August is traditionally known as the Silly Season in Fleet Street. Its the annual jamboree of silly stories made up by journalists when Parliament is in recess and the country is trying to take a holiday. Usually it is a frustrating period of silly stories filling newspaper column inches.
This year is different. We have both a Tory leadership election (Although this has given us enough Silly stories to write a book);the reality of a cost of living crisis already affecting millions, and a wake up call on the climate crisis to worry us.
Having come back from holiday trying to ‘forget’ how awful things will be in the UK I am afraid I failed to get any respite from the feeling of impending doom and gloom of a very bleak winter ahead.
I am by nature a half glass full person. I tend to look for the positives in any situation and work to accentuate them.
But at the moment I am struggling to see much light at the end of the tunnel.
There appears to be no let up in the mess that has become the United Kingdom after a decade of Tory auserity.
Brexit is proving to be the disaster we all predicted.
Our Declining Public Services
Our public realm and services are in dire need of investment. Our infrastructure is decaying and fat cats in charge are taking us for mugs. Look at the daily stories about our Water companies and the raw sewerage being pumped into our seas. Nothing better typifies the state of the UK than pictures of raw s***t around our coastline whilst CEOs of these companies take mutli-million £pound salaries.
Private water corporations have racked up £50bn in debt since privatisation whilst paying out £57bn in dividends to shareholders. Surely the end of the privatisation experiment is coming to an end?
We are still being told in this country that we can have European levels of public service but at US levels of taxation. It is time to stop pretending and blow this lie out of the water.
I don’t always agree with Paul Mason but this article in the New Statesman makes a case for the nationalisation of water by stealth and exposes how we have been ripped off over the lest 30 years by these companies
Our travel system is broken. The road network is crumbling beneath our feet and the bus and railway networks remain unreliable, expensive and now strike ridden. Our climate crisis is here already as we see our river beds dry up and our sewage pumped into the sea. The NHS is once again ‘on the brink of collapse’ and our United Kingdom is far from ‘United’
In the past I have never thought about leaving Britain. It is home and despite having Tory governments for most of my adult life I wanted to stay and fight for a better future. At 58 I have had a Tory government for all but the 13 years I was in a Labour government. I still stand by so much of what we did to achieve reversing the worst aspects of decades of Tory rule. But we needed longer and a generational shift. The idea of another 5 years of this brand of Tory government fills me with dread. A Liz Truss led government as somebody said will be a Boris v2.0 but without the jokes. We know she is backed by the usual suspects – the right wing media, the ERG types who brought us Brexit and the low tax billionaires. This will be a very right wing scary government.
The UK has become a miserable place for millions of people. I feel the misery in conversations. High inflation, worries about paying bills, our declining high streets and debt growing. Talking to leaders in education last week was very depressing. They apologised for ever moaning about the money they had available for their schools and colleges under the last Labour government!
The UK is becoming a miserable place for millions
It seems I am not alone in my pessimism. UK consumer confidence is weaker than at any time of the major recessions in recent history according to the monthly figures.
For decades we have avoided tackling our decline. And now we are paying the price. The short decade we had in government to turn the tide was not enough. In the 1980s and 90s the revenues from North Sea Oil were squandered on the Thatcher experiment. Travelling around Norway briefly you could see the difference of a government who invested their Oil wealth for the long term.
It seems I am not alone. Even The Economist – “Nothing seems to work in Britain” and the Telegraph “the coming collapse of basket case Britain – seem to agree.
In 2018, a report by the TUC revealed that private and public investment as a proportion of national income put us 34th in a ranking of 36, trailed only by Portugal and Greece. In the 40 years to 2019, fixed investment in the UK averaged 19% of GDP, the lowest in the G7.
The task facing the new PM is enormous and way beyond the ideology and capacity of the hapless Truss.
But equally the task is beyond some tinkering for a new Labour government in 2024.
These stark truths need to be told to the British public. There is no low cost easy fix. An ageing population and poor economic growth are toxic mix.
I haven’t quite packed my bags to leave but it becomes more tempting every day to think of another future without more years under a Tory government tearing apart our country.
Yet in politics I do sense there are tipping points. I think we are at one right now. Let’s hope I am right.