50 years ago Britain’s Prime Minister had the vision to take the UK into the European Economic Community. Edward Heath had the courage to lead a somewhat reluctant country from its imperial past to a modern partnership with our neighbours.
The front benches of both parties were populated by men and (a few) women of stature. William Whitelaw, Lord Carrington, Margaret Thatcher, Barbara Castle, Denis Healey and Antony Crosland.
Five decades on Heath’s European dream is in ruins and Brexit has been of no benefit to a country with collapsing public services, poverty, and roaring inflation. And the leadership of both parties don’t seem capable of meeting the huge challenge that the new year presents.
Take this week’s speeches by Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer. Promises from the Prime Minister on halving inflation (it will come down anyway) and stopping asylum seekers boats (don’t hold your breath) was matched by the Opposition leader focusing on devolving power. Nothing wrong with that but there is a giant problem in the room that neither hardly mentioned.
The social care crisis is an utter scandal and has been getting worse and worse during the nearly thirteen years of this government. It is obscene that very ill people are dying in ambulances because people who are better can’t be discharged to care facilities or their own home with support. We need to hear from both parties what they are going to do about it. Integrate the NHS and care services, pay the staff properly and pay for it by following the Dilnot recommendations from 2011.
A PIVOTAL YEAR IN POLITICS
Many Tory MPs are already preparing to quit, anticipating an electoral melt down next year. I wouldn’t be so sure. Although Labour are behaving as if they are carrying a Ming vase across a slippery floor when it comes to imaginative policies, I still have a feeling their huge poll lead is soft.
If Sunak can end the year with inflation right down, illegal immigration curbed and some sign of tackling social care, the Conservatives could present a tax cutting budget in the spring of 2024 and give Labour a real run for its money. Starmer has work to do to clinch the deal with the voters.
May’s local elections will be particularly important this year. Polls will be held for the hundreds of district councils in the Tory rural heartlands. Remember 1995 when Macclesfield was the lone council in the whole of the North that didn’t go Labour? The Conservatives are on the defensive in Bolton, Fylde and Pendle whilst there is an all out election on new boundaries in troubled Liverpool where the elected mayor position will be abolished. Just after the ballot boxes have been put away the city will be wonderful hosts to the Eurovision Song Contest.
SHADOW OVER CORONATION
It was most people’s fervent wish that the first coronation of a sovereign since 1953 would be an opportunity for joyful celebrations in very difficult times. Let’s hope that the latest revelations from Prince Harry are the last, and the build up to the coronation in May won’t be overshadowed by speculation on whether the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will attend.