Today marked something different, something which the UK hasn’t seen for some time (no it’s not a blog post from me although that has been well overdue!), it’s the devolution of Parliament.
This post, hopefully isn’t going to be a party political broadcast for the Conservatives, but more of an insight into what has happened over the past few years, what’s happened so far from a campaign perspective, and what I think might happen over the next few weeks.
If you look back five years ago, we were in a lot of debt, a heck of a lot of debt. The UK was in £1 trillion worth of debt. If you struggle to think of what this looks like, it looks something like this:
To put that into perspective, that’s £40,000 per household.
So high was our level of debt, that we paid more on interest, than we spent on our entire defence budget (£40billion)!
The Conservatives took power, in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and took some tough decisions. Key areas of the public sector were cut, people were made redundant, and expansion projects that were planed were shelved.
People took to the streets in uproar to protest against the cuts being so hard and so deep, and whilst I would be the same if I had been made redundant, the general consensus was that the Tories were taking the ‘Great’ out of ‘Great Britain’.
It could be because I was fortunate to be in full-time education, and whilst I don’t oppose to the tuition fee’s (for reasons I will go into later), I understand one key principle, “thou cannot spend what thou does not have”.
We all pay taxes, on our earnings, on the majority of things we buy, and other financial transactions. If the government don’t raise enough funds, we can’t spend it.
If you earn £15,000 per year, you can’t live a champagne lifestyle, it’s as simple as that.
The government is no different, it can only spend what it has.
One of the most controversial subjects of the coalition was the raising of tuition fees for university students. Protest were had, and shortly thereafter raise they did. Even to this day, students appear on TV saying they are now going to be straddled with £40,000+ debt for the rest of their lives, and each and every one of them have got the wrong idea.
Unlike a traditional loan, the interest rate is low, in fact it’s spectacularly low, it’s charged at the rate of inflation. So in real terms, you never actually pay more back than you borrow. It gets paid direct to the university, so you never actually see it. You pay it back by minuscule amounts through your pay-packet automatically, and only do so when you earn above a certain amount, and after all of that, if you haven’t paid it off within a certain amount of time, it gets written off completely. Furthermore, it does not appear on your credit file, affect your ability to get credit, or mortgage.
Yes its debt, its assigned to your name, but does the fact that I personally owe around £25,000 to the Student Loan Company keep me up at night, no it doesn’t. Reason being that if I don’t have a wage coming in, I don’t pay it back, no bailiffs will come a knocking, my flat won’t be sold from underneath me, and I’ll still be able to put food on the table.
As with everything else in life, if you want something, you have to pay for it, and education is no different. Either the person who benefits from the degree pays for it with the option we have, or the taxpayer as a whole pays for it, personally, the former is a much better option in my eyes.
Over the past few weeks, the headlines were focused on a ‘debate about the debates’, would David Cameron turn up to the debates, who would take part, what format would they take, how many would they be etc etc.
At time of writing this, there has only been one debate, between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. There were two parts, questions from the audience, and questions from Jeremy Paxman, and just like the format, it was a game of two halves.
After the debate, each party was keen to claim victory, and contrary to my Conservative roots, I honestly don’t think either party did win outright. Any party which did, is, to put a not so finer point on it, massaging their ego.
David Cameron won with the audience, in my opinion he was engaging, and only answered questions ‘politically’ I a couple of instances. I am sure it was hoped by team Labour that Ed would capitalise on this however, I don’t think he did, questions seemed to navigate to the fact that he ‘couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich’ and perhaps didn’t have the strength required of a leader, despite stepping over his brother to get where he got.
Where Ed did however pull back in my eyes was in the interview with Paxman. In my view, Paxman went a bit far with the questioning, so much so that it was verging on bullying. I found myself saying to myself whilst watching it on TV “awwww that’s not fair”. Generally, we love an underdog, and whilst I don’t think Ed would make a great leader, being perceived as a victim, and someone who just wants to be given a chance, may well help rather than hinder him over the next few weeks.
Another leaders debate is scheduled to take place this Thursday. I say debate, however there are going to be 7 people there, and so more likely than not, its more likely to resemble ‘15 to 1’, ‘The Weakest Link’, or heaven forbid, ‘Take Me Out’, rather than any serious political programme.
Whilst I understand the need for transparency, and equality, no serious issues can be discussed to any level of detail with the number of people there, and I do take issue with the fact that parties with one or two MP’s at present are given the same airtime on national TV as those with a couple of hundred. To be equal, you would have to include very political party going, be that a party with two hundred MP’s, twenty MP’s, or running as an independent. Since this isn’t practical, it should be kept to the three main parties, if others want to debate issues, they can do that through different means.
What should happen…
Our country needs strong leadership, and needs the tough decisions to continue. We haven’t repaid all the debt from our predecessors, and so the hard work needs to continue, ideally with a majority government. What shouldn’t happen is ‘entities’ of the UK who have parliaments of their own dictating how policy is made. Scotland et al have their own Parliaments, they dictate their own laws, and so despite the referendum, they remain part of the UK, they should not have the ability to dictate on issues which don’t affect them, after all, we don’t on theirs.
What does the future hold?
The truth is, despite what the news will have you believe, no one really knows. The next couple of weeks will be full of speculation, lots of commentary and a lot of guessing. The news will be taken over with ‘reports’ reporting events that are non-events, and updates on things which haven’t changed, but the truth is, in reality, the only item of news worth waiting for is what happens in the small hours of May the 8th.
Anything else is pure speculation.