In less than a month, I will have my 51st birthday. To be honest, I find that fact quite shocking. I don't feel 51. Despite the ravages of age and the shadow of cancer in the corner of my eye, I feel pretty damn good. I play football twice a week and I go the the gym three times a week. I did a 10K run in around an hour earlier in the year, which won't exactly worry Mo Farah, but if you can run 10K, you can't be in too bad shape. In short, I don't feel old and physically I can still do all of the things I want to do, without physical impediments.
But the clock is ticking away. One day, it may be today, it may be tomorrow, it may be in 30 years time, something may happen which means I can't say any of those things. Maybe the cancer lurking within me will decide to break out and lay ravage to my body. Maybe I won't look right, look left and look right again whilst crossing the road and get splattered by a car. Maybe all the years of excess will catch up with me and the linings of the arteries in my heart or the veins in my brain will fail and I'll have a heart attack or stoke and find myself totally reliant on other people. Now I have a loving and supportive family, who I am sure will do what they can to help and look after me. I am sure I have friends who will come and see me.
When that day comes, it will give me the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the rewards of the society I've helped create. I was doing some sums. I have calculated that in my life, I've paid around a million pounds in tax so far. This is made up of income tax, VAT, Council Tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax, Poll tax, and probably a whole range of other taxes I've long since forgotten about. In return for this figure, I've had an education, medical treatment, my bins get emptied, there is a streetlight outside my house, my children have been educated, the police have come round when I've been burgled. I've also had the pleasure of contributing towards the army, navy and Royal Air Force, who have ensured that we can all sleep safely in our beds without fear of the French, Germans, Russians, Argentinians or anyone else walking in and taking over.
Unlike many people, in organisations such as the taxpayers alliance, I don't resent a penny of the tax I've paid. I am a normal human being, so I'd rather it was in my bank account, but on balance I accept that it pays for the things which make this nation great. I believe passionately that governments have a duty to spend this money wisely, so I am all for cutting out wastefulness. I am all for using technology to improve efficiency and make life easier for us. Councils and governments have a duty to get the best value they can with our money. This means cutting inefficiency, it doesn't mean cutting services to people who need them.
And then we come to the other issue which vexes many people who have a different view of the world to me. The thorny subject of immigration. Maybe it is because my father was an immigrant and my mother was the daughter of an immigrant, that I have no issues with people who wish to come to the UK to make a better life for themselves. If you have any doubts about what a fantastic contribution immigrants make to the UK, consider what would happen to our hospitals, public transport services, service industries etc without their contribution. Parties like UKIP wish to put "full up" signs at our borders. The sad truth for them is that the economy would collapse without immigration. Does this mean that anyone at any time should be able to up sticks and live in the UK, of course not. We have to have sensible controls, but I think we have things more or less right.
Another subject which vexes people who disagree with me is foreign aid. The UK is an enormously wealthy country. That wealth was largely built during the Victorian era. Apart from HS1, all of our mainline rail network was built in this period. Great Britain was the richest country on the planet - this wealth was fueld by our empire. The empire brought cash in from countries who had appalling levels of poverty. We spent a couple of hundred years robbing these poor countries blind. Of course there were some economic benefits, but we did not share the ice cream pot around. As such, this country, more than any other has a moral obligation to pay back a debt of honour. Our target of 0.7% of the GDP seems a scandalously low figure, yet some feel it is too high.
And then there is the thorny subject of our intervention in far flung foreign lands, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. I believe we entered these conflicts for the highest reasons. Saddam Hussain was a brutal dictator and the Taliban are a disgustingly backward version of the Islamic religion. Women are suppressed and freedom of religious expression was banned. They also harboured an organisation who were intent on destroying our way of life. Have we succeeded in any way in making the world better with our intervention? That is impossible to quantify, I believe that maybe we have. Had we left Al Quaida in place in Afghanistan, who knows what havoc we would have seen. As it is, since 9/11 we've seen the 7/7 outrage in the UK. In many ways Al Qaida has been controlled. The world is a rough old place. We are lucky to live in a nice bit of it.
So on that dark, terrible day when I cannot look after myself, and my life becomes one of waiting for the next carer to change my incontinence pads, or the next nurse to give me my dinner and tablets, I will look at the million or so quid I've paid in tax (as a relatively well off person) and ask myself a few questions.
Here are a few of the questions I may consider
1. Am I pleased I wrote a blog which campaigned to maintain high quality public services for people who can't look after themselves? I guess, to quote Tory Councillor John Hart, "some people rely on the council to wipe their arses" that when that person is me, I will hope it is someone who treats me with dignity at that time.
2. Did I do everything I could to make sure that people didn't suffer from poor quality care? Well, I guess I could say I did, although we can always do more, can't we.
3. Did I have the courage of my convictions to face down the people who sought to destroy our tolerant and peaceful society? I hope I can answer yes to this.
4. Did I do everything in my power to prevent the people on low pay, who have emigrated to the UK for a life "wiping my arse" in a caring profession, to be treated as valued members of society? I hope so.
If you are a councillor, a member of a party which seeks to oppose the values I've mentioned above, or simply someone who thinks that taxation is state sponsored robbery, just think for a second what sort of society you will live in should you get to see your aims and agenda adopted widely. One day you may be 100% reliant on people who have emigrated to the Uk, people on low wages, people who work for exploitative companies. Or even worse, they may not be around anymore and you will have no one to care for you. At that point, you may be very sorry to live in a country which just doesn't care about anything but the bank balances of the very well off.