by Jack Anderson
In 2014 I voted to stay part of the UK. I did this because I’m British, born in England, living in Scotland and I have spent well over a fortnight in Wales and Ireland (combined). You don’t get much more British than that. I also did it because I felt that the Leave campaign was unable to answer questions about important factors like currency and whether or not Scotland would be able to stay in Europe. Finally, I was a happy member of the UK and saw no reason why I would want to leave it.
Since then a lot has changed, the Liberal Democrats have destroyed themselves, the UK voted to leave Europe, Labour chose Jeremy Corbyn to be it’s leader and then the US chose Trump as President.
The Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Conservatives and broke their election pledge of scrapping tuition fees. This, among other factors, cost them 15% of the vote or 49 seats and the country a liberal party just when it was needed. This means that for the first time in centuries you can’t really vote for a central party in the UK, the Lib Dems are currently polling at about 8% with support spread across the country so are struggling to get seats. There are no other centre options as Labour are now left, the Tories right and UKIP (who have 13% support) further right.
I voted to stay in Europe and I am concerned by the complete uncertainty that surrounds leaving. In her recent speech Theresa May said that she wants a deal that would mean we would have free trade with the EU and at the same time have complete freedom to negotiate with other countries separately, something the EU does not allow its members to do. Europe cannot allow the UK to leave and get what May is after because, simply, everyone else will leave too. This lack of options means that we are pushed towards closer ties with the US. Labour choosing Corbyn means there is little chance of anything other than a Conservative Government for the foreseeable future. Trump becoming President means that the one country Britain needs to remain a powerful country is being led by someone who is intent on doing terrible things. I don’t really want and certainly don’t like any of this.
Politically I am a Liberal, I want everyone to be helped with the poor receiving slightly more help and the rich slightly less, I think most people are similar. I want schools, hospitals, the post office, trains, the utilities and so on to be run (or at least carefully overseen) by the Government so that they provide the best service they can for the people, not the most money for the person who owns them. At the moment there are various problems within most policy areas in Britain, for example, last year the 10% poorest families paid 46% tax compared to the richest 10% paying 35%. This is not morally right (the poorest households pay much higher proportions of council tax, fuel duty and VAT than anyone else) and, sadly, I cannot see how things could change for the better. The consistent assault on the NHS by the right and the complete inability of the Labour leadership to do anything about it is also very troubling.
Another change is that I have read a lot of books which have completely changed my world view. Who Rules the World by Noam Chomsky and The Establishment by Owen Jones being the main ones but others like the documentary The Killings of Tony Blair and the book Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell helped.
The Establishment explains how the British establishment has recently realigned and who it serves. It’s a hard read but unfortunately makes a lot of sense, the economy has slowly evolved into a system where the richest are very well looked after and everyone else is ignored. For example, the railways have been privatised because (as we all know) privatised companies are more efficient and run things better. Actually, the companies get £3.5 billion from the taxpayer and give out £500 million in dividends so immediately has to be extraordinarily efficient to make up for the lost ground. These dividends are received by the shareholders who are in general wealthy. This happens in most aspects of the British economy at the moment which is proven by the widening gap between the rich and the poor. In Who Rules the World Noam Chomsky goes through recent American history and points out that the US has done a lot of terrible things even under people like Obama and Kennedy who I thought were good men.
These books and documentaries have made me think carefully about the political ramifications of Scottish Independence rather than the economic problems. I do not want to be part of a country that gives the super rich more money and leaves the working and middle classes to fend for themselves. The NHS is at breaking point (Jeremy Hunt – the Health Secretary for five years – has himself said that the problems are ‘completely unacceptable’) and then subsequently announced that funding will be reduced by a further £22 billion. Destroying the NHS does not benefit many people but that is what is currently happening.
So, although the same problems with Scottish independence remain (currency and EU membership) I am no longer a happy member of the UK and do not feel particularly British. I was a ‘there is definitely, absolutely no way’ no when I voted in the referendum all those years ago I am a weak yes now.