The Year I Finally Lost Faith In British Politics
There had been times before; notably, when Edward Heath’s electability as Prime Minister hung on his ability to win a yacht race for the electorate, and again when the grey accountant John Major filled the country with red tape-bound middle managers. And who could forget Gordon Brown, fine as a best supporting actor but useless as a leading man? But at least there were always enough stars in the cabinet to keep replenishing the roster.
But then we arrived at Theresa ‘Point & Shoot’ May, a perfectly good governmental sniper who could be programmed to bring down any target, but no long-term tactician. Suddenly we have fragmented parties on both sides wherein politicians don’t just fail to agree but don’t know what each is saying; yesterday May and the health secretary Jeremy Hunt took opposing sides over the NHS, Hunt apologising for the mess, May announcing there was no mess at all. We have Boris Johnson, bouncing along in his own little world offending everyone, the environment secretary Michael Gove U-turning on farmers’ subsidies and endless reshuffles that only make matters worse.
Meanwhile Labour has fallen asleep under Postman Pat. Jeremy Corbyn, an invisible career politician who survived by never knowingly making a decision, is the quietest opposition in history. It took Tony Blair to point out that Labour could mount a powerful assault on the Government’s record, from the appalling state of the NHS to crime, if they set out the agenda which could be delivered to the people if not for Brexit. I want to vote Labour but Corbyn’s giving me no reason to do so.
For me, the final blow is the deliberate transfer of NHS care to the private sector, something I had personal experience of this winter, when I would have lost my eyesight waiting for NHS help. When I ran companies I had to pay for private healthcare cover as part of my employer insurance, and kept it on. What happens to those in my situation who haven’t spent the last quarter century paying into a private policy? While I appreciate that we have a greying population and increased welfare demands, the NHS remains an immovable policy cornerstone for all parties. Perhaps it’s illogical, like the obsession with the Green Belt many homeowners have (less than 10% of the UK is built upon), but healthcare in the UK is a right, not a bargaining chip.
Clearly the incumbent government can’t handle the EU and domestic policies at the same time, and most of those who try are operating far beyond their competency level. Who would want to be an MP now? Nigel Farage perhaps, because he’s never actually been one, but most sane people who give the job a swerve because they know they’d have so little power to effect change. Government is still a hierarchy in a time of networks – read Niall Ferguson’s ‘The Square and the Tower’ for more on that subject – and until it updates, little can be achieved.
Should I reflect my feelings in books? I’ve made a conscious decision not to overdo it, although I can’t help but reflect the times to some extent, even in genre entertainment. I get quite a bit of Republican mail complaining about ‘the liberal agenda’. That’s not going to change much.
Our picture today shows a pair of Tory MPs who nicknamed their newborn baby ‘Brexit’, a leap of imagination that rivals their choice of Christmas outfits.