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Laurie Penny: As they welcome their new daughter, the Camerons should think of the children

The Camerons might consider how coalition cuts will affect the babies born in Britain today

Along with 2,000 other women in Britain and approximately 450,000 women across the world, Samantha Cameron gave birth to a child today. The baby is a girl -- and she is lucky. Her parents are lavishly well-off members of the political ruling class in one of the richest nations in the world, with a combined yearly salary that puts them well into the top 1 per cent of earners. Mum and Dad own a property empire worth millions, and hold the keys to No 10.

Little Miss Cameron will spend her earliest years in the media spotlight, but she can at least count on an excellent education at a top state primary school, such as St Mary Abbots in Kensington, which her sister Nancy currently attends, alongside many privileged sons and daughters of the financial and political elite. She will have every possible attention paid to her developmental, emotional and physical needs; she will have plenty of good food, presents, holidays in the sun and lots of love and care from her parents and an army of support staff.

She will have no problem paying for university, even though, thanks to her father's government, the costs of attending are likely to be significantly higher by the time she enters. She will easily be able to finance herself through internships and work placements to buy her entry into an elite job. She will never know hunger, or hopelessness, or financial uncertainty. For the newest addition to the Cameron clan, life will be easy and comfortable. For most of the other babies born today, however, the outlook is less rosy.

On a day when his new government's approval ratings are lower than at any point since the general election, Cameron's new bundle of electoral joy may well serve to remind dillusioned Tory defectors that the Conservatives really are the party of "the family" -- especially the heterosexual, heteronormative, married, double-earning, higher-income, upper-middle-class family. Let's not forget, however, that on the day that David and Samantha Cameron welcomed their fourth child, 700 babies were born into poverty in Britain. And they are in for a tough ride.

The austerity cuts imposed by Cameron's coalition government will hit these newborns' families hard, meaning that many of them will enjoy a much lower standard of living than they could have expected under Labour. Their parents may not be able to afford to feed them a healthy, balanced diet or to give them birthday and Christmas presents. They will attend whichever local school can afford to take them, including some 200 state schools whose promised funding for badly needed building restoration has just been withdrawn by the coalition. After the signalled cuts to housing benefit come into force, many of them will grow up in cramped, unhealthy, substandard accommodation far from local amenities.

The babies born to poor families today will be less likely to achieve their potential at school, less likely to be able to afford to attend university or further education and more likely to suffer from mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and panic disorder than those born to wealthy families. Before 24 August 2012, these poorer babies will already be significantly more likely to exhibit lower levels of attainment and well-being than children from better-off families; by 2016, less able children from families such as the Camerons will have overtaken more able children from lower-income families.

In addition, the children who were born today in inner Manchester are already likely to die six years earlier than babies born to families in the Camerons' Notting Hill quarter, in London. Child poverty and inequality were not eradicated under Labour, but the austerity cuts imposed by David Cameron's government could spell disaster for the hundreds of children born today into less fortunate households -- particularly those born to single parents, over whom the axe of economic judgement is casting a long shadow.

David Cameron and his family will be celebrating the birth of their daughter today, and rightly so. If he is serious about building a society in which every child can thrive, however, the Prime Minister may want to remember those 700 babies being born into poverty in Britain in the course of the day, and ask himself how his policymaking will affect their future. Cameron the family man has a duty to protect every child in Britain, not just those who, like his new baby girl, are fortunate enough to be born to wealthy couples.

Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

Photo: Getty
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Zac Goldsmith is running a patronising and poisonous campaign

When he's not pretending to love Bollywood, he's blowing on the dog whistle, says Seema Malhotra. 

Here’s some movie recommendations for Zac Goldsmith:  Fan, Kapoor & Sons, Rocky Handsome. These are just a few of the current Indian blockbusters a “big fan” of Bollywood might have on the tip of his tongue. The Conservative candidate for Mayor of London thought he would impress voters of Indian heritage by talking of his love of Bollywood.  But he couldn’t name a single title.

This would be funny if it wasn’t typical of a Conservative election campaign which is both patronising and poisonous.

Diversity is one of the strengths of London as a world city. It helped us win the Olympics and deliver an event that was met with praise around the world. The economic benefits for the city of having communities with links with countries around the world are huge. Inward investment and tourism are among the obvious benefits.

Our history has seen us chose diversity and equality as the values we subscribe to as a nation. Sadiq was ahead of the game in calling for a One London Mayor who will unite our many communities, creating the conditions for shared prosperity and security for all our families and businesses.

Sadiq Khan is the candidate for all Londoners – with a hugely contrasting campaign Zac Goldsmith is sowing division and distrust between communities.

Take the leaflets sent to voters with Indian, Sri Lankan or Tamil sounding names claiming there is a threat to tax family jewellery. It’s a scare story that is deeply patronising. It suggests the target voters aren’t interested in the big issues facing this great city – the housing crisis, rocketing fares, air pollution and the problems facing small businesses.

Zac Goldsmith’s campaign has become becomes poisonous as well as patronising, because it effectively asks people to reject Sadiq Khan because he is a Muslim. Of course, the Conservatives don’t say it out right. Using smears and innuendoes it seeks to portray Sadiq as an extremist.  This goes way beyond the normal electoral struggle between two parties. It is divisive and dangerous. It is harming community relations and damaging London’s reputation in the rest of the world. Driving wedges between us is in no one's long term interest.

Some Conservatives seek to defend the Goldsmith campaign by pointing to the row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. I accept that we in the Labour party do have a problem, and we know it is a problem in wider society also. But there is one big difference. In the Labour party, the leadership – Jeremy Corbyn and the whole of the Shadow Cabinet are committed to rooting out this evil, along with Islamophobia and other forms of hate crime we know are on the rise.

In the Tory party, by contrast, David Cameron is deeply involved in a campaign based on thinly disguised racism – an appeal to people to vote on along ethnic lines.

The low point in the Tory campaign came in a Goldsmith article in the Mail on Sunday seeking to link Sadiq Khan to the 7/7 terrorist bombings which was illustrated with a picture of the wreckage of bus from that awful day.

There are many decent Tories disgusted that their party is sinking so low. Former Tory chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi condemned the the article, saying it was "not the Zac Goldsmith I know." She asked: "Are we Conservatives fighting to destroy Zac or fighting to win this election.

The celebrated Conservative journalist Peter Oborne said “Goldsmith's campaign for mayor has become “the most repulsive I have ever seen as a political reporter”. 

He said the claims that Sadiq Khan is an extremist are “absurd” In fact, he said “Khan is a mainstream Labour politician who has dedicated his career to advocating centrist views…He is a strong opponent of anti-Semitism. He has campaigned constantly against reactionary and so-called "extremist" forces within the Muslim communities.

Shazia Awan was a Tory candidate in the General Election. She is alarmed at what she sees as attempts to “create a wedge and vitriolic rhetoric between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims.” She sees Zac Goldsmith as a man “too weak to stand up to those directing his campaign, and as a result ruining his own reputation and credibility in the fickle pursuit of power.”

Sadiq Khan has been dignified and reasonable in the face of this Tory poison. He is by nature a unifier, fighting for human rights and strong communities and against extremism.

I believe he has been winning the arguments on the issues that matter to Londoners and that is reflected in the opinion polls and the bookmakers’ odds. We have learned to distrust opinion polls but it is clear that Zac Goldsmith believes he is losing and losing badly.

But he should remember this: There is one thing worse than losing. It is losing with dishonour. 

Seema Malhotra is Labour MP for Feltham and Heston and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.