O JONATHAN SWIFT, you should be alive this hour! The 18th-century Anglo-Irish satirist would have been hard pressed to exaggerate the venality of today’s Tory Party leadership and its baying mob of supporters in the gutter press.
In A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of the Poor from being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public, he proposed that impoverished Irish families sell their children for the rich to eat.
“A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout,” he pointed out.
He was satirising not only the callousness of upper-class attitudes, but also the mock concern for the poor which accompanied various cruel remedies proposed to cure their condition.
The same mock concern saturates recent Tory proposals to “assist” some of the poorest sections of our society into work, notably those among the two million unemployed who are young, overweight or drug or alcohol abusers.
If the Tories win the next general election, hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to jump through a series of hoops on pain of losing their welfare benefits and being cast into utter destitution.
This is all for their own benefit and apparently has nothing to do with Chancellor George Osborne’s intention to slash another £12 billion from the social security budget or Employment and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s desire to drive many more off the unemployment register.
Perhaps, therefore, the Morning Star might make a modest proposal of its own to any incoming Tory government and its junior Lib Dem or Ukip collaborators.
Britain’s dependency on imported fuel — oil and gas in particular — is set to rise to 2020 and beyond, thereby worsening our balance of payments deficit.
At the same time, many thousands of our fellow citizens are obese, idle and trapped in a state of “welfare dependency.”
Why not put the overweight unemployed to work on tread-wheels for 30 hours a week, hooked up to the national grid?
In return for generating electricity, they would lose weight while still retaining their benefit. We could begin with those in the 18 to 21 age group singled out by Prime Minister Cameron yesterday.
Those too obese, disabled, drunk or drugged to participate in this exciting “fat to energy” conversion programme could be assisted to commit suicide, instead of being left to their own devices as at present.
Alternatively, we could offer free drug and alcohol advice and rehabilitation, and free entry to all sports and leisure centres, to all the unemployed. Everyone could be guaranteed up to 30 hours a week study or training on a full maintenance grant.
All who take up an offer of 30 hours community service — building council houses, say, or staffing a library or day centre — could be assigned to a public-sector organisation and given a wage. Such an arrangement might become known as “having a job.”
But where would the money come from? Well, there’s another group of people in our community who can very easily succumb to idleness, obesity and substance abuse — and who dodge paying their taxes on an epic scale.
We await a modest proposal from the Tories to cure the capitalists’ unhealthy and anti-social dependency on untaxed wealth.