Possibly for the first time in the period that I have been politically aware, and that is over 50 years, it seems that politics is entering into the thoughts of even those who say that politics is not for them
I have a friend you may recognise if you have read my warbling here before. She has only one BJ in her life, Bon Jovi, Boris Johnson was not a real figure for her. Given that her capacity to go to a Bon Jovi concert will now be affected by what she has to pay for energy, even she is becoming politically aware.
I guess that is what happens when the comfort buffer that we have as one of the richest nations in the world is eroded to the quick and decisions taken on our behalf suddenly come into our homes, literally in the case of energy bills.
But actually as critical as the energy crisis is there are far more issues which have the capacity to enter our lives if not our homes.
I broke a tooth a few days back and phoned my dentist, could I have an appointment ?
“ Of course” came back the receptionist’s response “I can fit you in for 10.30 am on April the 25th 2023.“
“ Pardon me ?”
She repeated the date to my astonishment and I asked why that was ?
“ We have no dentists ” she replied blandly
“ None ? You had three the last I looked, have you lost them?”
It seems they, and the three dentists in their partner practice in the same town have all either returned to the parts of Europe that they came from or have gone into private practice. They have one locum dentist covering both practices. My neighbour told me she called another dentist asking for a check ip to be told “ check ups are cancelled indefinitely.”
I took this further, no dentist in my town could see me urgently, none could register me as either an NHS or private patient, I then expanded the search 50 miles in each direction, 15 practices in all, and got the same response. I finally found one 55 miles away only taking private patients.
My GP practice also has no Doctors, again only locums. So to summarise, in our affluent country, in our town, we have Dentist practices with no dentists and GP practices with no GPs. My gums can rot my prostate can play games on its own as Johnny no mates. The notion of preventive medicine is laughable in our town.
When your teeth drop out and your health is affected then politics comes into your home. We can add to that too; bin emptying in Scotland, trains on strike, barristers on strike , who isn’t on strike? While it is affected by energy the cost of living crisis is affected by other issues of political choice such as Brexit.
It used to be that the transatlantic mantra on electoral politics was “ it is about the economy stupid” and of course it is but I don’t think I am alone in hearing another mantra beginning to emerge, and I for one am thankful that it is. That mantra is :-
“ What is Government for ?“
Because if it is not, above and beyond anything else for protecting us, and particularly those in need then I am not sure what it is for.
This is also a time of political opportunity, not political opportunism which is more about personal aggrandisement but about the opportunity to really draw lines between what different political colours stand for.
One has to hope that when Liz Truss is finally crowned in the gross exercise of the Conservative selection process, that she will have time to act like a Prime Minster. Which is to say that she will stop obsessing with what the immediate constituency in front her, the conservative selectorate, want and then open her eyes to the rest of the Country.
At the moment she is seeking to appease the most male, most comfortable and most right wing 0.3% of electors in the UK. In doing so she has managed to irritate; France, Scotland, Macron, Sturgeon, most of Europe and Jewish people by not engaging her brain before her mouth moves. Unless it was deliberate or worse, she actually believes it, which is even more worrying.
But that is what you get when you vote for; a politically vacuous, policy lite, self promoter who has such a charisma deficit that she has to borrow one from a dead politician. And fails.
You can probably guess I am not a Conservative, but we have to live in hope.
While is is utterly scandalous that neither she nor Sunak have proposed a policy suite that sensibly tackles the energy crisis, they are not alone. The zombie Government have done nothing and the Conservative Party has been mainly silent caused by the fact that they are paralysed by their own processes and unable to govern. What other (functioning ) country can afford to take the summer off from government in order to crown one of its own ?
That said, I can’t really leave all the blame with one political colour. The very little that the Scottish Government can do in terms of raising taxes that is going to tackle the health and cost of living crisis. It needs borrowing powers to do that and they are reserved to Westminster. True, Labour are not in power so they can’t raise the money either. But both can put forward an alternative vision and frankly they are not and it is a missed opportunity.
I completely agree with the notion that Scotland will be a better place when independent but now of all times is the time to say how that will be achieved. Vision how an independent Scotland would deal with this crisis. Be brave. Be principled.
They can both begin with a commitment to nationalise the energy sector.
As has been said before by cleverer people than me, you don’t mend a broken market with a decision to have more market.
Heaven forfend that we might copy the French but with a guaranteed 4% rise in the energy costs and fixed price of 75 euros month, could I be forgiven for saying they seem to be getting something right ?
Their costs will be very similar to ours but they are absorbing them rather than passing them on. France and the French can get on with other things because the French Government have decided to Govern rather than pass the buck. EDF is a nationalised company, it works for them. By the way the UK manages the daily monthly yearly energy deficit, especially in the South of England by buying SURPLUS French energy .
On the other hand we have a choice, we can allow the energy companies to go bust or we can pass on increasingly obscene costs to the public who, already impacted by the worst inflation in recent history, are the least able to absorb them. Instead we have people prattling about about taking VAT off or “ offering grants to those least able to afford it.” That is marginalising the poor even more.
The system is broken, guys get with a plan , it needs more than a sticking plaster. They are nibbling at the edges of an economic volcano that threatens to erupt at any point . Meanwhile it is the general public and businesses that are having to dodge the economic lava floes.
Energy companies are talking about a 100 billion loan they can pay back over 20 years. That would deal with their issues by putting an intolerable burden in every other sector of the economy. At the cost of what ? Either pushing up borrowing to eye watering levels with a requirement to tax us more to pay it back, or necessarily withdrawing support in others sectors such as defence, overseas development or, the NHS .
I would really like to see far more brave and more defining statements from our opposition parties right now.
Perhaps they can begin by considering Primo Levi’s comments in If this is Man / The Truce
“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”
Perhaps then they will be able to answer the question
“ What is Government for?