Sunday, 25 March 2012

Talking politics at the Tatsfield Bus Stop...

Despite the fact that yesterday (Saturday) was a wonderful, summery day and, coincidentally, the day when the clocks went forward, announcing official British Summer Time, neither Andy nor I went cycling. My excuse? A late night on Friday drinking Long Island Iced Teas. Andy's? He just fancied a lie-in and who can blame him? I would have done the same.

Sunday was a case of game on, but I'd forgotten about the clocks going foward and was only reminded when Andy texted me and then called. I was up at 6am, but in reality it was 7am. We agreed to meet at 0830hrs (BST) instead of our usual 0730hrs and ride to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (a 16-mile round trip).

Despite the warmth, there was a lot of mist around, which cleared before we headed back. Our conversation revolved around politics, starting off with Europe and then moving towards the current global downturn and the plight of countries like Greece.

Former Labour leader, Neil Kinnock will always be remembered for
falling over on Brighton beach during the party conference in the 80s.
The basic difference between Andy and I is that I'm fairly left wing whereas Andy is right wing. He votes Tory and I vote Labour, although I admit to voting Tory in past elections back in the eighties when there wasn't really a viable alternative provided by the Labour Party - back in the days of Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and the miners' strike. Alright, I admit, I voted for Thatcher, but I've wised up and as soon as the Labour Party got its act together, I voted for them, removing, if I recall, John Major from No.10 and installing Tony Blair and his so-called New Labour.

Labour was so desperate for power back in the late 90s that it figured the only way to get its feet through the door was to be a little more Tory and not so left wing. Suddenly, all that Militant Tendency stuff and the Socialist Worker had gone and the 'looney left' as it was known became a thing of the past. New Labour was a lot swisher and it must have appealed to the electorate as Blair had a landslide victory.

Let's face it, people were well and truly fed up with the Tories. We'd suffered all the various scandals of Cecil Parkinson and Jeffrey Archer, not forgetting Tim Yeo's 'lovechild' and David Mellor's shennanigans in a Cheslea outfit and that whole 'Euro Sceptic' thing and it was well and truly time for change. Blair's getting in to No.10 was as much a relief for the English then as Barack Obama's election as US President was a huge relief for the Americans who had basically been humiliated as a nation by 'Dubya', or George Bush Junior.

But inevitably, like everything, things eventually began to grate. There was that whole Blair versus Brown thing, Labour's own scandals surrounding people like Peter Mandelson (and others) and soon, especially once Gordon Brown found himself as Prime Minister, people wanted Labour out of power. The problem, however, was that they didn't really want the Tories back in power and the Liberal Democrats have always been rank outsiders in British politics.

The result, as we all know, was a hung Parliament and Clegg foolishly deciding to get into bed with David Cameron (the very thought!) to form a coalition government. Anything to get into power, eh, Nick? The only good thing about the coalition is that the Tories can't have it all their own way and have to bow to the demands of the Lib Dems on a variety of policy issues. Likewise, the Lib Dems have to grit their teeth too and there have been constant references to the whole party going pear-shaped and the possibility of another election. But no, they're still going strong and tackling the downturn.

Ed Miliband: it should have been his brother leading the party.
For me, as a left winger, the big disappointment was Ed Miliband becoming leader of the Labour Party as that decision, brought about by the unions, means that Labour is back with a leader like Neil Kinnock and nobody believes he has what it takes to be a British prime minister. His brother David was the real man for the job and it makes me wonder why such decisions are taken. Surely, it must be even more obvious to those in the Labour Party (and the unions) that appointing Ed as leader will inevitably mean no success with the electorate. David Miliband, fine, but Ed? No chance. But no, the Labour Party will now continue with Ed at the helm and will lose countless general elections until such time as it realises its mistake and puts David in charge. So expect more of Cameron in the years to come, I'm afraid.

Woof! Woof! Berlusconi's foreign secretary...
Having been out in Italy for a couple of days last week, I'm beginning to think the Italians have it sussed. When I bowled out of Verona airport, the first thing I saw was a huge – and I mean huge – poster of a woman in her underwear. Excellent. Add to that the general style of the Italians, particularly the women,  and factor in Italian food and wine and the weather AND the fact that they used to have, until recently, a rock 'n' roll political figurehead in Berlusconi (he's one for the ladies and isn't afraid to admit it, making him an iconic figure of political comedy). So, yes, I could move out there and live out my days if the truth be known.

So, as Andy and I sat at the Tatsfield Bus Stop watching countless 'Lycra monkeys' pass by on their Colnago and Bianchi racing bikes, we discussed all this and the mention of Italy and my trip to Verona  got Andy started on Europe. Let's be frank: Andy wants out of Europe and, to be fair, why not? He's right wing and right wing people want out of Europe. Jeremy Clarkson probably wants out of Europe. We both admitted that we didn't know enough about the intricacies of the whole 'Europe' thing to work out exactly why we did and didn't want to remain in the EU (I'm pro-Europe by the way) but it seems to be, like so many things, ideological. And that's one thing I don't particularly like about politics: the blind faith in ideology. Socialists and left wingers are pro-big government and the state – and the appeal of Europe in this respect is obvious. Conversely, right wingers (Tories) want small government and less regulation (and you can definitely see the reason why they want out of Europe, which is bogged down with countless EU Directives – just the sort of thing that niggles your average Tory.
In Italy they have huge posters like this one 
everywhere – another good reason for leaving the UK?

Let's be transparent and generalist here, although Andy disagrees with my 'black and white' approach: Tories represent business and making a profit; Labour represents the workforce. Tories want as little regulation as possible so that they can make as much money as possible for themselves and their shareholders, they want to be able to hire and fire at will and bugger the 'human' or 'social' consequences. Labour wants fairness in the work place and plenty of mechanisms  to prevent hiring and firing at will and exploitation. Labour is all for big government and lots of spending; Tories want small government and everybody tightening their belts – doing things on the cheap – so that maximum profits go to the directors of the private companies and the shareholders of the public ones. It can get a bit risky where, say, passenger safety is concerned, as the nation has discovered to its cost. Tories and business people in general would rather cut costs to save money than invest too heavily in safety. End result? Train crashes and people killed. Boris Johnson wants driverless tube trains, but I'm sure that Ed Miliband has the opposite view and so on and so forth.

Let's get back to blind faith in ideology, because the ideological objectives of the right lead to the above (cost cutting, less regulation and so on) and the ideology of the left is the complete opposite (big government, loads of regulations and spending lots of money); the end result is we vote based on ideology and often get frustrated when our elected Government acts in a certain way. I guess when New Labour came into power they had to reconcile the 'ideology' of the left with the needs of the electorate...otherwise they would never be handed the keys to number 10.

There's something very frustrating about British politics and it's all to do with the two-party system of Labour and Conservative. It's a two-horse race, in other words, and it means that we have a kind of schizophrenic see-saw in action: first it's 'spend, spend, spend' by the Labour party, and then it's 'save, save, save' by the Tories. One cancels out the other.
Greece: Bollocks! We'll go into liquidation and set up another
country under a different name!

We moved on to discuss the global downturn and the plight of countries like Greece. What neither of us could really understand was that money does exist out there, somebody has it because world governments are always talking about how much they should give to Greece to keep the company (Freudian slip, I mean 'country') afloat. So, who does have the money and why don't they bail us all out? What right have 'they' got to hold us to ransom and implement 'austerity' measures?

There are loads of questions surrounding this issue: what if Greece doesn't pay, what happens to the country? Does another country seek a county court judgement so that, should Greece decide to develop some photographs down at Snappy Snaps they would be turned away by eagle-eyed shopkeepers? Would Greece give, say, one of its islands to Germany by way of payment so that Crete, for example, can then hoist the Germany flag and everybody starts eating Bratwurst instead of moussaka?
Peter Cruddas, former Tory party co-treasurer. "And for £500,000...."

Surely, Greece can just turn round and say fuck off to the EU. "Bollocks! We can be self-sufficient like in the Good Life," they might say and then get on with the business of survival – they've got cafés and hotels, they can make wine and brandy, grow a few olives, and they can carry on with tourism, what do they need the rest of Europe for? Well, alright, they'd need them to populate their hotels during the summer months, but why would it be so difficult?

Who is it that holds all the money? And why can't they just give it to those who need it – or print some more? Andy says it's the banks. Well, if it is, they shouldn't be allowed to wield such power. I'm tired and I'm going to sign off but hey, there's a new corruption scandal out in the open at the moment. Step forward, Mr Peter Cruddas! I love that surname as it kind of sums up his situation – 'I'm up to my neck in Cruddas at the moment'. For those of you who don't know, Cruddas was the Tory Party Co-Treasurer (he resigned today). Mr Cruddas, take your place in the Tory Hall of Infamy – click here for more!

No comments:

Post a Comment