Politics isn’t as easy as we think – sadly


I live in the kind of town where it is so easy to put the World to rights.

It is a beautiful place populated by well-meaning liberal intellectuals for the most – a mix of old hippies, public service employees and jam-makers.

If we can’t come up with the ideal solution for World Peace and Eternal Happiness then I am not sure who can.

We don’t have either of course. We are removed from the foggy world of Parliament.

Gordon Brown, our much attacked Prime Minister is off for a well-earned holiday in his Scottish constituency where time with his young family will be mixed with some community work, a lot of reading and, undoubtedly, loads of political phone calls.

I don’t envy him his lot but then he is a politician and politicians are special people – or they should be.

He has to be tough, thick-skinned, clever and imaginative and he also has to be sensitive to the mood of the nation and charismatic enough to carry the voters with him.

Well, we all know that he doesn’t have all of those qualities even though he is undoubtedly clever, imaginative and tough.

We are told that he will almost certainly lose the next General Election to be replaced by David Cameron and his Conservative Party. The polls confirm this but also show that Britain only just prefers them to one of the most unpopular governments of recent times.

So far, the Conservative Party fails to impress. Its front bench come across as “little men” with no profound understanding of the World, let alone life outside their own chattering circle.

Their big announcements at times of crisis have so far fallen far short of the mark too so we have to hold our breath and hope that if they are to be our leaders that they will sharpen up and not just rely on smarmy public relations announcements.

Liam Fox, the Foreign Affairs Spokesman, and presumably the next Foreign Secretary, responded to the incoming head of the Army’s statement about the Afghanistan crisis remaining unresolved for a possible 30 or 40 years by saying that Britain just couldn’t afford to stay involved for that long.

OK then Liam, what do we do about Al Qaeda then? Tell them that we are bored with that game and we are going home for cocktails?

The future Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has a similar record of short term, short-sighted statements which just miss the mark. If he had been in charge over the last period of economic crisis, we know from his statements at the time when action was essential that he and David Cameron would not have acted to limit-damage the collapse of the banking system. They too said that Britain just couldn’t afford to get involved.

I am sure that they are all clever people but they are showing us all, I think, how difficult politics is. Unfortunately the rest of us, the electors, tend to think politics is an easy game and we are helped in this illusion by our popular press.

It might be good for all of us at this critical point in our history to stand back a moment and take a good look at what we really want from our next government.

We are told unemployment is the worst it has been for 14 years but forget that it was the Conservatives who were in power then.

We are all defending our public health service against criticism from the American Right but we forget how near it got to crisis-point under the Conservatives.

We lament the state of our railways but fail to remember that instead of reforming what should be the mainstay of our transport system we should remember that it was the Conservatives who invented this new unworkable system by privatising a national asset.

Of course, Labour has had a long time since 1997 to put things right and their record is undoubtedly littered with failures.

Their transport policy has been muddled, inefficient and cowardly when clean decisive action was needed.

They have continued to tamper with the education system and add to the long list of unnecessary exam changes that have haunted schools for at least a generation.

And they have made some clumsy decisions in the Health Service too. Why has so much money gone into the pay-packets of our GPs at the same time that they have begun to work what is almost part-time hours?

The NHS is undoubtedly better than it was when Labour came into office, I think we forget how low it had sunk, but we are now seeing the consequences of well-meaning budget increases mis-directed at a time when we actually could have afforded to have put that money where it would have had maximum impact: on the wards and into primary healthcare.

Now, of course, in a changed economic climate, we are looking at “efficiencies” which means, as we know, cuts.

Both parties will talk about bureaucracy as the thing that wastes all that money and by cutting it everything will be better than ever.

In my experience of the NHS, for example, the superlative work of the doctors and nurses has been jeapardised all along the way by shortages in bureaucratic and secretarial back-up. I was told that the results of one of my brain scans would be ready in two days but it would be delayed for six weeks because of the backlog on the in-trays of massively over-worked medical secretaries.

I have not mentioned Iraq until now but when and if that troubled country’s affairs are settled, we should look back on it with clear eyes, hopefully after the results of the promised enquiry reveals the truth about our entry into that war.

It is too late now for us to find simple solutions to the international consequences of slavery, imperialism and corporate greed which many under-privileged nations see as typified in American and British society.

We have to face up to the deaths of our soldiers who are fighting the fanatics who have been bred in the fertile ground of our own international insensitivities and who now want us to die as we go shopping or as we sit at our office desks.

If this hatred is ever to end, we need politicians who have the vision to see beyond short term national interests.

Barack Obama, we hope, is just such a man. If only Britain could be so lucky.

Let’s not judge Gordon Brown by his inability to crack a good joke or David Cameron by his smarmy school prefect manner. Neither of them is President Obama so let’s decide what we really want for Britain and work out if either of the main political parties is capable of delivering it.

If not, let us try to change things here in our local communities. Talking is the great and defining skill of us human beings. Let’s start talking about what we want. Then we can, at the very least, begin to think the unthinkable. One day, even if it is not at the next General Election, it will be the politicians who will have to listen to what we have to say.

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