Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Election blues

Like most people, I shall be heartily pleased when we’ve got the General Election behind us. But it seems that the little verse I wrote a few weeks ago (“Doggerel” – 4th May) has been borne out sooner than I expected. Theresa May has certainly been giving a graphic demonstration of what her spin doctors should have called “wrong and feeble government”. U-turns, and wobbly decision-making seem to be her specialities, but a screeching U-turn on a policy commitment when the ink was hardly dry on the manifesto in which it was printed is a wholly new innovation in British politics!

What really concerns me is that this is the person who (if she is still PM after 8 June) will be directing our negotiations with the EU over Brexit. She seems to have no idea of what negotiation actually involves, nor any realistic understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses on both sides (a fundamental prerequisite for anyone entering into any form of negotiation). Maybe she should read Donald Trump’s book on the Art of the Deal (!)

Meanwhile, if you read what Jeremy Corbyn has been saying (rather than taking any notice of the increasingly desperate attempts at character assassination by the Tory press), he comes across as being both reasonable and sensible, and might prove to be a far more sound and sensible negotiator than the Maybot.

For the most unfortunate of reasons, security has clearly been seen as an issue in the past week, but I could not help smiling when that old political war-horse, Michael Fallon, went off the deep end at any suggestion that our foreign policy and foreign military adventures might possibly have increased the risk of terrorism, only to have it pointed out to him that the words that had been quoted to him which he was so self-righteously condemning came from a speech by the current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. He seemed even more discombobulated when it was also pointed out to him that a former head of MI5 had made a very similar observation. Several other party leaders have also made this point within the past few days. So it is rather silly to condemn Corbyn for making the same sensible observation in a foreign policy speech late last week. There is, in fact, no reason to suppose that a Labour-led government would be any less strong in guarding against terrorism than this or any other government. As Corbyn pointed out, on this issue governments do what they have to do.

One encouraging sign is that the Great British Public doesn’t seem to be swallowing the facile campaign message being pushed for all it’s worth by Lynton Crosby. The May campaign (which has largely excluded the Conservative Party, except in a most marginal role) seems to consist of little more than a handful of monotonously repeated empty slogans. It is not surprising that by comparison the Labour manifesto appears to have much more substance, and offers what voters actually want, although both parties are in denial over the need to fund their policy commitments from general taxation, which is going to have to go up whichever party wins. Let’s face it, 20p in the pound is a ridiculously low rate of taxation even by Tory standards, and is unsustainable if we want even half-decent public services in the future. It is only fair that the rich should pay higher taxes, but it is unrealistic to suppose that this alone would be sufficient to fund even Tory spending plans. We are all going to have to pay a higher standard rate of income tax, and possibly higher NI contributions as well.

Well, in just over a week, all this electioneering will be over, and we can return to worrying about just how grisly the Brexit negotiations could be, and about the dire economic consequences of Brexit. I wonder whether a point may be reached when the government of the day may decide that the sensible thing to do would be to withdraw from the Article 50 process, and abandon Brexit altogether.

So back to Town and Country Planning, then, and bashing my brains over the Use Classes Order and its fascinating ramifications.



  1. Thank heavens, for one panicked moment I thought you might break out into poetry again.

  2. Until I read your post I had a lot of time for your opinion. I agree that Theresa May really does have her faults but the alternative is far, far worse. Just look back in history and see what happens when the UK has a hard left Government.

  3. I am not exactly a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but he has emerged in this election campaign as a genuine and straightforward person who is clearly sensible and level-headed, and not therefore likely to be fazed by Brexit negotiations or by the other problems that a PM must inevitably face.

    Conservative politicians and the Tory press are desperate to paint Corbyn and his colleagues as ‘Hard Left’ extremists, but if you look at their programme and at their overall approach to the country’s current problems, there is nothing extreme about what they are proposing. My only reservation is that the Labour Party is not prepared to admit that higher general taxation will be needed in order fully to fund what is proposed, but I really see no objection to paying a higher standard rate of income tax to save the NHS and our schools and social services (among many other vital public services, including defence, the police and security services, that have been starved of the resources they urgently need over the past seven years). Taxes will have to go up even if the Conservatives win, as the independent (and universally respected) Institute of Fiscal Studies has made abundantly clear.

    It is nonsense to suggest that a previous ‘hard left’ government has done any harm to the country or its economy. The last Labour government could certainly not be described as ‘Hard Left’ by any stretch of the imagination, and the deficit that was incurred after 2008 was entirely due to the huge amounts of public money that had to be poured into propping up the banking system after the crash caused by their casino-style ‘free market’ trading. Not only did the Conservative Party fully approve of the Labour government’s rescue of the banks, they had also supported the spending plans and prudent borrowing policies of that government in the years before 2008. It was only during the 2010 election campaign that the lie was spread that Labour had run up a huge deficit, so as to justify an entirely unnecessary policy of austerity that the incoming Conservative administration was hell-bent on introducing for entirely doctrinaire reasons.

    The only Labour government that could be described as truly ‘socialist’ was Clement Attlee’s post-war government from 1945-1951, which arguably had more achievements to its credit than any other government before or since – the creation of the National Health Service, the system of National Insurance and a proper state pension, and an ambitious and very successful programme of nationalisation of transport, public utilities and other public services, which served us well for many years. All this was achieved in face of the dire economic situation inherited as a result of the huge cost of the Second World War. The incoming Conservative government in 1951 had the common sense not to try to undo what the Attlee government had achieved, and so the country benefited from the work of the Attlee government for over 30 years, until it began to be dismantled by Margaret Thatcher from 1979 onwards.

    Voters, including “IslandGal” should look objectively at the Labour Party manifesto, and ignore the crude right-wing propaganda that is solely and cynically designed to scare them into voting for more Tory cuts, not to mention a hard and economically disastrous Brexit.

  4. Bravo Martin Goodall for your wonderfully 'level headed' words of wisdom (and pre-election I note!). Right; now I really must get back to bashing my brains over what the National Policy Statement for National Networks means for this scheme...