What is Government for?

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? 

Scapa Flow seen from Deepdale Image credit Martin Laird

8 replies »

  1. Government exists to steal our earnings and to kill people. Participating in the sham political system only perpetuates it. Look after yourself because the government sure as shit won’t, being as it is l, subverted by the monied interests of the elites. The French had the right idea, violent and bloody revolution to lop the heads off a few of those snakes that purport to represent we the people.

  2. What has happened in between covid and the present to have brought this about? We have gone from having reasonably adequate dental treatment (able to book an appointment within a few weeks) and the same at the doctor’s surgery to no dental check ups and home visits from a doctor only after an interrogation worthy of MI5. There is only one thing I can think of that could have had this much of an effect on these essential services and that’s brexit.

  3. Totally agree, there are other factors but Brexit has been utterly under played as a reason for all this and deserves far more scrutiny

  4. Recent thoughts……even when we finally get rid of Boris and we get one of the other dreadfuls instead, we are then still stuck with a Government run along basically the same principles – or lack of them.

    My big question is…how do we get rid of them? The next General Election is far too far away. A major change is needed NOW. But – how? I just can’t see how it is going to happen.
    So much of what has happened is wrong – Boris should have resigned, and then an election, and then a completely different Government – though look at what they will be inheriting.

    I try not to think about it too much as I simply can see an answer, and the idea of having this lot for another couple of years is truly appalling.

    I don’t even see the point in my writing this – it will make no difference. I suppose it’s all stirring pot a bit.

    What a time to live in. Boris & Brexit. And now there’s this……

    “Dear Bernie,

    What do Nadine Dorries, the former editor of the Daily Mail and Boris Johnson’s father all have in common? The answer is unbelievable: they could all soon be awarded honours or a place in the House of Lords if the outgoing Prime Minister gets his way. [1]

    Upon leaving office Prime Ministers can choose to select a number of people to promote to the House of Lords. Right now the names mentioned are only rumours, but they’re attracting a lot of criticism, with many believing Boris Johnson should not have the right to give perrages out considering he resigned in disgrace. [2]

    One of the groups that could block these appointments – the House of Lords Appointments Committee – is said to be doing all they can to delay things. [3] But they aren’t the only decision makers – so if we want them to stop these appointments from happening it’ll take all of us speaking out in our hundreds and thousands. And time is running out to get them to act.
    So, if you believe a Prime Minister forced to resign after numerous cases of lies and breaking the law should not be allowed to reward their friends with jobs for life in the Lords, can you sign the petition today? [4] We’ll hand the petition in to those in charge in the next few days!


    Thanks for everything you do,

    David, Megan and the 38 Degrees team

    PS. Not everyone reading this email will agree with the concept of the House of Lords at all, but one thing we can all agree on, is it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. So we should be able to expect representatives in the House of Lords to be chosen because they want to do the best for our country, not because of who their mates are. If you agree, click here to sign the petition.

    [1] The Guardian: Boris Johnson poised to go ahead with resignation honours list
    The Mirror: Boris Johnson fuels fears he’ll make TWO crony honours lists with Nadine Dorries in Lords
    [2] The Guardian: Boris Johnson’s plan to create large number of new peers comes under fire
    [3] The Times: Ex-Speaker lambasts Boris Johnson’s bid to create dozens of new peers
    [4] BBC News: Boris Johnson: The prime minister who broke all the rules”

    • Signed Bernie. I think it is critical that we shouldn’t give in . That is what they want so lets not give them the satisfaction! Their time will come .


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