Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the UK is the country that decided the best way to stop binge drinking was to allow pubs to stay open longer and where plain packaging for cigarettes was stopped at the last minute because the tobacco companies were afraid it would result in more tobacco smuggling. All madness, but not as mad as this.
It seems that it costs around £200 for the police to issue a gun licence. That’s reasonable given that it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands. The problem is that the price of a gun licence has not gone up since it was set at £50 in 2001. Recent attempts at an increase have apparently been blocked by our pheasant-shooting and deer-stalking prime minister.
The net result is that police forces across the country are subsidising gun owners to the tune of £17m a year. Money that might have been used to chase down illegal firearms is being given to people who want to own guns.
The most likely consequence of this financial pressure is that police forces will not be able to continue to give the same level of scrutiny to gun licence applicants. That’s not good for anyone, particularly the police themselves.
Before the last general election I advocated staying away from the polls. It seemed to me that there’s no real choice, so why bother to vote.
But I’m a concerned citizen. I studied politics in the dim and distant past, stood as a party candidate in local elections, although safe in the knowledge that there wasn’t a snowflake’s chance in hell of being elected where I lived, and sometime later was co-opted onto a (non-party) Parish Council, where I was part of the fight against fly tipping and dog fouling. So when it came to the voting crunch I took the ‘undecided’ option and put my cross against the Liberal Democrat candidate. I should have taken my own advice.
The coalition that formed after the last election has reinforced my non-voting stance. It’s become obvious in recent years that the governments we now elect in the UK only have two goals. The first is to stay in power and the second is to further their party ideology (provided that it doesn’t interfere with the primary objective).
Now call me stupid, but I thought the role of government (via parliament) was to do the best it can for the people it represents, i.e. all of us, although they may have different ways of going about it. Not now. The coalition government’s aim is unashamedly to pursue its own ideological view of how the country should be run.
We, as a nation, are in debt. Fair enough, we need to do something about it. (And let’s not waste time and energy bickering over whose fault it is – just look around and it’s clear we’re not the only ones). If you or I get into debt then we cut back on spending until we’re solvent again and then stay within our means so it doesn’t happen again. Life may be hard in the meantime, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Stick at it and things will get better when the debt’s paid off.
That’s how you would expect it to be for the country as a whole. Chancellor of the Exchequer George (Gideon) Osborne insisted that government cutbacks needed to be drastic because of the level of debt the country’s in. We all need to tighten our belts. That makes some sense. But last month, in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London, David Cameron said:
“We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
So there it is. The light at the end of the tunnel has been officially stamped out. Cuts will continue until government spending reaches some pre-determined level set by a handful of millionaires. It’s not about the lives of the people the government is supposed to represent, it’s some ideological view of the way things should be done. The NHS will never get any more money, libraries forced to close will never reopen, support for the arts and local communities will wither away and many more jobs will be lost. If David Cameron gets his way, it’s not going to get any better. Ever.
This is not what representative government is supposed to be about and it undermines any belief that it’s worth voting. Maybe if we all withhold our vote we can shame the politicians into research-based, citizen-centric policy implementation. I don’t see how else we can do it.