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Opinion

Do something!

18 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Ben Wildsmith

Can you remember the last time a government did something that positively affected your life?

I bow to no man in my embittered disappointment at Tony Blair’s period in office, but the minimum wage is, we must agree, an actual thing that exists in the life of the nation.

We put crosses in boxes and the upshot was that we knew the actual pittance that we could expect for rolling out of bed in the morning and resisting the temptation to learn Japanese or go fishing.

Since then, actual government action seems to have been limited to stopping people from doing things.

So, you’ll feel the hand of government on you if you are protesting, or making comments online, or vaping, or going on strike, or driving, or marrying an overseas partner but that hand only arrests, it never propels us forward.

Politicians are fond of the term ‘freedom’. They all claim to be the conduit through which it flows to us poor, enslaved grunts. In the 21st century, however, emphasis has shifted. We are offered freedom from all sorts of ills: terrorism, knife crime, racism, wokery, ‘red tape’, the license fee…

We are not promised the freedom to anything. It is as if governmental surrender to financial interests is so complete that even to suggest a positive, democratic change in how the country runs is to risk punishment.

Lamentable quality

Government has been reduced to a policing authority for those who benefit from the status quo. So, it’s fine when restrictive, as described above, but oversteps its authority if it seeks to be proactive.

This isn’t helped, of course, by the lamentable quality of the politicians we have. We have allowed Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt to be installed by the markets as CEO and CFO of the UK without so much as an inquiry of the electorate.

Our quiescence towards this astonishingly undemocratic state of affairs flows from general acceptance that their predecessors, Truss and Kwarteng, were tŵp.

Now that we are in recession, we’ll see just how hemmed in government has become. In election year, a Tory Prime Minister ought to be cutting taxes. It’s as traditional as the Swingometer and pencils on strings. Having P45’d Mad Lizzie for doing just that, though, are the markets going to tolerate a futile vote-buying exercise by Rishi Sunak?

Absurdity

There is a world of difference, though, between being prevented from doing something stupid and being so cautious that you refuse to do anything at all. Sir Keir Starmer’s reversal of Labour’s commitment to invest in green technology is cautiousness stretched into absurdity.

The markets love capital investment. It’s kind of what they do: look for what’s going on in the world and try to back the best projects. Starmer, having been warned not to waste his pocket money on sweets, is now too frit to pay for his lunch.

There’s not much we can all agree on politically, but I doubt anybody is going through their week in the UK thinking, everything seems to be fine, let’s just carry on as we are.

The timidity of policy offers from the two main parties is jarringly at odds with the lived experience of everyone they represent. The markets have called time on Thatcherite economics, but Labour seems unable to grasp it. Can they even imagine such a development?

Reform UK, the current vessel for Nigel Farage Thought, is offering an increase to 20% in the Income Tax threshold. Now, that’s a thing, isn’t it? Actual money in your pocket is a pretty powerful lure. Independence for Wales and Scotland is also a thing, especially when nobody is offering to reform the UK at all.

The major parties need to offer something tangible or face extinction. It is a damning indictment of our system that they are so insulated from the experience of voters that both parties should think continuity candidates make sense at this election.

Do something, fix the potholes, anything. If they don’t someone else will.

Flags & Bones by Ben Wildsmith is available to order from Cambria Books


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Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

Yes, and that “someone else’ is often a right wing populist and we all know where that could take us. Look at WWII and Brexit as two examples of complete disasters brought on by the delusions of populists. If Westminster won’t change then we must act ourselves and that means independence. The sooner the better.

TomTom82
TomTom82
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Brexit was a vote. To pour scorn on it is to sneer at the democratic process. As for independence? Well, a fool in Cardiff is no different from a fool in London.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago
Reply to  TomTom82

If the Brexit vote was such a democratic duty, why was it allowed? In any other country a 3.8% majority on such an important issue, that was cast as an advisory referendum by the UK government, would have been cast out. The majority was simply just not big enough. Why do you think there is still so much opposition to Brexit? Because almost half of the vote was to stay in. In other countries there would have had to be a super majority, one way or the other, for major change to happen. But not here, radical idiots, in the… Read more »

Mark
Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Please give one rational reason in support of Welsh independence from the UK that wasn’t also a valid reason to support UK independence from the EU.
If you believe in sovereignty and self determination, surely you voted for Brexit. If you believe in the economic advantage of being part of a larger entity, surely you would vote against Welsh independence.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

There is a fundamental issue with your argument. As part of the EU Cymru benefited, easy unrestricted trade and large regional funds. Whereas, beginning part of the Union no longer benefits us (if it ever really did). Funding is inadequate (it’s why we benefited so much from EU funding), hence the extensive poverty we see here, and we are still being short-changed, look at the HS2 and the Crown estate issues. As an independent country we would not seek trade restrictions with our neighbours, as is the case with Brexit. Everyone, benefits from easy trade, it makes sense. Brexit is… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

How can Keir Starmer better our lives when Wales doesn’t warrant a second mention in his party conference speech. Will we see real change, or is it, as you were Wales. Poverty rules and you are the fools. See, an English one-size-fits all political plaster will not repair the damage done by decades of central government neglect. Having powers devolved to our Senedd so we can help ourselves, will. Don’t he & they understand that simple premise? And if UK Labour continue in the same vein as the centrist Conservatives by flatly refusing only Wales devolution requested that’s already been… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
1 month ago

“We have allowed…” is spot on, and explains much why we are in the state we’re in. Given the complete lack of anything hopeful from either of the two mainstream parties, (not that I was expecting anything positive from the Tories) I think we’ll soon be facing the prospect of an extreme right-wing government of some form. Non comedy duo Starmer & Reeves will have less than six months to deliver something positive for the many. It can be done, but only if Labour drops the lie that nothing can be done – the rich can be taxed hard, and… Read more »

TBLM1957
TBLM1957
1 month ago

Glaring typo in the penultimate paragraph, Ben. Sort it out – that at least would be doing something.

PS When and why did you stop being funny? If you start taking party politics as seriously as the parties themselves, Gawd ‘elp us all.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Sunak and Hunt@Slash, Burn and Pillage UK…

May, Patel, Braverman, Good Enough and Jenrick for Enoch@Reversalism and Religionism…

Four Witches and a Wizard of the Right Party…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Old Badenough, she don’t like being criticized…

To think a future fuhrer of the right so they say…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Boom and Bust, like Truss followed May…the bumps in a 7 decade life, missed two world wars and a depression of the one before and likely miss much unpleasantness as the 21st Centrury unfolds…King Crimson nicked it for me…

TomTom82
TomTom82
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

That’s nice. Shame it doesn’t rhyme.

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
1 month ago

Liz Truss’ time in office was short enough that it is about as valid at this time to blame the contention that we can’t have nice things on her, as blaming Margaret Thatcher for the same in 2100.

TomTom82
TomTom82
1 month ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

True. She was there for so brief a time it beggars belief people blame her for anything. I find it amusing she wanted to lower taxes and everyone lost their minds. When Sunnak got in and said taxes would go up the media gave a collective sigh of relief. It boggles the mind.

Jim1
Jim1
1 month ago

Blair started out OK but became firmly ensconced in the ‘Warmongers camp’. I can’t see any evidence of Starmer being any different. Time to batten down the hatches eh Sir K ?

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

Lets face it much of the UK population has no representation in Westminster while the imbalance in numbers between Welsh and English MPs renders Wales much the same. The small number of Welsh MPs seem more aligned to the ‘party’ and England than the well being of Welsh people while the working class across the UK are completely disenfranchised.
Politics and economic management does need to change big time or the political void could be filled by the u thinkable

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