I admire the victims of the post office scandal for their cool reception for the remedies proposed by the government.
It is laughable how politicians can jump into action when it suits and at other times claim there is no parliamentary time to do something. After years of denial or slow progress, an excellent TV drama (that didn’t need sex or violence) captured the nation’s attention at just the right time between Christmas and New Year. Suddenly the government sprang into action with a scheme that will cost a billion or more and seriously compromises the separation of the courts and parliament. This was accompanied by a pile on against Lib Dem leader Ed Davey. Why pick on him rather than the other dozen postal ministers since 1999. Yes 1999 when New Labour had just come in. All parties, post office officials and Fujitsu have much to answer for. I certainly hope the Japanese company is made to help out the poor old British taxpayer in picking up the tab for this latest debacle.
THE YEAR AHEAD
It looks quite likely that in a year’s time Donald Trump will be heading back to the White House and Sir Keir Starmer will be installed in No 10. But the recent past has taught us to be certain of nothing. It is plausible that Joe Biden will be persuaded to stand down and just plausible that Michelle Obama could be persuaded to take on The Donald. It is exactly a hundred years since the first Labour government came to office. It has held power for just thirty three of those years, so its capacity to lose elections is great. So, it is just plausible to believe that with an improving economy and brazen tax cuts, the Tories could win for a fifth time in a row prompting a merger of Labour and the Lib Dems.
We will have plenty of indicators as to how voters are feeling in the early part of the year. There will be three by elections in Tory held seats, all winnable for Labour based on their performance last year, Eastwood, Blackpool South, and Wellingborough. Then we will have the local elections mainly in our metropolitan areas with the elected mayors facing the voters. Labour post holders are a shoe-in. The most interesting contest will be for West Midlands mayor where the excellent Andy Street will hope that distancing himself as much as possible from his party will mean another term for the Conservative. If Ben Houchen can hang on in Tees Valley, it will be an indication that Labour has not fully reestablished itself in the North East.
Everything will turn on the fate of the economy. 2024 is not shaping up as a year that will give a rocket boost to the sluggish Britain economy. With us being outside the biggest trading market in the world and millions working from home, how could it be otherwise? The chances are people won’t be feeling much better off, a fatal factor for any incumbent government.
Finally, there is growing global instability. We are likely to see Russia grinding down the brave Ukrainians as Putin waits for Trump to get into the White House. We can only hope that the enormity of the Gaza war will bring a two state solution nearer. Moderate Arab states want stability which might make the difference.