Don’t panic, don’t panic’ the memorable words of Corporal Jones in the televison series ’˜Dad’s Army.’ These words were only used in a frightening and dangerous situation were panic was a tempting response to the given situation.
And who could blame Jane Hutt if panic was her response to the financial situation she faces as part of her new portfolio as Minister of Finance and Business in Carwyn Jones’s new government.
Certainly we all have cause to worry. Why?
According to Chancellor Alaister Darling, Britains economy is worst than he forecasted. In April, at the time of the budget, he estimated that the economy would contract by about 3.5%, but now his revised figure is nearer 4.75%. It is not often a politician admits that the situation is worse than he originally thought. But the Chancellor admitted that the economy was in a bad way and the recessesion deeper than he had thought. As a consequence the country faces massive cuts in its public services.
The full extent of the cuts in public expenditure amount to about a fifth of the budget of the Westminster government. Some economists put the figure at £36 billion over the next three years.
When will we feel the pinch? After the next general election. Now there’s a surprise!
If the Chancellor is going to meet his own target of getting the national debt under control by 2017-18 he will have to raise an additional £76 billion. A sum equivalent to £2,400 for each family in Britain.
Where does this all leave Wales? Well, in all truth, on its backside.
There is a saying that if the USA sneezes the rest of the world gets pneumonia. It is certainly true that when England has cuts, things are a whole lot worse in Wales.
Cuts of the size been contemplated are equivalent to all the additional expenditure since 1997 being undone by 2018.Where, then, is Jane Hutt going to wield her sharp knife? We have already seen an about turn on student tuition fees. Where or what next? Free prescriptions; free school breakfasts; free bus travel for the elderly; additional Child Trust fund payments for deprived children. All these have been introduced by the Assembly government since its establishment. Will they last in the new world of scarce resources? Where exactly will the cuts fall in Wales?
It is incumbent on the Coalition government to come clean on this at start a national debate on priorites in lean times. An open and honest debate we deserve no less from our politicians. What about it, Jane?
So Kim is going to hang his political boots for his climbing ones. He’ll be missed. Not a friend of sacred cows. He is one of the few politicians that is prepared to speak his mind, whatever the consequence. Not a great friend of devolution but he still remains the kind of MP we need in Wales and certainly the kind of person that the Assembly craves for.
Since Rod Richards and the late Peter Law, the Assembly has missed a robust politician that can liven debates in the Assembly. Mind you there are very few of our Welsh representatives in Westminster that much better.
But the good thing about Kim declaring he is going now is that it gives the Local Party a say in who the next candidate will be. There are many MPs waiting until the election is declared before announcing their departure. Why? So that the party nationally can shoe-in their favorite sons or daughters. And the pay-off for a late retirement announcement, some ermine and a seat in the House of Lords.
They can be seen in more Christmas events than Father Christmas ’“ politicians. Which politicians ? Your local ones of course. Be they councillors, Assembly Members or Members of Parliament.
This is the season they are out to ’˜support’ the local community. There is not a Christmas Fare without an Assembly Member or Member of Parliament present. And God forbid, that you should find yourself in a Care home or hospital over Christmas, you won’t be able to escape them.
Why? This time of year provides them with an opportunity to press the flesh. And to them this is all imporant. Their opportunity to show that they haven’t lost touch. Despite living most of the time in London or Cardiff Bay they can show that they still have their fingers on the local pulse.
These things matter to a politicans most years, but this year it acquires a greater significance. Why? Because of the Spring general election.
This is perhaps the last opportunity they have before the election to create a favourable impression on the local electorate. Its important that they show enthusiasm; that they work hard on our behalf and certainly show that no event is to much trouble to turn up to at this Festive time.
Well, yes that’s the spin.
But what about the truth? This is the way of the modern political machine. Its important that they show that a closness to the electorate. That’s what caused the scandal of ’˜flipping’ homes by taking advantage of having two houses. At one time MPs simply lived in London and would only occationally visit ‘the seat.’ Their place was in London passing laws not collecting votes locally.The hoovering of votes was left to the three weeks of the general election campaign itself.
Of course that was not healthy. Reason would dictate that our representatives should be aware of our problems. But the pendelum has swung to far the other way. No, there is an air of cynicsm over the whole process, a feeling that it’s all a superficial show to win the goodwill of the electorate.
But despite all their efforts the electorate have seen through the whole circus
Their efforts are wasted. The population have grown tired of politicians and of politics. The sadness of it all, is that the people have turned their backs on the ballot box. It all undermines democracy.
A word of advise to the politicians. Stay home, put your feet up, enjoy yourselves and just leave us alone. A politician free Christmas, that would be one to remember.