David Cameron has ditched more pre-election policies than it is possible to recount. It is easier to list those promises that he is keeping, but it is a very short list. There are some that stick in the memory because he made a great fuss about them. Labour accused him of planning to axe the universal benefits paid to pensioners. Dave denounced these claims repeatedly; “They are already telling the most appalling lies about Conservative policy towards the elderly.” “You know you are getting letters from the Labour Party that say the Conservatives would cut the winter fuel allowance, would cut free bus travel, would cut the free TV licence. These statements by Labour are quite simply lies.” “You will keep the benefits you depend on. Don’t believe Labour’s lies that we will cut them or get rid of them. The winter fuel allowance, pension credit, free bus travel and TV licence for over-75s will all stay.” During the televised leader’s debates Dave angrily demanded that Gordon Brown apologise for these lies and withdraw the letters. No room for any doubt then. However, Dave has been very quiet following the leaks last month that £13billion cuts to the Welfare budget would include benefits for the elderly, even though this might be achieved by deferring the age at which they can be claimed. Similar reporting of leaks have been flatly denied by No. 10, but not this time.
Deliverance Day minus 3. As we get closer to Election day it is becoming clearer that the issues most concerning voters have not been debated in any meaningful way. Sure, all the parties have produced comprehensive manifestoes and all the policy areas are covered, but it is like an iceberg with the 90% under the surface remaining hidden and unexamined. There has been no microscopic debate about Labour’s mishandling of the financial crisis or the recession The recession as been phoney because Labour has borrowed and continued to borrowed and will keep on borrowing if they get re-elected. They will not come clean about the inevitable measures needed to redeem this debt or how long it will take.
The roots of this problem go back to an earlier Conservative government and their economic policies which Labour had continued with. We therefore have this self preservation pact of silence by both parties. The financiers in the City are preparing to make a killing in the markets no matter which party gets elected. They are unreformed and thrive on movements in the markets. The hedge funds will continue to profit while ever they act selfishly and are irresponsible of the best interests of the Country. Where in any of the manifestoes are the proposals for regulation and stability?
Deliverance Day minus 5. Politics has been described as the art of compromise, reconciling conflicting demands with what is possible and limited resources. Politics is all about having the will to make things happen and about prioritising where resources are to be directed. Like a parent in a toy shop telling their child that they cannot have a toy because they cannot afford it, the money has run out. The choice gets more difficult when the decision is about food to eat or shoes for the kids. It is a situation that millions of parents face each week. In the coming four years more people are going to experience that situation, including people who thought they were well off and secure. It will come as a shock to those young enough not to have experienced the 80s and 90s. But the people who we must feel most for are the young who have done as they were told. Diligent at school, gone to college or university, studied hard, obtained a degree or diploma, and are now looking for a job. They would enjoy a short period of independence before settling down, buying a house on a mortgage and starting a family. It may seem old fashioned but it is still the aspiration of most. The reality is and will be that they leave higher education with a debt and will find it increasingly hard to find permanent paid employment. Without that they will not be able to afford a mortgage, buy a house, marry and start a family. The young are our future and seed corn.
Deliverance Day minus 9. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has introduced an element of reality in to the Election campaign after scrutinizing the parties’ plans for dealing with the mounting public debt. They have concluded that none of the parties’ figures stack up and whoever is in government will have to make bigger public spending cuts and increase taxation more than they are telling the voters. The Institute has demanded that the parties should be honest about how they are going to proceed. It is timely because in a poll last month 50% thought that the deficit could be dealt with by public spending cuts. More, 75% thought that dealing with inefficiency would do the trick. It seems that the politicians are scared of the public who appear to be scared of reality.
Deliverance Day minus 15. Resurgence has a big idea for the National Health Service – democratise it. In addition to the need to democratise the NHS there is also a need to adopt the principle of subsidiarity. It has been pointed out that since New Labour abandoned Clause four of its constitution there has been a political consensus which has precluded the consideration, never mind adoption, of alternative models for running the NHS. A false impression of independence has been created with the conversion of hospitals and Heath Authorities to Trusts and Foundations. If these had a Founding Body with an ethos and aims and values there might be some individualism. Their other failing is that they do not have real financial control but exist on the handout received from central government. They are not accountable to the people they serve.
Deliverance Day minus 16. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways are reported to be calling for compensation and saying that lessons must be learned from the shutdown of UK airspace. Their claims are based on the assertion that they could have continued flying through light ash areas during the eruption by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. These claims must be resisted as it will be the taxpayers who have to put their hands in their pockets. Having bailed out the banks we must not be asked to do the same for the airlines. Once again the free-marketeers come running to dip in to the public purse as soon as they run, or in this case fly, in to trouble.
Henri Goudru, UN scientific adviser with forty years experience studying volcanic eruptions, says “In the absence of reliable facts the only thing to do was stop planes flying due to the risk of suffering serious engine damage”. The airlines are more concerned with their balance sheets and are cavalier about the safety of their passengers, even though they say safety is a priority. The volcano is still erupting but spewing less ash and today the National Air Traffic service closed airspace over the Orkney and Shetland Islands due to the density of volcanic ash. Nothing was taking off but they were accepting inbound flights to get them on the ground. It will be another three days before the wind direction changes to a south-westerly and the ash is blown away from us. The danger is still there.
Deliverance Day minus 17. Lord Adonis, Transport Secretary, has announced this evening that in addition to the Scottish and Newcastle airports, already opened for limited time operations, all UK airports would reopen from 22.00. No doubt, in a General Election campaign, this will be spun to demonstrate decisive action by a Labour government. Gordon Brown is evoking images of Winston Churchill sending in the Royal Navy to lift stranded Brits from the French beaches [well ports] after they have fought their way by coach from Madrid to Calais and Dunkirk. In fact, he has capitulated to the air-assault from the Aer Luftwaffe in the shape of Willie Walsh and British Airways. GBs missive yesterday to the Foreign Office – endorsed Action this Day – has been ignored by David Milliband. No sign of the hundred coaches lining up at Madrid Airport or the Ark Royal and Ocean docking in French Ports. The Royal Navy had already dispatched the Albion to Northern Spain to pick up troops. GB is left looking impotent and there is further suspicion of infighting and back-stabbing between the brothers Milliband and the Brown/Balls wings. The signs are that Labour is resigned to losing the Election and the New Labour project is over.