Cameron, making Yorkshire his punchline

I’m not a stranger to poor jokes coming out of the Conservative government. When George Osborne was awarded the GQ Politician of the Year award after a comment that the pages he featured on ‘were the only ones not glued together,’ back when he won the accolade in 2011, I struggled to see how anyone would be laughing. A matter of days later, Cameron has taken the pew — with the people of Yorkshire as the punchline.

Speaking at a conference in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: ‘We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much.’

According to the video content released by The Guardian, it appears that only one person in the crowd was laughing.

Although there are 5.7 million people in Yorkshire, it seems that not one, but two idiotic stereotypes make it worthwhile for Cameron.

Seeing the county as a relegated trope ideal for a jibe not only illustrates the Prime Minister’s ignorance concerning the intelligence, creativity and potential of the county, but shows a seething lack of recognition that the county is so bitter because of the government’s grim will to pit communities against each other.

Holding the second-highest area unemployment rate and child poverty rates of one in four below the national average, resulting in almost half of 11-year-olds from deprived backgrounds in Yorkshire do not get to the standard of reading, writing and maths expected of the age group, according to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

In spite of this, Cameron’s government insist that ‘poor parenting’ is behind the heart of the report.

London receives twenty-four times more spending on infrastructure than the entirety of Yorkshire, Londoners receive £5,203 more per head on capital investment than people in the north-east. Arts Council England spend £41.03 per head for people in London – compared with £13.74 for the people of Yorkshire.

It’s not the age-old rivalry between Hull and Grimsby that is to blame. As further rhetoric regarding ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘swarms’ permeates the national consciousness in cheap television shows and tacky tabloid headlines, Yorkshire has been puppeteered into poverty with straw men to blame.

As the ‘Northern powerhouse’ seeks to tar the county as ‘one agenda, one economy, one North,’ it shamefacedly fails to recognise the nuances of the cities, the rural communities and the seaside towns that all contribute towards making Yorkshire Yorkshire. Each constituent has its own way to make money and it does not rely on a cheap plan that starves half of the country whilst its leaders focus on pumping more cash into its London-centric spreadsheet.

To term the north as a ‘powerhouse’ only further indicates that the Tory party see Yorkshire in its past glory without any recognition of its party’s destruction. In Hull, my hometown, the powerhouse was destroyed when our maritime port was destroyed in the seventies. In Sheffield, it was destroyed when the steel works shut down. Barnsley and Wakefield are just a few of the communities that took the hit of the mine closures, and have been struggling on a road to recovery ever since.

In short, Mr Cameron, I don’t believe that the Yorkshire community hates each other as much as you would like to think. Perhaps it hates you for you and your party’s lack of deference and understanding of its 5.7 million people.

Education as punishment: the reality of the summer budget’s new maintenance loan

I was a guest on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show today, where I discussed the Conservative government’s decision to convert student maintenance grants into loans.

BBC, Victoria Derbyshire show
BBC Victoria Derbyshire show

BBC Victoria Derbyshire show

Although the introduction of loans may appear like a legitimate action to balance those ever-encylopedic ‘books’ as the grant is a non-repayable sum, this decision is nothing more than a blistering attack of class discrimination by the government.

Back in 2010, I attended university. After my father was made redundant, I was awarded the full loan and grant package, to the tune of £9000. My parents, who are staunchly working class, have made fiscal and personal sacrifices throughout their lives to ensure that my sister and I could attend university.

Those receiving the full loan amount have a combined household income lower than £25,000.

Without this money, I would have not been able to pay for even the lowest rented accommodation at Leeds University.

Under new laws, I am worried for the working-class students of tomorrow. Not only are they saddled with at least £27,000 worth of debt thanks to the tripling of tuition fees in 2010, but now their lifeline, the maintenance grant, joins the other looming figure of £27,000 to saddle the average working-class student with at least £51,000 worth of debt when they leave university.

It’s okay to say that these students will pay that amount back when they are earning above a certain threshold. In reality, is that threshold enough to ensure that a graduate has a decent quality of life? Plenty of students can go through the system in hope that they will be a few of the lucky ones. Regardless of their optimism, they enter the graduate reality beleaguered by debt, hounded by extortionate rental prices and their job security threatened by the ever-looming spectre of unpaid internships.

Their debt demands that they take jobs in big business, the same corporations that seek serve self-interest, the same ones that the current government are orienteering their policy towards in order to battle the ever-more mysterious ‘deficit’.

They are encouraged to turn against those who are vulnerable, and are said to ‘not work hard enough’. These people can range from the most vulnerable Disability Allowance claimants to families who work and still struggle to get by with the help of working tax credits.

By the time the ‘living wage’ rises to £9 in 2020, it will serve as a mere minimum wage once more, unsuitable to accommodate the rising costs of living in the most expensive city in the world, London — for the north, in spite of the government’s ominous ‘northern powerhouse’ speech, is only meant to serve as a cog in the machine for London-centric politics.

Low income families pay for not being born into the right place at the right time. In the midst of this fiscal fury, they are pushed out of an age-old system of political pawnage that defies logic and sediments itself in privilege.

The government have just manipulated the student loans system in the most abhorrent fashion. The new policy of transforming student loans into grants *aims* to keep low-income students out. University education is now framed as a sacrificial burden, with the path towards knowledge, networking, extra curricular activities and developing skills for adult life becomes a path ridden with menacing consequence. All the doubts that working-class students have about really fitting into university come true. The punishment is merely the audacity of wanting to learn.