Readers from the United Kingdom cannot fail to have noticed the General Election taking place this week.
Living on the very edge of my constituency in an area of social housing where few people vote, political campaign teams never usually visit my area. In the half-dozen General, European and Council Elections I’ve voted in since I moved here, I have previously received only one doorstep visit and three campaign leaflets (all but one of which were from the BNP). The desperation of larger parties to avoid a hung parliament however, and the possibility for smaller parties to gain influence in coalition means canvassers have been flocking here for weeks and my recycling box has filled with a rainbow of leaflets.
Regardless of party affiliation, every leaflet I have read and every canvasser I’ve spoken to has encapsulated their message in the same pithy slogan: ‘hardworking people’.
Whether they are ‘building an economy that delivers for people who work hard and play by the rules’, making ‘hardworking Britain better off’, seeking to ‘listen to the voice of hardworking people’, or ‘looking out for the hardworking, ordinary British person’ the political rhetoric of all major parties sends one resounding message: if you don’t work, you don’t matter.
- Acute or chronic illness
- profound disability
- recent redundancy
- stay-at-home parent
- full-time unpaid carer
the reasons why you are workless really don’t matter.
- However much you might want to work
- however usefully you spend your time while you are out of work
- however hard you are seeking or preparing for work
- however many years you have previously worked
- whatever unsolicited catastrophe stole your ability to work
the simple fact that you don’t work makes you unimportant and undeserving.
And yet living with chronic illness, caring for someone with a disability, raising children or searching for employment all involve plenty of hard-graft. My daily life with chronic illness demands far more effort, self-motivation and exhaustion for less reward or recognition than anything I experienced in paid employment. Some of the hardest working, most selfless people I know receive no financial remuneration for their efforts.
So if Britain’s political parties only care about people in paid employment, who do you vote for when you aren’t able to work?
Who represents the interests of people like me?
I sincerely hope the government we elect tomorrow will fulfil their promises to hardworking people, but more than that, I dream of a day when ‘making Britain better for hardworking people’ becomes ‘making Britain better for everyone’. Because only when our system serves the interests of the sick, elderly, jobless and vulnerable as well as the wealthy, employed and physically able can we claim to be a truly democratic and civilised society.