Monday, 20 December 2010

Let's hear it for the kids

It is difficult in ones later years to say anything contrary to the accepted wisdom without sounding like a conspiracy theorist or Rik out of the Young Ones (old ones favourite from long ago). Lobbyists are now so good at their job and so entwined with the political establishment that we are defeated before we start by the tinkle of superiors laughing. Not so students. They can call Norman Tebbitt a fascist with sincerity and get away with it because, until they get offered a job by them, they ignore lobbyists. And it's now easy for them to ignore lobbyists because unlike me, they're not listening to Radio Four or reading The Guardian, they're gathering the views of the cyber networks.

More power to their mouse clicks I say. I could bang on about the growth of private equity ownership of UK companies but what would be the point? Who would listen to me? I'm not sure I would if a halfway decent football match was on telly. But students don't have to listen to me or Boots the Chemist style PR gurus - they just shut their ears and go and occupy Topshop for a few hours to make their point. Why shouldn't they? For the millions who believe that the economic management of this country is in the hands of a handful of vested offshore interests (conspiracy!) there is no political champion. Ed Milliband is off trying to work out how to rid himself of his union backers so he can look better on telly (conspiracy! Oh no, sorry, more of a fact) and the Liberals are shacked up with the Tories.

UK Uncut have targeted Philip Green, billionaire owner of a clothing empire paying less than his fair share in tax. The political establishment tuts in disapproval as largely non-violent sit-ins hyphen their way into the news. UK Uncut aren't particularly bothered about having John Humphreys mediate a discussion three minutes before cock crow with a well heeled ex-lawyer representing Topshop. Philip Green, who advises the Government on efficiency savings, has already pointed out it's the UK tax system at fault - it allows him to avoid tax by paying his wife a £1.2 billion dividend. Tina Green lives in Monaco. Mr Green will tell you, if you listen, that punishing the rich will encourage them to leave the country, despite the fact that almost the only people connected with Philip Green still working in the UK are his customers. UK Uncut don't seem to care much about the argument - they're young, on the side of right and willing to actually do something.

What can an old Liberal do with such folk? Well, make them a cup of tea after a hard day's sit in for a start. They are the vanguard of a group who are fed up and want things to change because, as most of us know, the system is broken and needs a fix. There is no consensus in Britain anymore, we are virtually leaderless and thrown to the gods of right wing economic theory without so much as a reasoned debate before breakfast. If Nick Clegg wanted to do something worthwhile with his next few years perhaps he could work out a real middle way, one that helped people without stifling them, rewarded enterprise without exiling it and gave us a future that didn't cling to the past.

Does my society look big in this? lol

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