Whitehaven News column – 5th February 2015

There’s a lot wrong with Britain: You can change it
There’s a lot wrong with Britain – almost more than I can describe. Right now, our country appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Faced with balkanisation and break-up with the continued threat of Scottish separation, faced with diminishing importance and global insignificance caused by a flirtation with a damaging exist from the EU. Governed by a wealthy elite who – seemingly every day – act in the interests of the most privileged and not the overwhelming majority of the British people.
But within our borders, a new, uncomfortable mood is gathering pace. More people are interested in politics than politicians believe or who will tell journalists or pollsters when asked. The way we ‘do’ politics in our country has ran its course and it is this that fuels a seeming disengagement with the process. The gap between the governed and the governors appears to grow ever wider and it’s easy to understand why.
Accountability is hard to find in Britain. The bankers that crashed the economy are insulated from the consequences of their decisions. Many people legitimately claiming disability benefits have been re-classified, their lives often made misery. Reports suggest that this has led some individuals to take their own lives. The Bedroom Tax – affecting 2,000 families in Copeland alone – has caused hardship and suffering.  Exploitative zero hours contracts – where you can be told to turn up for work only to be immediately sent home – keep people off the dole figures put don’t often put people into work or enable them to earn money. The list is endless, but it speaks to a broader malaise in our national life: the powerful aren’t accountable and the weak are increasingly punished. Two major examples that further illustrate the point leap to mind. Look at the Hillsborough cover-up. A tale of connivance between senior government politicians, the South Yorkshire Police and the national media; it’s taken more than a quarter of a century to even approach something like justice.
And today, the Home Secretary’s dissolution of an inquiry into child abuse after six months of trying – and failing – to find an appropriate person to head up the inquiry’s vital work.  Inexplicably, the British Home Secretary has had to appoint an overseas Judge to lead the Inquiry. Consider what this means. Is it the case that the British establishment is so compromised by such an inquiry, that an overseas Judge is the only way in which to enable a genuinely independent investigation?  

Unquestionably, we are at a turning point. Away from the pressures and strains of daily life, I think most people think about issues such as this. What is our country about? Does it work for me and my family? What is our place in the world? But one of the greatest things about our country – unlike many others – is that we can change this. Each of us has a voice and each of us has a vote.Make sure you’re registered to vote in the forthcoming elections (this is easily done on-line at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote ) because one thing is certain in these turbulent times: if you don’t do politics, politics will do you.

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