"Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!" (Isaiah)
That sort of "outrage" is the stuff of true religion. "Predictable", maybe; "depressing", indeed. But it's what church and synagogue leaders should be saying.
So, what exactly did the millionaire Irishman mean by describing churches and charities in that loaded fashion? Primarily one would guess that his faceless speech-writer was fishing for an emotive phrase to dismiss the considered and evidence-based criticisms of those who are nearest to the casualties of government policies. There's no doubt that the nationwide networks of churches and charities are far nearer to the ground than Whitehall speech-writers and politicians. It seems to be lazy pejorative rhetoric. However it's worse than that, because it's actually nonsense. What the Chancellor is not gracious enough to admit is that he will be relying on those very "vested interests" to be the first responders, paramedics and emergency wards for meeting the needs of the casualties of his "necessary change". That's why those "vested interests" have been setting up so many food banks and why homelessness charities are busier than they have ever been, with less funding. It's why medical charities are ever more called on to give the support previously provided by the NHS. It seems the only vested interest that churches and charities have is as providers.
It's true enough that's what they are there for. But that is not what Mr Osborne was saying. Otherwise he would no doubt have been thanking them - and even resourcing them. The truth is equally that they are there to speak for the needy, the poor, the widows and the fatherless. They are there to speak against oppression and to campaign for justice.
I'm not here writing about the rights and wrongs of government economic and welfare policy. I don't pretend to have a clue about politicians' true motivations and intentions. But to rubbish those who are raising legitimate concerns as having "depressingly predictable outrage" is to descend to schoolboy debating of a debased level. If we learned anything from the last century, it might be summed up in Pastor Niemöller's famous dictum:
Speaking out is how civilised societies are preserved. Meanwhile, one wonders what "vested interests" George Osborne and his colleagues might like to declare....First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.