Have you ever wondered what the final years of the Roman Empire felt like? What seemed to be impregnable and ever lasting simply fractured, fell apart and crumbled. What we are seeing in the UK feels to me to be very similar. Nothing works anymore. The trains are expensive, habitually late, even when they are not on strike. Our air traffic control system failed last week closing our airspace. Our roads are almost unusable due to potholes, which now are getting left for weeks or months.
Our schools are falling apart (and the Minister responsible gives a sweary interview asking why no one is saying she's done a good job). School budgets were being clobbered even before the current concrete crisis. I am the chair of a trust that manages the finances of a local school and I see the problems at the coal face.
If your house is burgled or your car stolen, you will get a crime number and a visit from a victim support officer, but there is almost zero chance the villian will be brought to justice and your property returned. The police have nowhere near the resources and officers they need to keep us safe. The asylum system is undermanned, meaning it takes months, if not years for applications to be resolved.
Hospital waiting lists are out of control, I waited six weeks for a letter from my oncologist, acknowledging I needed treatment for Prostate Cancer. When things like cancer care start falling apart, we are really in a mess.
We had a multiple stabbing at the top of our road last week, on the route I normally take our dogs. Drug dealing takes place across the city, with impunity. We left the EU to 'take control of our borders', but the front page of the Daily Express today says that the current migrant crisis is the fault of the French.
Then there is the housing crisis. No normal young person can reasonably expect to earn enough money to buy a house. The concept of council housing for young working people has completely disappeared.
All of these problems have the same root cause. The UK does not raise enough tax to pay for things to be done properly. There has been chronic under investment in transport, police, the health sevice is falling apart due to under investment.
The only way to fix any of this is for the government to spend more money. Any politician who tells you otherwise is either a liar or too thick to understand the problem. It is a problem for all of us and there is no escaping the fact that we have to fix all of these problems and it is going to cost the taxpayer a lot of money.
The reason we find ourselves in this situation is that on the 4th May 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected and the economics of Thatcherism were imposed on the UK. The cornerstone of Thatcherism is that tax is a bad thing and should be kept low. This blog is not a rant agains Thatcher. In the period since then, we've had Tory, Labour and a coalition government that have all followed Thatcherite principles. No government has had the guts to tell the truth and put taxes up to fix the mess.
Next year, we will have a general election and we will have a choice. The Labour Party have said nothing about raising taxes to fix the problems. To me, this is a complete dereliction of duty. What we need is for a cost to be put on fixing the UK and we then need to bite the bullet and pay for it.
What I find even more disturbing is that the right of the Tory party are calling for tax cuts. The UK's borrowing is huge and every time the interest rate goes up, it gets more expensive. At some point, a prudent government would put together a plan to pay its debts. Sadly, the hard right are not only clueless when it comes to economics, but seem to hold the whip hand on the UK Tory party. If we cleared the debt, then we'd have money to fix the problems, rather than just to pay interest. When rates were around zero, a case could be made for huge national debts, but as they spiral, we will be bled dry.
I want the UK to be successful and also to be a safe place to live in. What I see is a country that is falling to bits and a political class that is too cowardly to tell the truth about what needs to be done. No one in power takes responsibility and no one resigns when they screw up. I am not an idiot, I do not like the idea of having less cash because taxes have gone up. However unpalatable that may seem, it is better than the UK descending into chaos. We need properly funded transport, schools, hospitals, social care and housing. The truth is that this is not cheap, but we've tried not paying our bills and this is where we've ended up.
I do wonder what a Margaret Thatcher in her prime would make of the UK today? Is this how she thought it would turn out? I am not convinced any of our parties have the balls to fix the problem. I hope that I am proven wrong. For all her sins, Thatcher had the courage of her convictions. We need someone with equal courage to undo the damage of 44 years of Thatcherism.