Terrorism or austerity - a death is a death

By Bernadette Meaden
November 24, 2015

Why is the government so determined to protect British people from dying at the hands of terrorists, but completely unconcerned about British people dying as a result of its own policies? Why are some deaths to be prevented at all costs, whilst others appear to be simply viewed as the collateral damage of a political ideology?

After six years of being told that it was absolutely essential to slash public spending, with all the harm that has caused to the most disadvantaged people in society, it was remarkable to see David Cameron deliver a defence review in which money seemed to be no object, and in which an unforeseen extra £6 billion for Trident was a minor detail.

On the other hand, we have sections of the population, particularly the poor and disabled, living in fear and actually dying due to those 'essential' spending cuts, and the government policy of making the weakest bear the greatest burden.

No doubt some will say that this is an extreme statement of the situation. But we have just had a report linking the government's Work Capability Assessment to an extra 590 suicides. We have had coroners attributing deaths to that same policy. We have a list compiled by Black Triangle of deaths they associate with welfare reform. We have a prediction that the figures on 'excess winter deaths', to be released tomorrow, will be the highest for fifteen years. We can argue about the exact figures, but it now seems undeniable that significant numbers of people have died, and will continue to die, due to austerity and welfare reform.

So we have to ask ourselves, why are these deaths so much less important or newsworthy than deaths brought about by terrorism? Why does the fear engendered by terrorism command so much in terms of resources and media attention, whilst the fear and death brought about by callous government policy is almost totally disregarded?

Politicians seem to relish projecting power abroad, in military actions where the results are entirely unpredictable, ostensibly to protect us.  Yet through simple policy and spending decisions they have the power to safely and surely prevent deaths here at home, and do not use it.

© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.