Monday 6th March
Another Leonard Cohen song; of course – who else. And there is a war. Politics has turned really nasty. The post-war consensus has broken down. And it is not even really along Left and Right lines any more. It is far deeper than that. It is, on one level, a War between the old and the young. In almost all of the Western world we have a generation or two who have done incredibly well. Many working-class people now own their own houses, have decent pensions and lead what can only be termed a decent lifestyle. But for our younger people that rosy future is rapidly fading fast. Their chances of owning their own home probably rely on their parents dying and leaving them a house; their chances of a decent pension have also got harder as more and more (both public and private) sector employers are paring back pensions as each year passes. And of course, their State pensions are fast disappearing over the hill, each new Government seems to push the retirement age higher. They also have to pay for their University Education; or get into huge debt at a young age – and besides, unlike for their parents, there is no guarantee of a decent job at the end either. It is no accident that mostly older people voted Brexit and tend to be Tories.
There has always been a War between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’. But it is getting worse, and far more desperate for those at the bottom of society. Homelessness has doubled in the last seven years; Universal Credit is more and more aimed at depriving the poorest of even a basic living. The only way this will change is if there is a complete change of our whole approach to Taxation and Public Spending. We have had approaching eight years of Austerity. The excuse was to bring the deficit under control, which it may have belatedly achieved. But the real politics behind Austerity was to roll back the state, to force people to make private provision. And those that could afford to have benefited – but at the cost of the poor. And guess who most of the Haves vote for too.
There is a War between Ignorance and Enlightenment. We have seen the rise of ‘Strong Popular Politicians’, who appear to some people as clowns but to others as the answer. And so Farage, and Trump, and Putin – soon maybe to be joined by Berlusconi in Italy, march on with their armies of believers. I am still confident that in the long run, common sense will prevail, that compassion will beat cruelty, that sharing will overcome greed. I just don’t have much hope for the immediate future.