know why I oppose closure: I use the pool a couple of times a week and know how good it is not just for individuals but for public health. The fitter people are, the less likely they are to need NHS support for obesity and other ailments.

But why is Lazy Paul suddenly discovering the joys of grass-roots democracy? Surely it isn't because he believes in public provision of services for the common good, with his track record? Don't be silly: it's because he's a cynical hypocrite. He'll sign anything that gets him in the local paper or on the radio, anything that gets him a few votes. Does he care about the Central Baths? Not a bit. If anything, I suspect he'd privatise it tomorrow without a care in the world.

I'll say this for the Conservative Party: they've played a blinder with the massive public sector cuts. The true genius was to load the biggest cuts on to local council budgets, and in particular on to northern, poor and mostly Labour councils. Stricken Stoke, for instance, lost £200m over the past couple of years, well over 10%: plenty of rich Southern areas saw reduction in the 1% range. The political genius was to funnel the cuts through councils which are largely not Conservative. People will blame the immediate axe-wielders – in Wolverhampton's case, Labour – and (the Tories hope) vote in the opposition in the next local elections. If that's not breathtakingly cynical, I don't know what is.

The immediate effect is that you get millionaire Conservatives signing petitions and on the streets crying crocodile tears while solemnly voting in Parliament for massive cuts that they'll then oppose locally. We've seen it before with Cabinet Ministers such as William Hague campaigning against local hospital closures that they've supported in principle and in practice at the higher levels, while claiming to be entirely innocent.

I'd like to hear more from Paul Uppal. He voted through massive cuts for public authorities to pay for the banks to be bailed out. If 'front line' services are to be protected, where should the cuts go? This council has been cut to the bone and beyond in recent years, thanks to him and his friends, yet they have absolutely nothing to say when challenged about this. Rather than take a principled line for or against these attacks on the public realm, they have their cake and eat it: vote through disgusting cuts then campaign against them when there's a photographer around.

Will he change his behaviour in Parliament? Of course not: he's going to go round attacking the council for doing what his party has made it do. Thanks to the lack of any serious media scrutiny, people like him will be able to play it both ways: vote for cuts and attack cuts simultaneously. He's probably writing a speech about 'local government waste and inefficiency' right now.

Uppal's is one signature this petition can do without.

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