This was first posted on Facebook on 23rd March 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
Look, imagine an afternoon when you settle down to listen to Parliamentary debate for eight hours (with breaks for tea and food and actually a glass of wine about 8pm because OMG) and it is interrupted by:
The Alex Salmond verdict (at least 8 out of the 13 jurors decided Not Guilty for most of the charges, Not Proven for the attempted rape charge, and a horde of sexist gits all over Scotland rose up to cheer, including, unfortunately, SNP MPs Angus MacNeil and Joanna Cherry).
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed by the IOC to 2021.
Boris Johnson announced at 8:30pm that from tomorrow the UK is in lockdown.
And all the while, in the Commons, the Coronavirus Bill is passing at a gallop through the Second Reading debate, the Committee of the Full House debate, and he Third Reading vote. It’s now off to the House of Lords.
I still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.
What made me so sure?
It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)
On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.
For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.
I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.
Whenever Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems, or the SNP, talk about how the important things are to let big companies pay less tax and to crack down on benefit fraud, we can be quite sure they are telling a story which is aimed at getting tabloid support:
Tax evasion currently costs this country £25bn a year; tax avoidance – that is, large companies and wealthy individuals who “take advantage” of the system – cost us £70bn a year. In addition to this, £26bn is going uncollected, adding up to a staggering £121bn in total – or, to put it in context, three-quarters of the annual deficit. To put it in yet more context, the amount lost to disability fraud is estimated at £1bn – and this figure should be considered in the context of benefit underpayment, which consistently saves more than the fraud costs. This does not of course excuse fraud, but it does make a mockery of the coalition’s claims that abuse of the system is costing money that they will save by being “efficient” – another euphemism.
All of these parties at Westminster and Holyrood seem to think they can tell us what should matter to us.
I am undecided about how I’ll vote in 2014, and free for nothing, I’ll tell both Labour and the SNP how they could convince me to vote their way.
Tell me you’re going to build enough council houses that everyone who needs to rent one can have one. And keep building them so that as the stock diminishes by Right To Buy, it increases by new builds. You know this will save money – Housing Benefit has effectively become a subsidy for people who can afford to buy a place for the purpose of renting it out. Nice little earner for them. You know this will increase employment, decrease homelessness, improve quality of life hugely, even improve educational scores – children don’t tend to do well in school when they’re living in a bed-and-breakfast. Continue reading