Do we have to self-immolate to start a revolution against the British Pol Pot?

By David Seymour

The swift and partially successful revolution in Tunisia was started by an out-of-work graduate who set himself on fire. Now others under the yoke in despotic regimes are doing the same.

Self-immolation has repelled me since I saw the pictures of Buddhist monks on fire in Vietnam but I have to admit that it has an impact which no other form of protest does. Not that I am volunteering to lead the revolution.

But the impact of what has happened in Tunisia does make me wonder what we have to do to get the British people to realise what is going on in this country.

I am baffled by the Tories, particularly David Cameron. I have no doubt that he genuinely believes in and treasures the National Health Service. He has personal experience of it which few Labour MPs have. When you spend a night a week sleeping on a hospital floor by the bedside of your severely disabled child, you see too clearly the magnificence of NHS staff.

So why is he introducing “reforms” which will destroy the health service? It doesn’t make sense. Even if he has been suckered into believing the nonsense propaganda of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, he can’t be so stupid that he doesn’t understand what the ultimate effect of Lansley’s changes will be.

I have already written about the revolution in higher education (destruction of), schools (reformed so they are only fit for an elite) and welfare benefits (back to the poor house). Deep down, Cameron doesn’t believe in any of that, does he?

Unless the Lib Dems wake up and pull out of the coalition – highly unlikely – this government will run for the full five years. Four more years to wreck the services we hold dear.

This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot. It isn’t killing professionals and the middle classes, but it is so damaging their lives and the chances of their children that it’s the British equivalent to wholesale slaughter.

And what are we doing? Apart from mutterings from the unions and some demos from students – and even they seem to have given up – we do no more than write angry blogs.

Even before New Labour, the vast majority of people didn’t care who owned services, from the railways through gas and electricity to health. What they mind about is how good the service is and how much they are charged for it.

So the danger is that, apart from the professionals who are going to be directly affected, most people won’t think that what the government is doing will affect them. It will.

Cameron’s greatest skill is in dropping truths in with the big lie. However much we don’t like it, it is true that our health service is second rate compared with those in most other developed countries. But why? That is what needs to be asked. Saying that it is all due to an overblown management so let’s flog it off to public companies is ludicrous.

Similarly with schools. Both Labour and Conservative have played “it’s all the teachers’ fault” for a long time, to which the Tories have added “and education authorities”.  It’s just not true. Yet there is clearly something wrong with our education system.

Britain is awash with think tanks but none seem to be doing thinking that goes to the root of the problems.

Revolution is not the answer, with or without self-immolation. That is what the Tories are trying and it is going to end in tears. Not for them – they and their kind are insulated against the coming disasters – but for the British people.

The immolation that is going to happen here is of our services.

David Seymour has written more newspaper leader columns than anyone in history. He is a doyen. He blogs here.


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38 Responses to “Do we have to self-immolate to start a revolution against the British Pol Pot?”

  1. “However much we don’t like it, it is true that our health service is second rate compared with those in most other developed countries.”

    Wiki: A recent comparative analysis of health care systems put the NHS second in a study of seven rich countries. The report put the UK health systems above those of Germany, Canada and the US; the NHS was deemed the most efficient among those health systems studied.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10375877

  2. Hydrargyrum says:

    Any truth there may be in your arguments is blotted out by the ridiculousness of comparing the coalition with Pol Pot. It is tremendously disrespectful to the millions who died in the killing fields of Cambodia. You do a great disservice to Cambodians to belittle their history in this manner and it does not benefit the causes you are trying to help.

  3. Ultimo Tiger says:

    You’re comparing the current government to a genocidal Socialist regime that killed over a million people?

    Christ, I knew the education system was broken but not this badly!

  4. antifrank says:

    This article is an affront to taste and decency. The author should take a good long hard look at himself in the mirror. The comparison to Pol Pot is utterly disgusting, whatever your view of the coalition. Grow up.

  5. jdennis_99 says:

    What utter nonsense. The coalition is not murdering people. Grow up.

  6. Mike Thomas says:

    This level of polemic is incredibly distasteful.

    Look at how the NHS has been ran and the deaths that has caused. They are the facts.

    Stafford Hospital – ran by a Chief Exec who’s main experience was in the catering trade.

    I would have thought putting the commissioning into the hands of medical professionals would be basic common sense. It’s how every single EU27 healthcare system is ran.

    Only North Korea and Cuba commission their healthcare in the way the NHS does.

  7. Common Sense says:

    Mate, you are mental. Pol Pot? Wholesale slaughter?

    I thought we were trying to avoid hysterical and aggressive language.

  8. Erm says:

    “This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot. It isn’t killing professionals and the middle classes, but it is so damaging their lives and the chances of their children that it’s the British equivalent to wholesale slaughter.”

    This bit is a very strange addition to what is an otherwise measured and interesting post. Were you drunk?

  9. Fubar Saunders says:

    “This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot. It isn’t killing professionals and the middle classes, but it is so damaging their lives and the chances of their children that it’s the British equivalent to wholesale slaughter.”

    Y’know… I used to think that this site was a somewhat more… measured, thoughtful, less hysterical, chest-beating place to see what the left was thinking, compared to some of the other more overt Fabianista sites. Utterly ridiculous comments like this tear that assumption asunder.

    “And what are we doing? Apart from mutterings from the unions and some demos from students – and even they seem to have given up – we do no more than write angry blogs….”

    “Not that I am volunteering to lead the revolution.”

    Heh. I bet you’re not.

    Means putting your money where your big mouth is, doesnt it?

    And yet, you complain about “what we have to do to get the British people to realise what is going on”… when its clear that writing tub thumping, dog-whistling leaders preaching to the converted isnt working. But hey, it probably pays the bills and soothes the conscience that you’re at least doing something for the revolution, eh David?

    They’re apathetic. They protest, they howl, they march against the war in Iraq, they march against the hunting ban (which I approve of, incidentally), and what did Labour do? Blank them. Ignore them. You promised them a referendum on Europe then reversed it. You doubled the income tax on the poorest overnight. Your high command engendered a culture of spin and lazy lobby journalism into modern British politics that has been as corrosive as battery acid. You were every bit as sleazy as the tories you replaced, if not more so, created a climate of fear, introduced 3000 more offences and dumbed down educational standards and pursued an open door immigration policy. No wonder the plebs are apathetic. Those that would and could have done anything, apart from the union’s rent-a-mobs to get angry have mostly emigrated. Most of the rest of the public know that resistance is futile. Government, regardless of colour, doesnt listen beyond the 24 hour news cycle.

    You reap what you sow old boy. If you feel that strongly about it, put down the keyboard and get yourself out there and show some leadership at the front of the barricades instead of expecting someone else to do it for you.

  10. Slackbladder says:

    For sale: sense of proportion. Buyer collects.

    Although I detect a hint of hyerbole in the article.

  11. “This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot.”
    [citation needed]

  12. Henrik says:

    “This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot.” – oh, come on. This sort of ridiculous hyperbole might play well with the comrades, but will tend to leave the great mass of the electorate scratching its collective head and wondering where the Labour Party keeps its Kool-Aid.

    We had 13 endless years of watching helplessly from the sidelines while you people squandered our savings and mortgaged our childrens’ future, pouring our cash into unreformed public services which simply absorbed all that resource while continuing an inexorable decline. For the love of God, let’s give the Coalition (note, not “the Tory-led government”) a fair wind – they’re being truly radical and have a close eye on the main aim, which is to get the outgoings into some sort of alignment with income.

    I would love it if Labour could just get over the fact that they made a complete hash of the last 13 years, accepted that they lost the election resoundingly and now took some time to sit down and produce some constructive, optimistic and attractive policies – in which they actually believed – to make themselves at least a viable Opposition (hint: this doesn’t involve attacking everything the government does) and, perhaps, just possibly, an electable party of government.

  13. Comparing the Tunisian uprising against a dictatorship to your self-righteous moaning against, erm, a democratically elected British Government would have been enough to make this article laughable…but you had to mention Pol Pot as well.

    This is at best utterly, utterly ridiculous and at worst deeply offensive to make light of the horrific crimes of the Khmer Rouge in this way.

  14. Common Sense says:

    The editor of this site is a former Labour MP who wants to be Birmingham’s first directly-elected mayor. So why is he publishing vile rubbish that discredits the Labour cause?

    Can’t you can disagree with the government without resorting to smears and hate speak?

  15. Alex says:

    I cannot believe what I have just read.

    Pol Pot?

    How dare you!

  16. Hyperbole says:

    Yes exactly like Pol Pot, millions dead in the paddy fields, tanks rounding up innocent civilians and then shooting them. Exactly the same, no exaggeration at all. Well done for being so perceptive.

  17. oliver says:

    @Mark Wallis: I agree with the general thrust of what you’re saying – as with the rest of the comments here – but I take issue with ‘democratically’.

    Technically you’re right but when the overwhelming bulk of the British media is strewing the paths of the Tories with palm leaves, and when the Guardian switches its support to the Lib Dems – at a time when it’s was widely understood that they’d play a supporting role to either the Tories or (New) Labour, such monolithic support and influence diminishes the idea of any real democracy or free thinking/voting.

    @David Seymour: I’m as loathing as anyone of this coalition and I’ll suffer greatly under this government; it’s likely I will lose my home and as someone who suffers form a long-term serious impairment, my prospects don’t look good at all. Through NHS destruction, benefit ‘reforms’, employment/(re)training policies, cuts in local government services and so on it’s hard to see anything that this government is implementing that doesn’t drastically and negatively impact my life in some way. However, it does the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime a massive injustice and disservice.

    There’s some very weak and spurious analogies to be had – Pol Pot’s reforms forceably moved many, many people from one part of the country to another and housing benefit cuts are likely to do similar; shifts in medicinal practice and delivery from ‘Western’ to ‘rural/traditional’ resulted in deaths and ailments going untreated and Lansley’s reforms and privatisation of the NHS is also likely to result in deaths and serious ailments going untreated; and so on – but, overall, there’s no real comparison until over 1,000,000 people have died directly because of the Tory-led government’s actions.

    It’s important to address this use of hyperbole because, if people can take issue with it here – where you’re practically preaching to the converted – your whole argument suddenly becomes an open goal to supporters of the Tory-led government.

  18. Stephen W says:

    Your references to both Tunisia and Pol Pot are deeply distasteful. It is the direct equivalent to comparing someone to Hitler. You trivialise the deaths of a million people. It’s like making a one line joke about the Holocaust. It’s a cheap disgrace.

    And despite your inane rhetoric after the next 5 year we will still have higher education, schools and NHS free at the point of access for all. So I just do not know what your bizarre rhetoric is even about.

  19. It does make sense, Cameron has always been able to afford private healthcare. Subsequently, if the NHS wasn’t there he could go else where. He can never understand the economic pressures of someone who relies on the glorious NHS.

    Moreover, I’ll add to others in saying that you’re distasteful in referencing Pol Pot and Tunisia.

  20. oliver says:

    @Henrik: Part of the problem with this Tory-led government – and that’s what it is – is the very fact that it is “radical”. In times like these, there’s as much an argument not to be radical as there is for being radical. If, according to the Tory take on the economy, there’s hardly any money left, then you need to know exactly what you’re doing with that money.

    This is the exact opposite of what’s happening with the Tories. For all the talk about how they’ve spent years researching this, that and the other, even their own number are taken about about the speed and fervour with which many things are happening and some of them are real leaps of faith, in the dark and against the judgements of experts across all fields.

    At the moment, ‘radical’ is tantamount to reckless and much of this change is about ideology rather than economic necessity. It’s perverse that the Tories rightful criticisms of New Labour’s infatuations with PFI – backdoor privatisation – is that it should be remedied by more privatisation.

  21. YMT says:

    Article Author is a utter twat, end of really.

  22. 45Minutes2Launch says:

    A new branch for Godwin’s Law!

  23. Tom Harris says:

    Have you ever actually been to Cambodia? It would take just an afternoon around Phnom Penh to realise how utterly disgraceful that reference is. Simply appalling.

  24. Matt says:

    Moronic drivel. You do not deserve an audience.

  25. Left Is Forward says:

    “This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot” is EXACTLY, FACTUALLY CORRECT.

    The oh-so-polite Tory wannabes posting above, ever so eager to show their solidarity with the victims of Cambodia, are just thumbing their noses at the tens of millions of people suffering right in front of their eyes.

    Real people – our flesh and blood fellow-citizens – are going to be killed by the Tory regime. Many have died already, and it is only going to get worse.

    Add together the elderly who will die unable to heat their homes, those deprived of benefits (particularly the disabled and families) unable to fund decent food, living standards or exercise, the millions of people exposed to an NHS which is having its heart ripped out, the students who will not get adequate health education as the schools are slashed, the increased rate of suicide among the young and unemployed who feel dumped by “society”, the destruction of mental health services, the killers and paedophiles who will be set free from soft-on-crime prisons only to kill again, the protestors whose young lives will be wiped out by the brutal force of the police (just a matter of time before the fatalities start, judging from police responses so far).

    This is almost certain to come to around 1 million people when measured over the course of 5 years – which does indeed make this the most lethal regime since Pol Pot killed a little over a million in the 1970s. That’s not a “Godwin’s Law” reference – Hitler killed tens of millions of people, a whole order of magnitude above. Some people would add Stalin to that category, but if you do so, you also have to include the British Empire for the millions of people who starved in Imperial India. Nobody is talking about Cameron in those terms.

    But are Cameron and the Tories (and Lib Dems) going to be responsible, personally, for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people? YES! Does that make them the most destructive regime since Pol Pot? YES! There is no hyperbole here – just a blunt, brutal, factual evaluation.

    They are waging a war on the British people – especially the poor, the young, the old, the disabled, the unemployed, and the otherwise vulnerable. People are dying, and more will die in the future. After their regime is smashed, I hope they will be prosecuted for War Crimes. The only thing we can draw comfort in, is that their days are numbered. Articles like this can only help us to keep our fighting spirit up – more please!!

  26. Henrik says:

    @oliiver: the problem is that, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got. The Coalition’s policies and initiatives partially reflect each party’s manifesto, quite rightly; equally rightly, they don’t reflect the entirety of either party’s policy – again, quite rightly. I rather think I like this crowd – the Lib Dems keep the lid on the, um, extreme end of the Tory party, the Tories keep the lid on the more, um, unusual thinking among the Lib Dems. They’ve got a hell of an uphill piece of work to do in dealing with the damage of the last 13 years and I wish them well at it; that said, they do need an opposition, so could the comrades please start coming up with something useful, attractive and realistic as a set of policies which might persuade folk to: a. start trusting them and b. vote for them?

    @Left Is Forward… no, on second thoughts, never mind. You carry on ranting, matey. You’re certainly doing your bit to convince me of the essential rightness and sense of Labour politics.

  27. theProle says:

    @at left is forward:

    I dunno what your smoking mate, but can I have some too? It must be good gear…

  28. Left Is Forward says:

    Oliver, the problem is the Left IS essentially right – and we all know that Labour have let the Left down many a time since the Blairite takeover. Now it’s time for us to take our party back, and have an organisation that genuinely does fight for the poor and the vulnerable. The fact that you admit to liking both the Tories and the LibDems is a sure sign of your lack of empathy with their victims. Perhaps you live in a lovely middle-class area where you reckon all the government “overspending” was being flushed down the toilet of “Five-A-Day co-ordinators” and “LBGT outreach workers”, and all those jobs can be cut quite harmlessly, while saving you on your tax bill…

    The truth though is very different. The cuts will even hit the middle classes. The Tories’ bizarre War on the Police – absolutely the worst cuts to be making – and pledge to cut prison numbers by just letting criminals out, will mean more crime where you live. If your organisation employs people, you’ll find that your future employees are less flexible and less well-educated – and ultimately less productive – because of Tory cuts to education. You may well have young relatives who live in a state of deep depression because the wrecked job market means even graduates struggle to find work. In too many cases, suicide seems the only way out for them. Perhaps it has to be your son or your daughter, though, before it counts for you?

    But the impact on the middle-classes is nothing compared to the effect on the vulnerable. For many people, day-to-day survival is a question of the benefits and public services they receive. The squeeze on these, is devastating to millions. Cameron is trying to destroy a whole generation (did you not see the youth unemployment figures today, or factor in the EMA and £9000 uni fees?) while the frail and elderly will be wiped out by a for-profit NHS. But at least the young can stand up and make ourselves counted.

    The bottom line is this: despite the Coalition being a deeply undemocratic perversion of the May 2010 election, Cameron and Clegg are refusing to hold a fresh election, because they know from the polls that Labour would win by a landslide. Instead, they are busy gerrymandering the constituencies so they can rule undemocratically for decades to come, and are forcing through five-year parliaments so that their illegal and unconstitutional government can’t be legitimised (or defeated) until 2015.

    Too many people are suffering, even dying, under this Tory regime, for us to wait until 2015. The story of Tunisia gives great hope to all of us who are witnessing the devastation here first-hand. When Tunis comes to the Thames, you will discover that nobody is prepared to lay down their lives on behalf of the butcher Cameron, or the murderous Osborne, or the quisling Clegg. Even the police and army, who are paid to protect this illegal regime, are actually strongly opposed to it (ironically, due to the vicious Tory cuts aimed against them). But for the many young or exploited people who have been left with no hope except for bringing down the government ASAP, we are prepared to sacrifice everything for the cause – it’s something we are passionate for, in the same way the passion of the crowds of Tunis surprised the government there, but it’s out of necessity. The alternative of the Coalition’s War on the People lasting four more years is too antidemocratic, too inequitable, too vicious, and too deadly to contemplate. 2015 is far too late; in 2011 the streets must be ours, and we’re going to give it all we’ve got.

  29. Left Is Forward says:

    Previous post is @Henrik not @Oliver!

  30. Henrik says:

    @LiF: That sounds rather like a clarion call for direct action to me. Good luck with that, it’s a big boys’ game and it tends to get played by big boys’ rules.

    As to your speculation about my circumstances, no, I’m afraid you’re wrong on pretty much every count.

  31. oliver says:

    @Left Is Forward: I’m typing this from a tower block on a run down 1960s estate on the outskirts of Manchester, where I’ve lived for 17 years, most of my adult life. I’ve had an on-off/on-off medical condition that makes employment difficult and a risk that most employers not that keen on taking.

    My future looks incredibly bleak due to benefit reform, changes in the NHS and local government services. On practically every front, I’m one of those people whose life will become ripped apart thanks to this Tory-led government. I’m hardly “middle-class” or a “Tory wannabe”.

    I’m not sure at all where you get this impression that I “admit to liking both the Tories and the LibDems is a sure sign of your lack of empathy with their victims” from at all. In my first post on this thread I actually state that “I’m as loathing as anyone of this coalition” and go on to point out that I’m going to be one of the people who will suffer the most under this government. I even go on to extrapolate on Tom Watson’s own premise and point out that, if you really, really had to use this analogy, then there’s some points that Watson didn’t make – and highlighted some more Tory foulness that’s appeared over the last few months.

    I even ended my first post with a plea to pay more attention to how arguments are framed if only to make it harder for LibDems and Tories to exploit potential weaknesses in debates. A chance to write something off as ‘hysteria’, ‘hyperbole’, evoking Godwin and so on gives Tories and opportunity to get a reply in but completely avoid the actual points being raised. That gives them a chance to wriggle off the hook. We can’t allow that.

    And yet, you appear to have me down as liking the Tories and the LibDems? That’s a fairly rum interpretation of anything I’ve actually said anywhere in this thread.

    Before you make another accusation as to the colour of my politics, my criticisms of New Labour on Labour UnCut – or elsewhere – aren’t because I’m Tory or LibDem, it’s because my politics are to the left – not right – of much of what New Labour gave us.

  32. oliver says:

    @Left Is Forward: I’ve just seen your erratum. I could have saved myself some typing!

  33. Liberal Neil says:

    Dear Labour Uncut,

    The approach of the current Government is far too serious a matter to be left to spoof articles like this one.

    Some readers might take an article like this one seriously which woulkd leave your website open to ridicule.

    Can I suggest that, in future, spoofs like this one are clearly marked as such.

  34. Left Is Forward says:

    @Neil, what on earth is “spoof” is about it??

    Do you want to turn around and tell the millions of people who are suffering so gravely under this government, that their suffering is just a “spoof”?

    Do you want to tell the grieving relatives of the thousands of people this government’s vicious cuts have killed, that the death was just a “spoof”?

    Do you want to look in the eye of a hospital patient fearing for their healthcare, or a young person whose life and aspirations have just been robbed from them (to pay for the banker friends of Tory toffs), or a disabled person and their carer facing up to an uncertain future, and tell them face-to-face that the gut-wrenching fear they feel is “just a spoof”?

    Get a grip and face the hard realities. The deficit might be an inconvenience for the investment bankers, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped their bonuses does it? The deficit saves lives – and many thousands of people will be killed in this government’s absurd attempts to cut it. The greatest irony is that by cutting too hard and too fast they will actually fail to reduce the deficit anyway, just provoke a double-dip recession… but that’s nothing to laugh at, it just makes the sacrifice of all those vulnerable people even sicker.

  35. theProle says:

    @ left is forward

    “The deficit saves lives – and many thousands of people will be killed in this government’s absurd attempts to cut it. ”

    You are Tory Bear out for a wind up, and I claim my £50.

    I’m sure even the most bed-wetting leftwing fanatic’s wouldn’t think that. Not even Ed Balls himself.

    Oh, hang on a minute, the guy who wrote the piece at the top of this page reckoned the coalition’s plans are like Pol Pot’s massacres.

    Do us a favour guys, and get yourselves checked into a mental health clinic ASAP – you are not helping make the left’s case for anything.

  36. Jeremy Poynton says:

    Infantile. To compare any British politician to Pol Pot (even war crim Blair) is utterly stupid.

    Is that really the best you can come up with? Jeez – even the NSU would be pushed to come up with such idiocy.

  37. Jeremy Poynton says:

    Interesting tho … the three greatest mass murderers – Stalin, Mao & Pol Pot – all espoused the politics of the Left.

  38. Left Is Forward says:

    I don’t think Hitler or the British Raj can be accused of being left-wing, they certainly killed more people than Pol Pot. The problem is extremism and contempt for the value of human life, not right or left-wing politics. Funnily enough “extremism” and “contempt for the value of human life” are thoughts that crop up in my head every time I see George Osborne on TV.

    And I’ll say it again: THE DEFICIT SAVES LIVES.

    This ought to be obvious to anybody who realises that the welfare state and public sector are, quite literally, life-savers. Millions of people are utterly dependent on them – from disability benefits, to winter fuel allowance, to hospital treatment, to sex and health education.

    Yet this slash-and-burn government is presenting a choice between vicious, heartless cuts or continued investment via deficit spending. The former will destroy the lifelines that millions are dependent on – for some the results will be unfortunate, for some soul-destroying, and for the unlucky few, life-ending. The only way to save those lives is to continue with the deficit, chase the tax-dodgers, and allow the economy to regrow until the tax gap is narrowed down. This unconstitutional government is foolishly trying to end the deficit by cuts that will stop growth dead – and the cuts they are enacting will kill people, just more collateral damage in their War on the Poor. It is a simple factual statement that the deficit saves lives, and cuts will end them.

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