“… Either the home secretary ignored the inevitable cruelty in chasing her targets – or she was too dumb to ask. True, Border Force staff told me that Rudd had had the wool pulled over her eyes about its state of dereliction. When she first visited Heathrow, managers bussed in apprentice tax-collectors from Newcastle to staff the passport kiosks, with passengers held back in another hall so that she saw no queues.
… Breaking this government’s stone heart has proved impossible over the years. As £30bn and then another £12bn were gouged from the social security budget, the devastating effects on families, on disabled people, on children, had no impact. Instead the government heaped abuse on victims, as Iain Duncan Smith vowed to end the “something-for-nothing culture”. Never admitting most people on benefits are in work, he liked warning them: “This is not an easy life any more, chum. I think you’re a slacker.” He denied his strict targets for knocking people off benefits: but jobcentre staff showed me what were called ”spinning plates” monthly targets, with one telling me: “You park your conscience when you work here.” Staff missing their quota were disciplined. The easiest hits were people with learning disabilities or mental illness, and benefits were stopped for tiny infractions. Did anyone in government break their heart over diabetic ex-soldier David Clapson, who starved to death when his benefits were stopped?
George Osborne relentlessly sneered at households sleeping on with “closed blinds while honest citizens set off to work”. Now his Evening Standard begs for charity for London’s hungry children, impoverished by him: the Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that another 1.2 million children are falling into poverty.
It never broke their hearts to punish families with more than two children, or cut rent support, or evict anyone with a spare room, sending them sometimes hundreds of miles from schools, jobs, friends and family. It didn’t break their hearts to see more than 50,000 Motability cars taken from disabled households. Would it break their hearts to see people with children using food banks?
Tory MPs know all this. I have sat in their surgeries to see how they react to the stream of human suffering they are inflicting. They look sorrowful, and promise to write (useless) letters to ministers. They get pleas for help from people being evicted and frail old people neglected at home for lack of care. They see children’s centres closing, and the soaring numbers of children taken into care because no one caught family problems early. They hear from patients in pain or danger through operations postponed. Maybe they complain about 600,000 lost young people, hanging around neither in education nor employment, with youth services having been abolished.
A “hostile environment” is what the government has deliberately created. Calculated cruelty has been policy, not accident. Writing about all this state-inflicted suffering can feel like banging your head against a brick wall: Guardian readers know it already, while government ministers don’t give a damn. Is Amber Rudd’s “heartbreak” a moment of great collective epiphany? Will a frozen dam of tears suddenly be unleashed? Theresa May’s “burning social injustices” burn brighter than ever, with no sign yet of an outbreak of howling repentance along the government benches.”