Posts Tagged ‘Welfare State’
I remember holding a straw-poll just after the general election. It was a fine day and a fair number of allotment holders had gathered in the ‘shed’, there was much talk about the negotiations being carried out by the Lib Dems with both Cameron and Grumpy Gordon. Over a third of us had voted Lib Dem and there was a good deal of speculation as to what Clegg – who had bewitched many of us with his TV debate performances – would do.
The course of action favoured by most of his new disciples was that he should opt for allowing the Conservatives to form a minority government with the promise of support so long as its policies were acceptable to the Lib Dems. This would enable the risen stars to act in the national interest whilst leaving them free to maintain their own identity. Even better, they would have retained the right to force a general election on any issue on which they had widespread public support. The result could easily have been a triumph and the first Liberal government in living memory.
But the lure of high office took Clegg along another path. He entered into a marriage of non-equals, and the latest Mori poll tells us that should an election take place now, almost two-thirds of those who voted Lib Dem would no longer do so. In fact a straw poll on the allotments yesterday showed no one willing to contemplate any alternative to the two traditional giants. Tim Farron, the president, said at the Lib Dem conference that “without the Lib Dem influence the Conservative dominated government would have been a “nightmare”. He missed the point which is that without the Lib Dems there would be no Tory-led government.
In reality the Lib Dems have excercised little restraint. The Tories’ ideological prescription for down-sizing the state and pushing ahead with its neoliberal agenda means that the NHS and the welfare state are seriously at risk. The Tories are using the opportunity of the financial crisis to transfer taxpayer’s money from the state to the private sector, not because it is more effective, but because that is what their ideology demands. The Lib Dems have made it possible for the Tories to do pretty much everything they dreamed of doing, with just a little bit of tweaking at the edges as a sop to their junior partners.
On the NHS for example, every expert in the land is warning of its imminent demise and privatisation. The concessions supposedly wrung out of Lansley by the Lib Dems make no difference whatsoever to the thrust of the bill. Had the Lib Dems retained an independent status it would never have seen the light of day.
It is difficult to see how the party that, for a few short weeks, Nick Clegg took to the brink of electoral success can survive at all from the mess that he has created. If, as we all hope, the government succeeds in its economic policy, the credit will go to Cameron and Osborne. Should it fail, the blame will almost certainly be placed at the hands of people such as Alexander and Cable.
In fact any successes will not be shared. Cameron has reasonably claimed success over the intervention in Libya. Do you recall any of his TV appearances on this ever including a mention of Clegg? On Europe, Cameron has undoubtedly been grateful for the option to point at Lib Dem opposition to demands from the right of his party for a referendum and a withdrawal from the Human Rights Act. He is able to tell his right-wing supporters what they want to hear without actually doing anything, thus avoiding a damaging split with the pro-European Tory wing.
Nick Clegg likes to invoke as a comparison the coalition that served the country so well in World War 11. It is pure nonsense. The marriage then was one of equals and so great was the external threat that the nation recoiled from political dogma. There were no ideological debates to be had, Corporal Hitler saw to that.
Nick Clegg’s big address at the Lib Dem conference was every bit as well acted as we have come to expect. He was reading ftrom an autocue and yet still managed to convey the impression of someone sincerely pausing for thought, of someone reaching into his very soul to find the truth. But even in that he did make one huge error.
He chose to launch the bitterest possible personalised attack on Miliband, Ball and others. He publicly burned his boats so far as any possible liaison with Labour is concerned should there be another hung parliament. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, since the possibility of one becomes more remote by the day.
Who knows who will emerge from the next election for both Conservative and Labour parties are less than impressive. But the odds are that one of them will. People will regard a vote for the Lib Dems as one for the Tories. The inevitable outcome will surely be a total redistribution of that impressive Lib Dem vote on a pro or anti Conservative basis.
I take no pleasure in believing this. Just for a fleeting time I, and millions like me, thought we were witnessing the birth of a new age in British politics. We were transfixed by the relatively unknown Clegg. Alas, he lives in cloud-cuckoo land!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Hertfordshire 2. A miller 3. Frank Morgan 4. Andy 5. Rome 6. Canada 7. Michael Bentine 8. Nijinsky 9. Grass 10. As a Tomato
In his conference speech of 2009, George Osborne said “we will preserve child benefit”. In March of this year David Cameron said he “ wouldn’t change child benefit” and in his TV debates with Grumpy Gordon and young Clegg, Cameron angrily described his opponents of lying when they suggested that he might. And recently Philip Hammond, speaking for the Treasury, “ruled out” such a move saying that it would create a climate in which people asked “where are you going to stop?”.
Yesterday they did it. Of course we all realise that the credibilty of politicians is wider than the Atlantic, but there may be bigger implications than the proof positive that we shouldn’t believe a word that they say. What Osborne has done at a stroke is to destroy the concept of universality within the welfare state and, to quote his colleague Hammond, where will it end? The whole point of a universal approach is to create a sense of involvement in, and commitment to, the welfare state and once that is gone the next step is a two-tier society with all the hard-left rhetoric that that brings.
And the move does not improve in the detail. In fact it is thoroughly Baldrick-like. A household with one higher-rate taxpayer earning over £43,875 will lose the benefit yet one with two basic-rate taxpayers earning a joint £87,000 will continue to receive it. Forget ideology, this is plain daft!
The truly astonishing aspect of this U-turn is its incompetence. Of course the financial crisis means that those who can afford to do so must make sacrifices but this could easily have been arranged via taxation. Some will protest that this is an introduction of means-testing but it isn’t even that since many of greater means than those to be cut will continue to receive payment.
The biggest risk to the coalition is undoubtedly the political fallout. This morning’s traditionally supprtive Tory press is almost incoherant with rage. At least the front page of the Express isn’t concerned with Diana so there is something to be said for what appears to be a coalition foul-up of monumental proportions. But all of the papers have seized on the lack of logic in the detail. This could well prove to be the equivalent of Grumpy’s 10% tax fiasco or even the sainted Lady’s poll tax.
The announcement wasn’t one of Osborne’s better performances either. He again trotted out the tale about Labour having created the mess. Now we know that they were lax and we know that to the Chancellor the Bankers are the very height of prudence, but the tale is beginning to wear thin. And for so long as the government continues to soft-pedal their approach to massive salaries and bonuses in the city the public will view them with a sceptical eye.
It is noticeable that the spin-doctors are dropping hints that the whole wheeze was the work of Nick Clegg over last weekend. If so it is good to know that he actually does something but foolish of Downing Street to let him loose on finance, an act akin to asking the late and much loved Cyril Smith to organise hang-gliding.
Clearly this was a clumsy attempt to silence the unions by proving that the coalition is not going to confine its butchery to the poor. All it has actually proved is that it couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery.
They should send for the man of self understanding, Boris. His idea of a Thames cable car called Vince sounds much more sensible!
A SAD DAY FOR FANS OF THE LITTLE FOOL!
The death of Norman Wisdom has saddened many. The veteran entertainer had continued his nonsense well into his eighties but has recently suffered a series of strokes. He died aged 95 at Abbotswood Nursing Home on the Isle on Man with his beloved children by his side.
Norman was the favourite of millions for we love an underdog, a little guy who suffers endless mishaps but always bounces back. In his case Norman did this literally and, however many times I saw him tumble it remained as funny as the first time which was probably in his first film ‘Trouble in Store’ in 1953.
His first break -of sorts – was when he joined the Army and was sent to India where he learned to play eleven instruments and perfected his comic timing by falling off horses at will. He was born into poverty in London in 1915 and had spells as an ten bob a week errand boy at Lipton’s Tea, a pageboy in a Ladies club, and as a cabin boy on a ship to Buenos Aires. According to those who knew him he was always a comic genius in the making and so it proved. At his peak he drew bigger cinema audiences than even the new James Bond and teenagers would walk away from the local fleapit in a series of stumbles.
And his fame was not confined to these shores. In Albania he was national hero – any day of the year one of his 32 films was screened. He once appeared before a mass audience at a major sporting event and won over those who knew him not, by falling over in the middle of his speech, a trick he repeated when receiving his knighthood from the Queen.
What we tend to forget is that the little man could perform movingly in serious roles too. His portrayal of a dying cancer victim in a 1981 television play is still remembered by all who watched it. He was also a telented song-writer. Remember ‘Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover’ and the very moving ‘Don’t Laugh at Me’ ?
If there is a heaven you can bet his flat cap that Norman has already fallen over a dozen times!
In the early days of the site I received some really interesting comments from various readers whose positive approach spurred me on. I would love to know if you are still out there!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Tutankhamun 4. Sydney, Australia
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who composed a new opera called Death in Venice? 2. Havergal Brian died in 1973. Was he composer, poet or painter?
Those of us ancient enough to remember the pre-welfare State age recall hardship but a time when independence was king. If one had a problem one owned it. Some 60 years on we seem to have reached the other extreme. Every responsibility and every woe is the fault of social services, the police, the wizard of Oz or anyone else percieved to be responsible for our fate. We have effectively opted out. Independence is dead.
Sadly the same can be said for indpendence of thought. David Cameron’s idea of the people taking over may prove to be flawed given that most of us believe what we have been told to believe . And nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of elected representatives, perhaps the reason for the Old Etonians apparent omission of such fom the new age of DIY government.
This is particularly evident in the case of loacl government where almost every Councillor carries a Party label and most slavishly follow a supposed ideology that has no relevance to day-to-day local issues.
Chorley has a tiny handful of Independent Councillors but it is surely no coincidence that Ralph Snape regularly records the highest personal vote in the County. His slogan is people before politics and that has been his yardstick for 34 years. He regularly visits every constituent and is a problem solver supreme. The deeds of the mighty cast no shadows on Ralph and no one hesitates to ring his bell however they vote in General Elections.
Many are coming to the view that people of independent spirit would transform Westminster where all but a handful of the brave obey the Whips. There are exceptions, one being the MP for Chorley, Lindsay Hoyle, who had no hesitation in launching a massive campaign against his own Ministers when the hospital in which he was born came under threat. Result was the hospital now operates the first NHS Assessment and Treatment centre. But Lindsay is that rare creature, an Independent carrying a Party label.
Perhaps it is too late. Perhaps the concept of independence has gone for ever and people like Ralph and Lindsay are just remnants of an endangered species.
But the yearning still inhabits the land and one wonders what would have happened if every constituency had the news of a well known independent on its ballot paper.
Sadly we will never know.