6 April 2023
An Aeon in Politics
Plus ça change…
By Lynda Goetz
It was apparently said during the Wilson era that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. Given the events of the last few years, that hardly seems to cover the rapidity with which things can change. By extension, a month, which is the length of time since the last edition of Shaw Sheet, is an aeon. Why then is it, that in spite of the many significant events which have occurred in the last month it feels, as a member of the public at least, that little or nothing has changed?
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has stood down from her post as First Minister. Ms Sturgeon embodied the SNP and has been in post for 9 years, since 2014. Her husband, Peter Murrell, has since been arrested over the ongoing investigation into finances and funding of the SNP. In America, former president Donald Trump is facing criminal charges over hush money allegedly paid to porn star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to his election. The UK has signed a historic agreement to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade agreement between 11 Pacific-rim nations, as a way of taking advantage of our post -Brexit freedoms. King Charles has made a state visit to Germany, although the planned state visit to France was cancelled at the last minute owing to civil unrest. All political parties in the UK are gearing up for local elections in May and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt issued a spring budget on March 15th. Sir Keir Starmer now claims to know what a woman is – although he still seems to think that 0.01% (that’s over 6,800 in this country) of them have penises!
Levity aside, there are many reasons for feeling that little has changed and the pervasiveness of the trans and gender issues infiltrating common sense and society go some way to creating that feeling. Schools appear to have sleepwalked into allowing third party organisations into the classroom to spread their politicised propaganda regarding gender, marginalising both parents and teachers in the process. Parents have found it increasingly difficult to access information on what their children, including those in primary schools, are being taught, whilst staff seemed to have stepped back from any safeguarding position they might have had to allow unscientific nonsense to be imparted to those they are supposed to be educating. Many had hoped that with the closure of the Tavistock Clinic we were moving towards a more balanced attitude to the tiny minority of those who have real gender issues. Unfortunately, a continuation of the rather bizarre encouragement that has been seen increasingly over the last few years seems to be the order of the day. As if pre-pubescent and teenage children don’t have enough to cope with without being confused further by adults on a mission of their own. Most of us wish sincerely for there to be help for all those with mental health issues (an increasingly large number, it would seem), but for schools and establishment institutions to be adding to such issues without considering underlying problems (e.g. autism, which an overwhelming majority of the children claiming trans issues suffer from) is seriously irresponsible.
Also ongoing, of course, is the war in Ukraine. Relegated now to the later, foreign news pages of the newspapers (for those who still read these) and the end of the news bulletins on TV and radio, this is still of immediate and terrifying concern to those involved. For the Ukrainians being injured and slaughtered in the madness that is Bakhmut and their families scattered around Europe, this war cannot be relegated to the back pages. It is at the forefront of everyday life. It is a war being fought in a way we had thought to have seen the end of at the beginning of the last century. Putin’s own soldiers are seemingly finding the reality of this bloody and brutal warfare so impossible to face that they are permanently drunk. Whether or not Putin the autocrat survives this disaster of a war, the fact that it is continuing is adding to the inflation which has impacted the entire world; partly because of the interruption to grain supplies and even more importantly because of the interruption of fuel supplies.
World-wide inflation has unsurprisingly resulted in strikes and public protest, not just in the UK, but in many other countries. In France, those opposing Macron’s very necessary pension reforms (increase in pension age from 62 to 64, actually still lower than most European countries) have turned violent with protestors setting fire to cars and buildings. King Charles’s visit was cancelled as a result, much to M. Macron’s chagrin. The visit to Germany went ahead, although there too there have been a number of strikes. Here, the strikes which seem to have been a part of life since last summer continue to plague the country. Trains are cancelled as the rail workers and drivers push for better pay. The Royal Mail (already on the edge of bankruptcy, it would seem, as a result of modern communication meaning far fewer letters are sent by post) has been affected by strikes for several months. In the NHS, nurses and other health workers have now been joined by the junior doctors, fed up with working conditions and the fact that their standard of living has dropped considerably over the last decade or so. The education system, already, like the NHS, suffering from the effect of Covid lockdowns, has cohorts of disaffected teachers striking for better pay and closing schools in the process.
In Scotland, Hamza Yousef (or Hamza ‘Useless’ as his opponents call him) has taken over from Nicola Sturgeon. He was the continuity candidate and has made it clear that he will continue pressing for independence, as well as vowing to take up the Gender Recognition Bill which was so much part of Ms Sturgeon’s downfall. Tone-deaf or what? Katy Forbes, the opponent who was only just beaten by him, famously pointed out during the leadership contest that “You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we’ve got record high waiting times.” It doesn’t look as if a great deal is going to change there then, except perhaps the knock-on effects of having in place a First Minister with only a fraction of Ms Sturgeon’s political experience and stature.
The climate-change lobby bangs its drum endlessly and continuously, to the point where governments (and in particular the UK government) appears to have been railroaded into taking increasingly inappropriate measures for dealing with our 1% contribution to global warming. The measures currently being hurriedly promulgated will, according to almost all economists, impact seriously on our competitiveness in the market. Not only that, but as more research is done into the measures taken, it becomes increasingly clear that the effect on global warming will almost certainly be minimal, but even, in some cases, worse than if we’d continued on our current path. (For example, apart from the fact that the infrastructure is not likely to be in place for us all to own electric cars in the next 30 years, the environmental impact of the cars themselves, including the mining of the necessary metals and the high probability of scrappage over minor damage may well be worse than the current position – not to mention the power given to China in terms of production).
At the same time as all this is happening, we have a Conservative government which appears to have completely lost its way and have no idea at all what Conservatism was and is supposed to stand for. Businesses are battered and free speech is increasingly in jeopardy – particularly if the views one wishes to express do not accord with the current ideology and ‘zeitgeist’: a contemporary world view which claims to be liberal, but which is intolerant in the extreme, which eschews debate (you simply cancel or no platform opponents of your views) and which, moreover, seems to view not only as wrong but as ‘evil’ any views which do not accord with its own. As has been pointed out very recently in the press, in its haste to be seen to appeal to liberal views, this supposedly pro-business government has allowed a private members bill, the ‘Worker Protection Bill’, to get through two readings in parliament before the real-life implications of such a bill were flagged up. Toby Young, founder of The Free Speech Union wrote to Kemi Badenoch in February alerting her to the fact that this bill exposed employers to the very real likelihood of litigation for events over which they had no control (workers could sue their employer for words overheard which caused offence or upset, even if not addressed to them). Only now that it has reached the Lords, does there appear to have been any realisation of the havoc such a bill could cause. How on earth has a Prime Minister who vowed to put an end to ‘woke nonsense’ during his campaign for the leadership last summer, ended up letting something like this bill slip through under his nose?
A month of significant events has passed, but so very little has changed for most of us. Our children and grandchildren are in danger of being brainwashed by woke ideology; their education is in jeopardy and their mental health in many cases hangs in the balance. As adults we continue to worry about the cost of living and are juggling our budgets to manage the rising costs of food and fuel. Our health issues (and those of our children) may or may not be resolved because the NHS is a system not fit for purpose and needs one of the political parties (or a new one?) to grasp that nettle; we as individuals need to become more responsible for our own health, but for the sake of the nation (and of those individuals who became doctors and nurses and who are leaving the NHS in droves) we also need drastic reform. Also, as individuals, we need to take more responsibility for the environment in which we live (and not expect A.N. Other to deal with it), but we also need our government to pass realistic, achievable and sensible measures which do not jeopardise growth in this country or give gratuitous advantage to others such as China. Finally, as individuals we need to stand up for free speech and debate, but we need a government and institutions which are not forever increasing restrictive measures which augment surveillance and make this country more like a police state than some which are.
Who to vote for in the local elections next month? Well, anyone who genuinely intends to mend the potholes that Rishi Sunak was pictured peering at – although round here they are so deep, it is more a question of peering into.