VIEW FROM MIDDLE ENGLAND A Rant from Anthony Rose Fires are being stoked under Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister. The surprise is that it has taken so long. He inherited a strong economy from the previous (Tory) administration : so strong, indeed, that even his bullying incompetence has taken a decade to undo the enviable position to which he was heir. It now seems an exercise in irony to have described him as “Prudence” Brown. His survival – and the slowness of the unravelling of his reputation – may in part be attributed to the lack of any credible opposition. There was a clue when he sold our gold reserves at the bottom of the market in 1999. It seems to me that the recent cloaking of David Cameron in the vestments of a Prime Minister in Waiting are borne as much of desperation as of unqualified support of Cameron.
The reputation of Members of Parliament has never been lower. Under the Speaker, Michael Martin, they have fought tooth and nail to avoid disclosing their benefits and expenses, and the extent to which they have feathered their nests at the taxpayer’s expense. Lawyers acting for the Speaker advised him that he would lose his legal action to avoid disclosure, so he changed his lawyers to others more compliant but still lost, wasting a further couple of hundred thousand pounds of someone else’s money in the process. It might now be said that the stock of politicians stands below that of lawyers, below that of estate agents and motor traders, previously the harrijan of society .The greatest challenge is the ageing population, and the demands they will place on the State in terms of healthcare and pensions. Mr Brown, in the first of a series of baffling messages, stressed the need for saving and for individuals to prepare themselves for a long retirement by way of pension planning, and in the same breath removed £5 billion from pensions by cancelling tax credits.We have a shrinking tax base. The proportion of the population who are retired grows daily. The public sector – which produces nothing – grows exponentially. Alastair Darling, in a series of moves most of which require to be undone when their consequences are pointed out to him, attacks the only major industry we have left : the financial services sector. If the City of London loses its place in World financial markets, we must find another USA (the original having lost its appetite for propping us up) to help us down the road .The middle class pay the taxes. They insure their cars and pay their fines when caught speeding. They observe the laws of the land. They are now emigrating in record numbers to Australia, to France, to the USA, to Spain. Because it’s only the middle class and those paying tax under PAYE upon whom the government can bring their measures to bear, they suffer by far the greater part of the daily measures which are designed, or at least have the effect, of eroding steadily the pleasure of life. By this I do not mean the various petty and spiteful regulations (the ban on hunting, the demonisation of four wheel drive motor cars) which are introduced from time to time to pacify the envious, but rather the endless rules (many of which, it must be admitted, are derived from the EU) which stifle individual freedoms and national identity. The splendid Peter Jones, writing in The Spectator, quotes the historian Tacitus on the subject of the monstrous growth of legislation thus : “corruptissima republica, plurimae leges” (“when the state was at its most corrupt, laws were most numerous”).Here is my Utopian dream. Snivelling, whining, corrupt, self seeking, greedy politicians are swept away – possibly be a sparkling show of asteroids in the night, as in The Day of the Triffids. In their place we find ourselves governed by disinterested persons (no doubt of private means) who will make their decisions (as did – to a large extent – our Victorian grandfathers) for the long term benefit of the country, and not to secure their sinecures for another forage in the public purse. We shall find, at a stroke, that merit is rewarded, that incompetent leaders of failed businesses (Marconi, Northern Rock) will not skulk away with enormous bags of gold; we shall find that there is a well run railway system where those who own the tracks also own the rolling stock and that the return rail fare from Paddington to Swindon doesn’t cost more than a return flight to New York; that there is, in short, a realistic alternative to the motor car. Hospitals will not be swept away in favour of Regional “Centres of Excellence” and the grammar school system will be reinstated and expanded, and there will be no resentment of inherited talent as there is of inherited wealth. Crime will be punished, the meretricious identified and the meritorious rewarded, the weak sustained, age and wisdom respected and civic and national pride restored. Fat chance.