Some time ago I told one of my granddaughters that I had no friends; I was hoping to elicit some sympathy from this excellent child. Her response was both perceptive and pertinent “Well you should be more polite to people and not so grumpy”. Serves me right – I had lied, I do retain some friends – but she was telling the truth. Age has made me grumpy, but I feel that I have good cause. Yesterday’s news made me feel that our politics has hit rock bottom. Everything I espouse seems to be under threat.
The shameful manoeuvres of Theresa May to secure any sort of Brexit have been matched only by the dismal failure of Jeremy Corbyn to articulate any sort of compelling vision of a future. Sadly Parliament has failed to grasp the initiative, although there was a valiant effort by the person who should be Labour leader, Yvette Cooper. All of this was predictable and one crumb of comfort is that our North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb voted the right way in all the divisions – he seems to have overcome any ambivalence.
What, however has shocked me is the report that, in order to secure support from anybody and at any cost, Theresa May is preparing to ‘entice’ certain Labour MPs to vote for her deal by offering a ‘”cash injection into deprived areas that supported Leave, including former mining communities”. A front-page report in The Times went on to quote ‘a well-placed government source’ saying “it’s about allowing Labour MPs representing Brexit communities to show that they have extracted something tangible in return for their vote. And, frankly, it’s not an unreasonable ask” (The Times 31stJanuary).
This is what is known as ‘pork barrel’: a US term defined as the appropriation of government spending for localised projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district. The Prime Minister did just this to secure DUP support after the 2017 General Election and, if The Times is correct, will continue on these lines. Is there no sense of shame? This approach is wholly alien to our tradition of democratic politics.
Moreover it fails to recognise the changing nature of economic geography. It is not just the former mining areas that are suffering from a lack of opportunities and declining living standards. Here in North Norfolk the changing demography means that the opportunities for the Sixth Form Students that I mentor are dwindling. There are almost no apprenticeship places in ‘new economy’ industries this side of Cambridge, which is a two-hour drive. There is a general economic problem that requires a clear national strategy – and remaining part of the European Community is essential to its achievement.
If ‘pork barrel’ is accepted in this way our politics will be severely diminished. Given this it is, in a strange sort of way, a relief to report that some things never change. Norfolk parish-pump politics continue to bump along much as they always did. I attach a link to an article from the North Norfolk News on a no confidence vote in a local councillor.
Both the Councillor concerned and the Town Mayor mentioned in the article are Labour Party Members and the Councillor is a firm supporter of the Labour Leader. So much for Mr. Corbyn’s ‘kinder, gentler politics’
leftyoldman blogs will appear occasionally as the Brexit battle continues and the shape of post Brexit politics emerges. If you would like to receive email notification of future blogs, please press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above. I continue to tweet at @eugrandparents.