#25 Withdrawal In Disgust
And so, as hope dwindled for George Osborne being good for anything he has single handedly kicked some much needed life into the bloated corpse of British politics. To be accurate he probably has no idea that he’s done it, or why, but let’s at least give him the ‘busted clock twice a day’ credit he deserves.
Because you see politics in this country has descended into farce; a bland phalanx of monotone monochrome idiots in suits confront you every day on the TV. If you didn’t caption any of them and just made the audience decide what party they were from by the policies they were arguing for or against you’d have a bit of a problem.
Firstly they wouldn’t actually be putting forward any policies. They refuse to do so as they think the opposition will steal them. Of course, if they were in politics for the laudable reason of doing what’s right they wouldn’t care who implemented the policy, because as long as it happened and it was the right thing to do the country would end up benefitting anyway. But those ministerial cars have lovely leather seats, and those directorships that will magically flow their way (coincidentally from companies who benefit from their policy decisions) are very well paid. So they keep their policies close to their chests, after all winning the election is the actual goal.
Secondly they don’t actually have anything new to offer. The headlong dash for the centre ground is so all-encompassing that the battle for the small number of undecided voters who swing each election has overtaken any other consideration, like a philosophy or conviction as to the direction the country should take. Well, in public anyway. In private Labour know that the only way to actually make Ed Miliband’s pledge to cap prices for domestic fuel can only actually work if the government takes control of the UK energy market, i.e. renationalisation. Sadly they also know that if they ever mentioned this in an interview the right wing press would crucify them.
Similarly there is a rump within the Tories who are maddened by Cameron and his refusal to see the crash of 2008 as they opportunity they think it is. They believe this recession is the perfect chance to attack what they see as an overinflated benefit budget using the fig leaf of the deficit. They want to systematically slash and burn through the safety net. They don’t believe it should be there, and throughout the Blair years they had to sit and seethe as the purse strings were relaxed and people got used to a new level of social security.
With today’s speech by Gideon they may be about to get their wish.
He kind of tiptoed round it but there were definite signs that he was pandering to his back benches. He mentioned that to not look at the benefit budget would be odd, and eventually got round to the key to my argument; housing benefit for the under 25s, which he is actively looking to withdraw.
Now the Tories haven’t actually won an election since 1992, and have been out of overall power since 1997. Coincidentally people born in that year will be facing the ballot box for the first time in 2015.
Shit just got very very real for them.
For the first time in a long time they have a policy that demands they take a look at an issue and make a clear choice between the two main parties (unless Miliband doesn’t condemn this, which is a possibility I suppose, however remote). Imagine how many people there are who are under 25 and don’t have parents to move back in with when their housing benefit is gone and they can’t afford to buy a place or rent in the ‘real’ private rental market. Think about how many working people are earning such low wages that they only way they can afford to live anywhere is with the help of state assistance.
Frankly whichever side you come down on in this isn’t the issue. The fact is that if you’re a young person eligible to vote in the next poll you have a perfect introduction to what politics should be about. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when you could tell the parties apart by their manifestos. Yes, I know.
People like Margaret Thatcher, Neil Kinnock, Norman Tebbit, Michael Foot, Ken Clarke and Dennis Skinner told you what they believed, not what they thought you wanted to hear. It was way simpler then, because politics generally wasn’t seen by people as a means to further their career, but as a way to actually shape the country the way they wanted it to be. Look back at that list of names, all in the House of Commons at the same time, all arguing their points of view passionately. You might love one group of them and hate the other but if you remember them you remember exactly what it was they were asking you to vote for. Have a stab at each side’s overseas aid policy. Anything? Exactly.
By firing the starting pistol with his Year Of hard Truths speech Osborne has accidentally drawn the battle lines between left and right. I couldn’t be happier. Politics is important. Whatever you think of the process politics and politicians gave you the NHS, decided that it might be a good idea after all to pay that Hitler chap some attention, and started the ball rolling on the abolition of slavery. It means that your boss can’t sack you for falling pregnant, or being genuinely ill. It gave you comprehensive education, coordinated massive infrastructure projects, made sure your children were inoculated against all the major illnesses out there that were killing kids around the world. It might not have been the initial catalyst for all of the good things in this country, but all roads lead through it, and perhaps now that there is daylight between the parties it might get the serious attention it deserves because of the massive effect it has on our lives.
And lest we forget, the reason politics doesn’t seem to be a thing of substance any more is because of the absolute shower of shit we keep voting in to work within it. If that changes and we turf a few of these jokers out it might do some good.