January 2016

Happy New Year 02As we venture into the new year ahead of us, many of us will already be making plans for holidays escapes, family events and so on. It is also the time of the year when I try to look ahead at how forthcoming situations are likely to develop.

.

Politics.

Well the last year certainly saw a major sea change in the face of British politics following the General Election. As I predicted, the Lib/Dem Party suffered badly at the hands of the electorate, even in some of their previous stronghold seats. Labour fared better but were completely routed in Scotland following the expected surge in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP). This now only leaves the three traditional parties with one seat each in Scotland. Despite showing strong backing in the ballot box, UKIP, failed to translate this into sufficient votes to gain seats except one they held due to the local popularity of the sitting MP. All of this, particularly the collapse of Labour seats in Scotland, enabled  the Tories to hold onto power but with only a slender majority. Due to the changed face of the House of Commons, it is likely the year ahead will contain much wrangling about Scotland which already has it’s own separate Parliament, also being able to vote on matters concerning England alone via its Scottish MP’s, while English MP’s are unable to vote on Scottish matters.

The thorny question of the much promised European Referendum will also take increasingly prominence as the year wears on. Proposed reform of the EU will be under discussion during the year particularly the question of benefit payments to migrants. This is likely to require a treaty change by all 28 member states of the EU, but already some of the more poorer member states have indicated they are unlikely to agree to this.Getting the required unanimous consent for such a change may well prove impossible. All of this means the Prime Minister will quickly run out of time for manoeuvring room on the referendum and if he does not call the referendum this year, then he will be forced to do so in 2017 when more favourable conditions for a Yes vote from his point of view may have substantially changed.

Immigration.

The past year has seen a groundswell of migrants both refugees and economic flooding into Europe. As refugees are supposed to be settled in the first non-war torn country they reach, it is debatable whether all refugees into Northern Europe are economic migrants or not. Whatever the nuances of classification may be, the impact of mass migration is a reality. Some countries have flung their doors wide open to migrants but after an estimated one million of more migrants have already entered Germany alone. there are signs of increasing polarization in some communities where internal tensions and friction have arisen. There are also signs that European politicians are now trying to limit even more migrant arrivals in the forthcoming year by persuading mainly more Eastern European countries to take a greater share of them, but is likely there will be resistance on this issue. If European countries do not succeed on the reallocation of migrants, it is possible even more internal tensions are unfortunately likely to arise.Whatever a individuals thoughts are on this matter, the reality is the floodgates to this human tide have now been well and truly opened and it may prove impossible to close them again.

Fishing for Bass is now illegal.

According to some newspaper reports, the 1st January was the day  when it became illegal for fishermen to fish for Bass, even when using one rod and line from the beach. These restrictions will last up until June after which time the rules will be relaxed to allow fishermen to catch one bass only.  Apparently this directive already branded by some as absurd, came unannounced from the EU and few in the UK Government seem to know anything about it. The questionability of this new non-Parliamentary law is further highlighted by those that claim there no shortage of bass and off-shore trawlers predominantly French and Spanish will still be allowed to catch up to 1.3 tonnes of bass per month. The logic behind what amounts to a diktat is as yet still unclear.Although this directive is but a small example of the EU law making process, assuming process is the right word,  it does highlight the dangers of the UK having relinquished it’s sovereign powers to a non-elected body that may not always appear to have the UK’s interests at heart. Roll on the referendum. My guess is I would be surprised if any beach angler were prosecuted over this issue.

Flooding.

The run up to Christmas and beyond saw the northwest of England continually pounded by exceedingly above average rainfall. Subsequent heavy storms have also been experienced in areas of the northeast like the historic city of York, and southwest Scotland causing severe flooding in all these areas .Although York does have good flood defences apparently the defences that protect the flood gates that oversees this flood catchment area are not as robust. Consequently it is claimed that Environmental Agency officials opened the flood gates to protect the flood gate mechanism but in so doing, allowed the city to flood. If true, many might find this sort of logic a bit hard to swallow.

I live close to the Somerset Levels which experienced similar problems two years ago and know what may look like statistics on a piece of paper, actually translates into many months of misery and hardship for both residents and businesses alike. Homes need to be vacated for remedial  repair work. while the residents live in temporary and often inconvenient accommodation.

I suspect when the dust settles, or perhaps a better euphemism would be when the floods recede, there will be some sort of enquiry into the whole issue of flooding. Perhaps a token head may roll here and there with promises made for the future. but until something is actually done, which usually costs money, chance flooding is likely to continue.

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year

Happy-2015_thumb.jpg

 

A new year has arrived, a new year when we all have our individual hopes, aspirations and expectations for the future. A year when visionaries may have their dreams fulfilled or perhaps just furthered a little more.

This time last year I summarised quite accurately the forthcoming main issues likely to dominate the headlines This year the future is a little more difficult to foresee as .so much will depend on the outcome of the forthcoming General Election. So much is dependent on the election result as to determine which direction the UK is likely to go in the world. So many topics from the NHS to Immigration are embroiled in the consequences election result itself.

  • General Election

  • Immigration

  • European Recession

General Election

I normally find in the year leading up to a General Election, it is possibly to sense the feeling of the public mood which gives s good indication of which way the election is likely to go. This is the first time I have not been able to sense any such a feeling. It is almost like there is some form on no-man’s land on the subject. There are certainly exceptionally strong feelings over issues like Europe and Immigration, but I think there is also a general sense of great public unease with all the main parties and how they will deal with these issues, if at all,  except in their election rhetoric.

It is almost certain that increasingly over the next few months we will be faced with a barrage of fatuous and equally hollow promises from political parties mixed in with acrimonious debate. They have already started with promises like a future road improvement programme. One such promise that is likely to effect myself in the West Country where I live is the main arterial road, the A303 from London being duelled along its length. Again locals have heard this same promise so many times before only for it to be cancelled yet again for economic reasons as soon as a new government takes control. Most locals take such promises with a ‘pinch of salt’ and will only believe it when it happens. The likelihood  of the next government using the time weathered excuse of ‘the current economic situation’ for pruning back this programme once again, possibly to the point where it becomes non-existent remains very high.

The only thing that seems reasonably certain in the next election from what I can sense from public opinion, is the Lib/Dems will fare badly, so badly that are likely to gain few, if any seats at all in Parliament.

Even with the Lib/Dems facing political annihilation in the election, it is still unlikely to be a straight contest between the Conservatives and Labour. There are now two new kids on the block that have surged into prominence since the last election in the form of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)  and the Scottish Nationalists.These upcoming parties are likely to heavily drain seats from the Tories and Labour particularly in areas where they had previously enjoyed strong support. So much so, there is a strong possibility no one party will have sufficient seats to form a government. If this happens then the future governance of this country is likely to be another difficult to manage coalition government with policies based on what can be salvaged from the wreckage of grandiose promises and what the economic situation will allow.

With these four parties having  almost diametrically opposed views on a number of policies, the likelihood of a sustained period of horse trading  to form a government between the parties remains high and it is likely the electorate will be left feeling cheated once again on issues like a European Referendum. I would not be at all surprised, unthinkable as it may be, if we end up with either Lab/Scot Nats, Lab/Con or even a Con/UKIP coalition with the support of a few individuals from other parties. It is as if the more traditional mould of British politics is about to be broken for a long time to come. Personally I detest coalition governments no matter what parties they are formed from. They certainly do not lead to strong government and are at best a watered down appeasement of each parties policies.

Immigration

Once again this is an issue likely to figure at the forefront of the election. One thing people most resent is not foreign visitors per se, but a overwhelming flood of people coming from abroad to reside in the UK and in so doing, changing the UK’s own culture in the process. Questions like how things like Education, Health Services, Housing and so on are expected to cope with suddenly increased numbers are valid questions that do not appear to be satisfactorily answered. A sudden increase of people for whatever reason means a strain on the housing market be it social or private. This in turn has led to higher property prices through supply and demand shortages, which in turn has squeezed many people through economic pressures out of the property market all together. Any party that takes away the prospect of people one day ever owning their own home has made a lifelong enemy.The rented sector which began to seriously decline in the 1960/70’s is once again booming but this time with exceeding high and eye-watering rent levels.Although the politicians have claimed immigration is economically good for Great Britain, that is not how it is perceived by much of the UK electorate.

Free migration by EU citizens within member states is a cornerstone policy of the EU. EU politicians claim that any attempt to reform this policy would require a treaty change and would need to be agreed to by all 28 member states. They also indicate that any such move is likely to be fiercely resisted. Despite paying a lions share in contributions to the EU, as many of the UK’s powers have been devolved to the EU by previous governments, political promises to reform immigration do seem to be dead in the water. A point that will not please many of the electorate and could well be a deciding issue in the General Election.

European Recession

Recent months have seen a collapse in oil prices. This is mainly due the the US now being able to exploit its own shale oil resources and reducing its dependency on the world oil market. Recession in other large oil consuming countries in the Far East and South America have added to a world surplus of oil. Petro economies reliant from both the sale of oil and oil taxes have seen their revenues fall. This includes the UK but other forms of income from services like banking are helping to off-set this loss. Had Scotland vote for Independence, their economy would have faced great difficulties.

Other European economies have faced a much slower recovery than the UK and some economists have forecast this could lead to a triple-dip recession in the Euro Zone. It is not possible to turn a blind-eye to this possibility or the effects yet another possible threat from possibly a new Greek government seeking to renegotiate the terms of its bail-out commitments.

Even though the UK is likely to suffer less from a possible recession, the fall in demand for exported goods with a likely rising value of the pound against the Euro would mean a reduced income for a UK government making the likelihood imposing even more harsher spending cuts at home.

The EU heavily criticised in the UK for apparent liberal and ever increasing spending policies irrespective of its member states financial realities, is likely to put greater financial demands on its more wealthier member states if it finds itself in financial difficulties. Again this is something unlikely to please the UK electorate.

All of the above factors are making the fortune teller’s crystal ball a bit murky for the next six months.After that things should become a little clearer although I am not so certain UK citizens will necessarily like what they see. On a optimistic note however, the UK’s future will probably be better than many others.

.

Tis’ the season of empty promises, Fa la la la la,

Houses of ParliamentWith the ink on the Scottish referendum results barely dry, the season of party political conferences has now thankfully gone.. Being the last series of conferences before the next General Election, one expects the promises and policies for the future to be more outlandish than usual. On that front I do not appear to have been disappointed with promises of oodles of new doctors, GP’s and nurses for the National Health Service (NHS) combined with usual tax the rich speech from the Shadow Chancellor all wrapped up in a 10 year plan. This is from the same party that completed 13 years in power and left behind an enormous black hole of a monetary deficient that the public have been paying back with years of enforced austerity. No mention was made of the deficient, future austerity or the vexed question of immigration. Apparently these most important of subjects were simply ‘forgotten’.

Apparent sweeping tax reductions promised by the Tories and tax the rich to pay the poor from the Lib/Dems. It is of little wonder the electorate has become ultra-cynical of  all politicians. Most of the electorate have deep rooted suspicions that whatever is promised, following a General Election, the same politicians will either quickly find good excuses why their promises cannot be upheld or more likely, simply quietly forgotten. If something like a signed cast-iron pledge not to increase university fees can be quickly discarded within a few days of forming a coalition government, then mere promises on just about anything tend to sound vacuous after that.

As the sands of time to the next General election quickly ebb away, it is likely that the speed of new but hollow promises being made will accelerate dramatically to a point where they might be considered a bit ‘braggish’ in something of a  “I can do better than you” spectacle.

Until now, the normal political model has been for the steadfast rump of the electorate to remain faithful with the political party of their choice and only if the incumbent government has been particularly poor during its term of office is change of government likely.

It does now seem probable this comfortable political model is about to change. Like a pot simmering on the stove, the main political parties have conveniently ignored the growing discontent on issues like immigration, enforced austerity, loss of governance to Europe and so on. These are issues that have effected peoples daily lives and their families as they manifest themselves through housing shortages, crowded schools, pressures on the NHS and evaporation of earnings to name but a few. The politicians largely insulated from such effects have ignored them at their peril. Politicians have failed to appreciate that unless the heat is turned down, there comes a point where the simmering pot with boil-over.

Normally as a General Election approaches it is often possible to sense the mood of the country and how the political parties are likely to fare. At the moment there is a strange absence of such a feeling rather like a phoney war. The only feeling I strongly sense at the moment is which party, namely the Lib/Dems that clearly are going nowhere except into possible Parliamentary extinction. In two recent by-elections at Clacton and Heywood and Middleton the Lib/Dems share of the vote totally collapsed. Although they were not expected to win either by-election, on that showing of lack of support it is unlikely they will win any seats in the next General Election including the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The by-elections also show a serious erosion in support for the Labour Party. Heywood and Middleton was until now something of a Labour stronghold yet despite putting a brave face on their win, the truth is they barely scraped in by the skin of their teeth only just winning by 617 votes to the challenge from the more recently formed United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

All the main political parties are now running scared of UKIP and with the present state of flux in political parties there is now no clear front runner for the next election

I would not be at all surprised to see many long sitting MP’s swept aside by the incoming floodtide of support for UKIP. With a national deep resentment at the parliamentary expenses scandal which many MP’s wanted to keep a state secret and are attempting to do so again. This coupled with the issues I raised earlier, MP’s will only have themselves to blame. It really is a case of watch this space for further developments.

As for the deluge of political promises we are likely to face increases in the next few months? it is always worth remembering, Promises are but words, and words but wind.

(Samuel Butler)

Happy New Year 2014

2014

Happy New Year Folks!

Well the New Year has arrived perhaps for some, bright expectations for the future and the start of a new life while for others, the new year may just be a mundane continuation of the previous 12 months. Certainly life is what the individual makes of it but even the most optimistic outlooks can be severely tempered by economic crisis.

It’s likely the main items to dominate the headlines in the forthcoming year will be;

Immigration

• Scotland’s Independence Referendum

European Election

Anniversary of the start of World War One

Pay and Pensions

Immigration

This time last year I wrote that immigration was likely to develop into something of a furore mainly due to the ending of temporary right to free movement controls imposed on a number of newer EU member states. How right that forecast proved to be. The original slow awareness of a potential problem rapidly gathered pace like ever-growing snowball rolling downhill until it resulted in the Government taking 11th hour measures in desperation to avoid any potential surge in benefit and health tourism. The qualifying time for claiming benefits has now been raised to three months UK residence and a requirement for non-UK residents to pay for health treatment.

Whether or not these measures have any effect or whether the UK will see a huge immigration influx only the forthcoming months will tell. Clearly some will always use these fears to play the racism card, something I personally will have no truck with. There are however those who have in the past sought to unjustly label anyone who raised serious questions about the effects of mass immigration as having racist tendencies. No government or local authority can ignore the effects  a sudden influx of people would have on housing supply, education, health services and social infrastructure. People coming from countries with traditionally low rates of pay cannot be blamed for wanting to enhance their families status. It does seem however that some employers have also used this new pool of lower wage expectation manpower to keep earnings artificially depressed. I cannot help but think that is something of a short-sighted view and something of economic madness. In the longer term, companies can only prosper if people buy their goods or services something which a low wage base population struggling to make ends meet are unlikely to do. Even the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has recognised this by stating that some employers are keeping far too many people stuck in minimum-wage jobs.

Scotland’s Independence Referendum

On the 18th September the people of Scotland will hold a referendum to vote on whether Scotland should become an independent country, breaking it’s ties with the United Kingdom. I have a feeling in the months running up to the referendum this is likely to turn into a most acrimonious debate with claim and counter-claim as to the benefits or lack of them that Scotland will face if it does become independent.At the moment I like many others am unclear as to who will be entitled to vote. While I accept the principle it is for the Scottish people to decide their future the question still remains at the moment who these people will be. Will it be all residents in Scotland or just those of Scottish descent. If it is the latter it begs the question of degrees of Scottishness as many people claim to have an element of Scottish blood running through their veins. Would one have to be both born in Scotland and be of Scottish decent to vote or would people of Scottish descent around the world be equally entitled? There are many people whose Scottish ancestors moved to England where they were born but who have subsequently moved back to Scotland. How does one prove they are Scottish? It’s not as daft a question as it may at first appear. The age for eligibility to vote has been lowered to 16, something that many adults in any election worldwide might question the wisdom of.

I personally am not in favour of Scottish independence not because I am English and might be considered biased but because I believe breaking the union apart will not serve any good purpose for either side. There are those who will say Scotland’s economy is booming and will continue to flourish. I take a more dispassionate look can only effectively see tourism and dwindling returns from North Sea oil. If future economic circumstances should dictate that oil companies suspend oil production, then Scotland would be plunged into an immediate economic crisis. It’s no use people saying such things can not happen as in a global economy with multi-national companies anything is possible.

Scotland like England certainly has the remnants of a once thriving shipbuilding industry. However like England the Scottish shipbuilding industry is in serious decline faced with almost unmatchable competition from foreign shipyards that can build ships in a faster turnaround time with the consequent cost savings.Again some would debatably argue that the faster built ships are not of the same quality as Scottish built ships. It is an argument that cuts no ice with the shipping companies as they look not only at potential cargoes but financial ledgers as well. The period during which a ship is built is also a dead-money time for shipping companies. It’s only when a ship is on the sea carrying cargo that it earns money and certainly not during the extended period while a ship of perhaps better quality is built. Unless a new Scottish Government were prepared or had the finances to pour money into shipyard modernisation along with the changes in working conditions then I can see no future shipbuilding industry, (and any consequent economic benefit it would bring), at all.

There are those in the current Scottish Assembly that say if they win independence they would remain part of the EU and they would not institute border controls. I do find that all rather fanciful and wishful thinking. The Spanish Prime Minister for one disagrees with that point of view and I dare say there are others that think the same. It is also unlikely that the English Parliament could tolerate a position where Scotland become an open gateway for migrants who who simply pass-through Scotland on their way to England. Although no one in Government has yet had the nerve to say so, it’s patently obvious that England would have to institute border controls at the Scottish border from day one. This immediately raises the prospect of Scottish people in England or vice-versa becoming aliens in a foreign country overnight, a real prospect anyone should shudder at.

I tend to think the Scottish people are far more wiser and canny to see through anyone essentially raising very little other than a patriotic flag waving argument.

European Elections

Elections for the European Parliament are due to take place in April and they are likely to throw all the mainstream political parties into something of a turmoil. There is a very strong anti-European feeling running through the UK at the moment and only the proposed European Referendum in 2015, if it ever happens, will be able to determine whether pro or anti-Europeans are in the majority. Although a European referendum is now contained within an Act of Parliament that does not mean it is written in tablets of stone and will take place. A lot will depend on the outcome of a General Election and which party or the strengths of any future coalition government eventually takes control. The Liberal Party would scrap any such referendum immediately in the very unlikely event they won the election. Labour are somewhat silent on the issue and one can guess why. Saying they will also scrap the referendum is a guaranteed vote loser.

That only leaves the forthcoming European Election where the electorate can have their say. What is different in this election is the hitherto comparatively unknown United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) have suddenly started making major inroads in local elections leaving the main political parties fearful they may do the same in the European Elections. The would leave the Government with it’s European input seriously weakened at the Council of Ministers with possibly diametrically opposed views to it’s representatives in the European Parliament..If this were to happen then the path run up to the General Election is likely to be littered with all sorts of disingenuous future promises.

The only vote the British people have had on Europe was a referendum in 1975 to join the then EEC (European Economic Community), a trading community and nothing else. No mention was ever made of political union or the loss of sovereignty and all that entails.Everything that has developed since then has been without the consensus of the British people by smoke and mirrors arguments from those fearful of loosing a vote on the subject. Future historians will probably look back on this period and ridicule the politicians involved.

Anniversary of the start of World War One

The 28th July will see the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One. It was on this date in 1914 that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo during a visit to what was then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Archduke was the heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary.

The assassination led to a chain of events where Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and other nations subsequently mobilised to either support or defend one another. The rest as they say is history. Four years of bloody battle and a estimated 14 million deaths ensued. Ways of life and social structures also fell victim to the carnage and the world was never the same again in the aftermath.

One hundred years may seem like a long time to many, very few of us were alive then but the impact ran deep like a scythe cutting through society and for some, the wounds are still felt today.

For the average soldier, irrelevant of what nation they fought for, they simply did as they were ordered, orders that originated from their generals which in turn led back to a handful of politicians. For many it originally was a form of escapism from their humdrum lives with a chance of foreign travel they were unlikely to achieve otherwise. Everyone though the whole thing would be a short bloody skirmish after which everyone would go home again. Tragically these thoughts were quickly dispelled as reality set in and many were destined never to return home again. Entire towns and villages lost their menfolk as well as ladies losing their sweethearts, wives loosing their husbands and children loosing their fathers.

It is important to remember the ultimate sacrifice so many made and also to learn the lessons from it. Failure to learn those lessons of World War One sowed the seeds of the even greater greater holocaust of World War Two.

Pay and Pensions

Pay I have already covered under immigration as both tend to be inter-linked. Problems with pensions however have been quietly lurking beneath the surface for some time and I think are likely to erupt at some time during the year.

To many pensions have always been and probably will remain something of a taboo subject. Something that is not readily understood and brushed aside with a “Best left to others” to sort out attitude. Younger generations however are becoming more aware and astute that their forefathers as to how pensions work and will no longer accept their parents something to be brushed under the carpet outlook. People are now living longer and young people of today must now worked until they are 70 to get a state pension. It is likely the goal posts of age will be moved even further before they achieve that. At the same time traditional company pension schemes are closing with the forecast they will completely disappear within the next decade.

The money so diligently saved over the years for a pension goes into what in known as an individuals pension pot. When they eventually retire this sum of money is used to buy an annuity which is a fixed contract guaranteeing the individual a set income for the rest of their life. This may seem all well and good but it has emerged the companies that deal in annuities charge differing administration fees and also offer differing rates for the lifetime return they give in return for the money in an individuals pension pot. This could mean that twin brothers working in the same occupation and retiring on the same day could receive a pension differing by several thousand pounds a year if their pension pots are invested with different annuity companies. Administration fees are akin to someone putting their hands in your pocket to take some of your money to look after it. This is fine to a degree but it a company takes more money out of your pocket than another company for doing the same thing, then less money is going into your pension pot. Some companies also charge high transfer fees when you retire should you decide that company A offers a better annuity rate than company B.

This may all be perfectly legal but I think it can only be a matter of time before governments are forced by increasingly aware pension savers to pass legislation ending this disparity.

The other pension and to which many are solely reliant is the State Pension Scheme. Again it will not be too long before people increasing start asking if I now have to work until I am 70 plus years old, what happens to my contributions if I die before then? It does seem they lose them and the state pension will in part be financed by those who never live long enough to collect them.

A recent survey of pensions internationally claimed that UK pensioners received the worst pensions in Europe and the possibility does exist of the UK becoming a nation of pauper pensioners, something that will do both them and the UK economy no good.. One thing is clear, as more people become pension literate, fewer of them will be prepared to accept the poor state of affairs with either private or state pensions and with pensioners surviving longer, all political parties are starting to fear the power of the grey vote.


I have but touched on five subjects likely to arouse controversy in the forthcoming year. There are likely to be many others but I think these will have higher prominence.

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.

%d bloggers like this: