I’m getting a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. The General Election is coming, the slanging matches have really got going and the trains are going to stop. I lived through the 1970s in Liverpool when striking became a national hobby and it was an embarrassment to be recognised as British abroad. It feels like deja vu.
Well, Darling has given us his budget statement, Osborne has responded, the Lib Dems have said something negative about both of them and there are going to be rail strikes to complement the British Airways stoppages. It is painful. We even heard George Osborne (but he is not alone) talking about fixing ‘broken’ bits of Britain – the Tories use the word so often that it is beginning to look obviously obvious. But he (and they) are extremely thin on offering solutions.
Wouldn’t it be great if the politicians simply told the truth that they have no idea how to fix some things? That some ‘broken’ things cannot be fixed because they would require too much non-existent cash? That we can sling figures around till the cows come home to count them, but we no longer have any sense of what they mean? A couple of years ago £5 billion was an unthinkably huge amount to spend on educating every child in the world; now we speak without blinking of debts amounting to hundreds of billions.
I really wonder if this time the electorate will lose interest completely in the rhetoric and bitchy battles of politicians whose credibility isn’t high anyway. This will be dangerous, though, and I will be among those urging voters to get out and use their votes regardless of their personal apathy or sense of electoral futility. A low turn-out always and only benefits extremists and those who are madly motivated – it is bad for democracy and bad for any sense of civic responsibility.
But, I’ll also hang out for proportional representation to rid us of the ridiculous first-past-the-post system – and will cry out for any party to promise to rid our culture of the ludicrous counter-productive obsession with meaningless ‘targets’, box-ticking inspectors of everything and daily ‘government initiatives ‘ in education. Will any of these guys stop dumping increasing amounts of paper on teachers, governors and just about any other public ‘servants’ (charity trustees, etc) and set us free to recover the point of it all?
I’m not holding my breath.