January 2013

I suppose as a new year dawns upon us, many may wonder what the next twelve months hold in store. It will come as no surprise to most sane people, particularly as we are still here, that the end of the world did not occur on 21st December despite predictions of doom mongers about the Mayan calendar. I have lost count of how many such false predictions I have heard during my lifetime. I sometimes feel sorry for those who follow such false prophets and have sold everything only to learn the obvious truth the following day.

The weather is likely to be a common theme having started the previous year with dire predictions of drought only to exit the year with one of the wettest on record. Scenes of flooding once a random event have now become a daily news event. I do feel sorry for those whose homes are affected, some on more than one occasion. The personal trauma of such events can be long lasting. I have read of one public house landlord who was flooded twelve time in twelve weeks and has now reached the point where he can no longer continue business.

Some people seem to think insurance is the answer but I can also understand the alternate point of view of the insurance companies. The companies are private businesses and no business is going to accept what is in effect, a guaranteed loss making bet. Certainly a drastic rethink on where to build new homes needs to take place. Seeing pictures of some of the newer properties that have flooded, it does make one wonder what flood prevention planning goes into these developments. If there is a unforeseen natural route for water to take, Mother Nature will certainly find it.

The Government is on the verge of breaking the long held policy of not building new homes on farmland and open countryside. Some cite the logic that it is the only way to meet the housing shortage. Apart from the terrible effect of forever destroying more of our scarce countryside, I believe the logic is flawed. It has long been established that building new roads quickly attracts even more traffic. Likewise ever building more and more new homes is likely to attract more and more people who in turn will require even more homes.

Being born immediately after the war, I was one of that initial surge of post-war baby boomers. It also means I am now edging towards mankind’s proverbial three score years and ten. I think for all that time, I have heard politicians from all political parties promising jam tomorrow in return for hard work today. I am still waiting for tomorrow to arrive. I was not born a cynic, but a combination of life’s hard knocks and eternal vacuous political promises makes me look any politician hard in the eye and seriously question them.

Personally I cannot help but feel there is now no political party that is fit for purpose although I do believe there are good people in the main political parties being held back by what has now become the old guard. A sort of dead-man’s shoes barrier. There is no doubt in my mind that many professional politicians not only in the UK but throughout the world are so cosseted and isolated from the realities of life, they quickly forget about real people and their very real problems as they play their political games. For many it is a reassuring comfortable well paid job for life regardless of whether they are in power or in opposition.

Europe is a good case in point. Starting out as a promise of a golden economic market place for all its members, which I and most people supported. It quickly degenerated into a power struggle as European politicians strive to create in effect, a United States of Europe despite denials. Something which people in most countries in Europe have not been allowed to vote on by fearful politicians waving their magic wands, to ensure this massive populace never gets the chance to decide their own futures on the way the EU is developing.

Instead of the short lived economic miracle, all that can be heard is various European governments preaching a daily diatribe of real austerity. I can only translate this once again as the eternal jam tomorrow promise. It should be clear to everyone except blinkered politicians, that situations like this cannot continue without real social damage and there is a real danger just like the Arab Spring, people will collectively say enough is enough with pursuant social unrest. Something I would not like to see but the potential of which I can see in the making.

This year will also see the mid-term point for what I believe is an exceptionally weak coalition government. In some ways, the halfway point of  a governments life is not dissimilar to the mid-life crisis some people experience. It is the point where realisation sets in that not only is the clock still ticking, but also that each swing of the pendulum is bringing the end of its life ever closer. That realisation is usually followed by greater awareness of how unpopular a government may be, often followed by an ever growing panic they may not get elected next time. I suspect there are those in the government who will become ever more fearful they will not get re-elected at all, forever losing all trappings of power and influence they may have once held. It is at such times cracks in the thin veneer of unity can no longer be papered over. I would not at all be surprised to see such divisions in the Government during the forthcoming year.

Immigration also has the potential to become something of a powder keg in the next twelve months.  2013 sees the lifting of settlement restrictions placed on some of  Europe’s newer and poorer member states come to an end. This means there will be millions of more people free to travel and settle wherever they like within Europe. No doubt with its generous welfare provisions, many people will be attracted to the UK. The question is whether the UK can absorb the influx of even greater numbers?

I abhor those those try to make race, religion or ethnicity an issue, but I think there is a case for questioning the affordability of large numbers of potential immigrants. A sudden influx of large numbers undoubtedly causes problems for housing, schooling, health care and so on. It could be like having someone knock on your front door asking for help and no matter how charitable you are, it’s seeing the queue stretching down your garden path and out of sight down the road makes one realise the potential enormity of the problem. This problem may not materialise but on the other hand it may. What then? I certainly do not have the answer but then I did not create the problem. The only people with answers are the politicians who created the problem in the first place. As we know, the only answer they ever have is jam tomorrow.

I for one would never pretend to forecast what the next twelve months will hold but I think some of what I have mentioned will be issues we will be hearing a lot more about.

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