Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Not all politicians are the same

My article in this week's Cornish Guardian addresses the recent House of Commons vote on the “Charter for Budget Responsibility.” It will be as follows:

It saddens me when people say, as they often do, that “all politicians are the same.” It is my honest belief that this is not the case, but I must admit that there is an ever-increasing similarity between the establishment parties.

This was certainly the case in Westminster last week, when MPs agreed George Osborne’s so-called “Charter for Budget Responsibility.”

The Charter commits parliament to the elimination of the deficit by 2017-18, which would mean three more years of austerity politics and another £30 billion of damaging cuts to our already struggling public services.

The Charter was supported by 515 MPs, a “Grand Coalition” of the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, both UKIP MPs and almost all Labour MPs.

As one journalist said: “Despite a lot of huffing and puffing, the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour essentially agree that spending cuts should continue ...”

Only 18 MPs stood up against “more of the same” from the establishment parties. And these were the men and women from the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru from Wales, the SDLP and Alliance Party from Northern Ireland, the Green Party’s one MP, and a measly five Labour MPs. 

Prominent in opposition to the budget cuts, welfare cuts and the almost inevitable privatisations was Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who rightly pointed out that “we have had five years of pain under Westminster’s austerity agenda with ordinary people paying the price for the collapse of the banks.”

He was also right in reminding everyone that the present Government had failed to live up to its previous claims that it would have eradicated the deficit and the economy would be thriving by now.

It is vital that there are politicians and political parties – albeit outside of the Westminster “mainstream” – which are challenging the consensus around austerity, and are championing alternatives ways to balance the books of the state, which do not impact on the vulnerable and the less-well-off.

There are so many alternatives that we should be talking about, which include a geographical re-balancing of the UK economy way from London and the South East and a greater investment in public works to boost economic activity. And we should see Westminster taking more progressive actions such as tacking the ongoing scandal of tax avoidance and evasion, ending tax relief on pension contributions for high earners and outlawing their other perks, and scrapping ridiculous expenditure such as Trident nuclear missiles.

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