BADGER is not often stuck for things to write about.
And it’s not that there’s a shortage this week.
However, Liz Truss’s ascent to the Premiership, despite her Pembrokeshire Football League Division Four brain, is covered amply elsewhere in this week’s edition.
Badger’s woodland helpers have also been out-and-about gathering news like squirrels gather nuts, especially now the executive part of the local authority has returned from its summer vacation.
The evil little news pixie has exhausted other leads and produced her share of content.
And that leaves Badger with a problem.
There’s a space and a place for writing big thoughts about big ideas. But this week, Badger thinks people are more concerned about nuts and bolts than hifalutin philosophical issues.
The problem with nuts is that thinking about them immediately – and for some unknown reason – brings Liz Truss and her Cabinet to mind.
Assorted fruits and nuts don’t come fruitier or nuttier than the rabble surrounding the new PM.
In one sense, the new Cabinet is an improvement on the old one: those no Priti Patel, no Nadine Dorries, and no Boris Johnson.
No matter how you look at it, that means the median IQ of the Cabinet has fractionally increased.
Against that, we now have the most over-promoted Home Secretary since Margaret Thatcher appointed David Waddington (with a hat-tip to Tony Blair’s appointment of Jacqui Smith) over thirty years ago.
Suella Braverman, the name she chooses to be known by, has a little legal brain and a CV so fictional that Liz Truss may as well have appointed Iain Duncan Smith.
There was once a time when Attorneys General were senior lawyers of considerable ability who not only knew their law but knew when governments pushed at the very edge of legality and had the authority and clout to pull it back from the edge. Not so Ms Braverman, alas: an intellectual void seeking a vacuum to make herself complete.
However, mindful of his opening remarks, Badger thinks his readers deserve something more grounded and real.
Badger rooted in his capacious memory for something that addressed current concerns and came from the past.
So, readers, here are the nuts and bolts from 1983.
I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.
I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended, and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.
I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.
I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice, and the poor can’t afford.
I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.
I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.
I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.
I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.
I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.
I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages, and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.
I warn you not to be ordinary
I warn you not to be young
I warn you not to fall ill
I warn you not to get old.
Forty years after Neil Kinnock delivered that speech, its words take on new meaning as we head into autumn and winter.
Badger is not given to despair.
However, he cannot help reflecting that where we are heading is into the darkness of which Neil Kinnock warned.
Successive governments wasted time, energy and money tinkering around the edges of the UK’s systemic inequalities.
People wait, suffer, and die, hoping for treatment on the NHS.
Education is a hot mess of continuing failure under successive governments – and devolved governments – of all political stripes.
The inequality of the energy crisis is no better illustrated than by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s installation of a heated swimming pool in his constituency home. In contrast, others worry about a choice between heating and eating.
The UK is a low-skill, low-wage economy in which millions lack security in work.
The current government wants to eat away workers’ rights and the right to protest.
Disposable incomes are melting away in the heat of yet another economic crisis.
If you’re ordinary, young, ill, or elderly, our collective futures seem bleak in a way that appeared unimaginable only twenty years ago.
As Badger says, we are experiencing the failures of government over decades.
Boris Johnson isn’t to blame. Liz Truss isn’t to blame. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown aren’t to blame, and neither are Thatcher, Major, Cameron, or May.
The failure, readers, is institutional: government cannot tackle everything that needs fixing while the economic sun shines and manage short-term crises.
Faced with paying more now for the possibility of a more prosperous future, the electorate always votes to pay less now and damn future generations either because “something will turn up” or “well, that’s not our problem”.
Mendelssohn’s Elijah catches the electorate’s spirit: “Though thousands languish and fall beside thee, and tens of thousands around thee perish, yet still it shall not come nigh thee.”
Politicians are not – generally – stupid, venal, corrupt, or uncaring.
The best most can manage is slightly influencing the UK’s ship of state to avoid drifting into icebergs and reefs.
Where we are is the result of an accumulation of small and badly-thought-through decisions made at crucial times to appease the public’s short-term desires.
Whatever happens next, the Westminster Government can use the current crises to plot a course that looks into the future and not at the past.
And that, in the end, means paying more, planning better, and not putting off hard choices.
If you believe Liz Truss can deliver, deliver, deliver… Badger admires your faith.
His experiences – over a lifetime spent observing and studying politics and politicians – mean Badger is less inclined to believe in miracles.
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