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So, Tory Minister Dr. Phillip Lee has decided that we're all a selfish lot and don't care for our elderly parents enough. I wonder, is he talking about successful businessmen, etc. not paying out for nurses and home-helps for their parents? Is he talking about, for instance, high-flying government ministers who should perhaps give up those responsible positions to spend more time with their elderly relatives? (Can he provide an example of this happening?) Or is he talking about people with no money, or who work every hour they can to support their own kids, driving themselves further into poverty, and debt by taking on the care of their parents as well? I think you'll find it's the latter. And would I, when the time comes, want my kids to waste their opportunities just to make my dotage a little less miserable than it will, almost inevitably, be? Time the Tories stopped trying to tell the rest of us how we should live I think—as if they have any idea at all.
One thing that has come out of the recent Tory conference is that the Tories have lots of opinions—about us, the ordinary people of this country. Ian Duncan Smith reckons that unmarried men (such as myself) are a menace to society, Dr. Lee reckons that we're all selfish, and should spend more of our time and money caring for our parents (personally, my fear is that my children will spend too much time and energy caring for me); all we need now is Eric Pickles to tell us that, despite statistically being one of the most secular countries in the world and one of the most ethnically diverse Western democracies, we are still basically a Christian country (I'm a Pagan).
You might object that here I am projecting my particular values onto the political stage, holding them up as examples as if they were universal, and I am. My excuse is that this is exactly what these Tory grandees do. They, in general, live lives so far removed from the lot of ordinary folk, that they might as well be inhabitants of an alien planet, and yet they believe they can tell us not only what to do (which is, I suppose, a politicians job in many situations), but also what to think and feel! Seriously, what does Dr. Lee know about looking after elderly parents on a limited budget? Has he experienced this? Or, in his entire life, anything like it?
These people, however, are not stupid—except emotionally perhaps. They must know that such pronouncements will put a lot of people’s backs up. So why do they make them? Well, to some extent, it is simply to pander to the older, home-owning, and probably retired voter whom they see as the bedrock of their diminishing support. But primarily, it is to soften us up for more austerity, more cuts in public services, and so on. For instance, when our old people are, in the near future, found to be receiving inadequate care in nursing homes, they have already laid the foundation for the riposte that such old people shouldn’t really be in nursing homes, they should be being taken care of by their younger relatives.
For most, ordinary people taking in elderly relatives means limiting their own job and life opportunities. Now, you could say that younger people should be happy to do this, but I take a different view. Also, I am no spring chicken, let’s just say that, so I think I know something whereof I speak. Being old and incapable is going to be miserable; that’s an inescapable fact. I don’t really think that watching my children, one or more of them, limit their life chances by taking care of me is going to make me any less miserable—quite the reverse.
To address a wider point though, these Tories have little experience of life as the rest of us to live it. They can employ nurses and home-helps easily, they see the shrinking of the state and a continuation and deepening of austerity as good things, they see the economic deprivations which will be the inevitable consequences of Brexit as just unfortunate; they will not, personally, be affected by any of this much at all. Fair enough, almost no government minister or MP will, but Labour MPs, etc., are not lecturing us on how to live within our dwindling means and what antediluvian values we should adopt in order to cope with our reduced circumstances. Perhaps that’s because some of them (Labour MPs) are at least in a position to remember what life was like before it was cushioned by their five-figure salaries and expense accounts.