There is something wholly contradictory about the Tory Government claim that the Illegal Migration Bill is, “what the country wants.” There is growing and consistent evidence that the very same public not only regrets Brexit, but also wants to see the UK back inside the EU family of nations. EU membership would bring back the free movement of people. It would also, one assumes, bring back the possibility of a sensible accord on managing the refugee issue.
I suppose it’s possible that the general public is displaying cognitive dissonance, the ability to hold two contradictory views at the same time. It might be helpful if journalists interviewing Tory Ministers asked what verifiable evidence they have of widespread support for their refugee policies. Most potentially helpful of all would be a poll by a respected organisation asking the people what they feel about rejoining the EU and about how the country is managing the ‘boats’ issue. A sort of snapshot of UK-wide opinion. I suppose what I actually mean is a general election. Such a thing is already overdue.
As we await a Westminster election, the place called, for at least the present, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is unhappy, and with good cause.
Anger and fear
I spoke to my sister, a retired nurse, this week. She and her husband live outside Manchester. He is suspected of having a serious heart condition and needs a series of tests. His wait has dragged on. They live in constant fear that his condition will kill him before it is diagnosed and treatment prescribed. For most of her life, my sister took only a passing interest in politics and could never have been called a radical. Now she is angry with the Conservatives and blames them for the increasingly bad state of the NHS, the decimation of other public services, the lack of investment in the north of England and the calamity of Brexit. The latter she sees as cruelly dividing families, pushing up prices and reducing choice.
Which brings me to eggs. I’m a regular shopper at my local Sainsburys, on the edge of Glasgow. Recently, I’ve been unable to buy Scottish eggs from the store. Sometimes there have been no eggs, British or Scottish, though it’s rare there are no British eggs. But I don’t want to buy British eggs. I want to buy Scottish eggs. I live in Scotland. I know Scottish farm produce to be among the best in the world. I want to support Scottish producers. They produce good food. They pay their taxes here. They are essential to the stability of rural economies, and the more they sell in Scotland, the less polluting their carbon footprint. It’s a win-win.
You may tell me that British eggs are just as good as Scottish eggs and that British eggs may also be Scottish eggs. You could be correct on both counts. My choice as a consumer is for Scottish eggs. I can only tell when an egg is Scottish by looking at the packaging. Scottish eggs tend to sport the Saltire. Sometimes they have the name of the farm or the district, thus revealing their origins.
A shambles doing nobody any good
According to press reports, egg farmers are quitting the business faster than you can say chicken. High energy prices are held most responsible. British energy prices are among the highest in the advanced world. This must not only be financially painful for Scottish egg producers, but also galling. Many can probably glance out of the window to see wind turbines producing electricity that should be extremely affordable but isn’t. UK Government policy and the organisation of the electricity market means sky high prices for business and consumers, even those in receipt of government support. A shambles doing nobody any good, except energy company fat cats.
The state of the nation worries many, including my friend Fi. She’s quite a posh Scot. Her extended family hail from the upper reaches of the professional and landowning classes. She’s as comfortable in London’s Sloane Square as Glasgow’s George Square. A natural Tory. She tells me she is frightened for her kids and for the future. She has no faith in any political party or leader. She sees around her growing corruption and incompetence and creeping authoritarianism.
I imagine many of you reading this know people who express similar concerns as Fi and my sister. There are millions who see in egg shortages, the troubles of the NHS, the failure to resolve industrial disputes and the rise in glaring inequality as the creatures of a Tory world. Many of them may have once or recently voted Tory. Middle Britain is no longer assuredly Conservative. What they all seek is a leader. A leader who will begin to pull the country away from its seemingly self-destructive course. They don’t want a demagogue. They don’t want an ideologue. They don’t want a trimmer or denier of the facts. They want somebody whose instincts are politically moderate and economically credible. They want someone who knows the difference between fantasy and reality. They want the NHS valued and properly funded. A leader who will begin to redress the income balance. They want a Britain they can feel at home in, not the crumbling Britain they see before them. It appears they want a leader who will lay the ground for re-entry to the EU.
A fair deal for most
The people are restless. Their fears are not being eased. No such leader can be seen. A huge Labour victory at the general election looks to be less likely than a few months ago. There is a talk of a hung Parliament. In Scotland, the SNP has a mountain to climb if it hopes to stay the potent political force it has been for 15 years. Rishi Sunak’s future status currently depends on the results of the local elections in England in May. He’ll probably survive to fight the general election. In party political terms, there’s all to play for. What the people want to hear is how they will be given back a country that will again work for the majority. A country that offers a fair deal for most. As of now, I see only mirage.
Black shirts? Well, I like a black shirt and thought it’s time I bought a couple of new ones. There seems to be a great shortage of black shirts. That may be a very good thing.