The Village Soapbox
It seems to me that, as a nation, we are becoming less and less organised. Successive governments have all contributed. The railways are a mess, power generation and distribution is a mess, the health service is a mess, the banking system is a mess. We’ve had deregulation and self-regulation (whenever did self-regulation work?).
Now the education system is getting into a bigger mess, we’ve got Public Schools, Private Schools, Grammar Schools,ComprehensiveSchools, Academies and now we have Free schools. I’m not quite sure how ‘free’ these schools are. Can they employ anyone they choose to teach, it seems as though they can, if so it is an odd situation when, to teach in a state school you will need a second class honours degree but no such requirement is placed on state funded free schools?
One of the dangers must be that these ‘free’schools are likely to be started by middle class families in middle class areas. Their hope will be that they will have, what is, in effect, a private school funded by the state. Another danger is that they are likely to be started by religious groups who will have a freer hand in the way in which they indoctrinate their pupils. Once again they will have a school funded by the state that, in the past, would have had to be privately funded. Of course there are rules which are intended to prevent selective recruitment, but I have no doubt that most of the intake will be selected in some way.
The electricity market is unfathomable, the government tells us that it is up to us to switch suppliers to get the best deal, but it seems that there is a danger that after you switch there will probably be a price increase and you might find you will be better off to go back to your former supplier. In any event the suppliers appear to act as a cartel jointly aiming to keep prices high.
Getting the best deal for a rail ticket is either a lottery or a job for a consultant. I’m sure there are many oldies like me with a nostalgic longing for the days of Eastern Electricity, British Rail, The Post Office and the time when British Gas was British and nobody ‘told Sid’.
Perhaps this is just the nostalgia of an old man, but, like Keith MacLeod (October issue) I certainly feel that there are many aspects of life today that do not compare favourably with times past. It is only in parts, however, that the comparison is unfavourable, being a little older than Keith I well remember the war and I have some memory of the time before the war.
The nation is near to bankrupt with the national debt a high proportion ofGDP(but not as high as France, Japan, Italy, Greece, the USA, and many others) so we have to cut back on everything, especially capital projects. What strikes me as odd is that, in 1945, when we were far more bankrupt than we are now, burdened with hundreds of thousands of destroyed and damaged houses and factories, burdened also with a huge army in Germany and the need to restore Germany, yet we started the greatest number of capital projects ever, building thousands of new homes , some in whole new towns, many new roads, restoring the railways, we even nationalised a number of industries and it was the beginning of a period of growth and rapidly developing prosperity.
It has suited the present government to blame the previous government for the large debt that they inherited. Certainly the Labour Government were guilty of failing to regulate the City, but nobody can believe that the Conservatives would have done differently, it was a conservative government that deregulated the City (the root cause of most of our problems). I understand that over 50% of Conservative Party funding comes from the City, a factor that might explain the current foot dragging over introducing the much needed reforms of the banks.
In truth, as some readers may remember, at the end of 2007/beginning of 2008, our national debt, as a proportion ofGDPwas well within acceptable limits. In fact, in 2008, George Osborne, in his efforts engender support for the Conservatives, clearly stated that he would not change the Labour government’s spending plans – plans that he now describes as profligate. This is in no way intended as a Party Political piece in favour of the Labour Party – I have plenty to complain about with them, but it is intended to make clear that our national financial difficulties are entirely the result of the reckless behaviour of the banks and City traders. The resulting collapse was international, nothing to do with our government, and has caused great difficulties for all western nations, especially those using the euro, which, in turn exacerbates our national problems.
Although the collapse was due to the reckless behaviour of the City traders, a contributory factor seems to have been the method of accounting. Once upon a time bankers were renowned for their caution and accounting was strict and prudent. If investments were made then no profits would be accredited until those investments were sold, thus, if someone invested