How the Tories stole choice

“Choice” is the buzzword of the moment, the favourite word of the Tories. They use that word a lot. I do not think it means what they think it means.

The anti-reality Nadine Dorries was once again given a platform to express her confused opinions in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free section. Her piece is entitled “I want to introduce more choice for those seeking abortion, not less“, which would be a noble goal if that was in any way her intention.

With lies and misinformation, Dorries claims that her amendment to the already-hideous Health and Social Care Bill would increase women’s choice regarding abortion, by giving them access to independent counselling before they make the decision to terminate. Dorries repeats the claim that her amendment is supported by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, which it is not; and claims that counselling provided by abortion services is inadequate and taking away choice from women.

This is not true. Services like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service provide counselling and abortions. 20% of women who approach them change their minds and choose not to have an abortion. This is hardly pushing women into abortions, and is certainly not for the “financial motives” which Dorries declares must be the reason. It is also infinitely preferable that services who are familiar with women seeking abortions to provide counselling services. They are the experts. They have the necessary information and understanding of the psychology of women seeking abortions.An “independent” source may lack such knowledge and provide inferior care.

Dorries asks “Why would anyone imply that I want to make abortion illegal? I fully support quick and easy access to abortion”. Yet this is not quite true. Dorries has said herself she would like to see the abortion limit reduced to 9 weeks.

What Dorries is doing here is part of a long-term strategy to removing access to abortion, starting with something seemingly palatable. This pattern has been seen across the Atlantic, where in many states “counselling” has been made compulsory. The aim of these measures is to discourage women from abortion. This is not widening the right to choose. It is using the language of choice to remove choice.

In this week alone, this is not the only instance of a Tory talking choice when meaning anything but. David Cameron’s White Paper “Open Public Services” hides an odious sentiment inside the pleasant language of choice.

The white paper aims to allow the private sector to take over public services. Cameron declares the aims of the paper to be “choice, diversity, decentralisation, fairness and accountability.”

The first three words, as operationalised in the white paper translate as “increase competition”. Cameron would like to see competition in the areas of the private sector who seek to peck over the remains of our public services. Such competition would not be beneficial to any but the rich and the private sector themselves: in combination with decentralisation, this would lead to exacerbation of “postcode lotteries”–difference in public service provision in different areas.

This is, of course, inherently unfair. Accountability is nothing but another meaningless buzzword from politicians as I fail to see how accountability can be possible if the private sector are not subject to Freedom of Information requests.

Privatisation will not improve our lives: it will make it markedly worse. For an example of this, look no further than Richard Littlejohn’s nemesis: wheelie bins. Rubbish collection is outsourced by most councils to the private sector. With their profit motivation, bins are collected less frequently. This is why waste collection is utter rubbish. The private sector do not provide good services. They provide as little as possible to make as much money as possible.

Imagine if all of our public services were this bad.

According to David Cameron, this is “choice”.

The Tories have stolen the word “choice” and used it as a charming euphemism to describe their imposition of their will on the people: Nadine Dorries with her religiously-motivated crusade against bodily autonomy; David Cameron with his reckless pursuit of a neoliberal nightmare.

It is not choice. It is a lie, and a rhetorical device. To fight this, we may be met with the phrase “do you hate choice?”

We should choose to fight these measures precisely because we like choice.

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