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Monday, 21 April 2014

The Legacy of My Generation

Mr Cameron does not stand a chance at the next Election without the over 50s; that’s why Sir George Osborne Bt.’s last budget was so indulgent towards them. At a pinch, the over 60s on their own could swing it

What will we bequeath to our children and grandchildren?

On the credit side, perhaps the most important thing is that English society – I don’t presume to speak for the others – is not viscerally unpleasant. It’s not America or Russia or even France. People get on with their own lives, let others get on with theirs, and for the most part don’t use a lot of energy hating their neighbours. This is a state of affairs worth having.

On the debit side, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Some would begin with “The Environment” and I am fairly typical of my generation in not knowing very much about that. But I am also just a bit sceptical – not of climate change, but of “The Environment” used as a NIMBY [Not in My Back Yard] excuse for opposition to any change which threatens – er - House Prices.

My generation has fought hard to ensure that housing remains scarce and expensive and – as a side consequence – of inferior quality. We will bequeath an irremediable housing shortage to the next generations. Too many people have stakes in shortages and the consequent high prices. They will fight in the last ditch to stop things changing - and when they inherit, so will their children.

We have already chosen our Heads of State for the next century, chaps who can be relied upon to support the existing  Order : first Charles, then William, then George.

For these chaps, the material inequalities of the existing order are very much something they will want to defend. They are, after all, themselves among the very privileged few. That’s true of most Heads of State; it’s only people like the President of Uruguay who spoil the Club. Well, he’s not going to get invited to Prince Harry’s wedding, of that you can be sure. But there will probably be room for the Crown Prince of Yugoslavia and the Crown Princess, even though the Kingdom of Yugoslavia doesn’t exist. They were invited to William and Kate’s wedding, with their Mum, and the fact that Yugoslavia does not exist made no difference. They are still in line for the Throne of their fictional Kingdom.

We will bequeath large and growing material inequalities. And we will bequeath Debt. Oh yes, we’ve piled up quite a bit of that and we have no intention of paying it off. Sir George Osborne Bt. pretends that he is paying it down, but he isn’t. If he was serious about it, my generation would be looking at all-round tax increases of the order of 30%. Sorry, children and grandchildren, that’s not on. The Debt is one for you to sort out.

There is a whole department of clever people employed at The Treasury to stop the inquisitive from working out just how much Debt there is to be paid off. They use all the techniques of dodgy accountancy. Basically, it’s about keeping things off the Balance Sheet even though they have to be paid for from things credited to the same Balance Sheet.  It will be the next generations who will pay the interest and the capital on all those loans made to government under the Private Finance Initiatives and Public-Private Partnerships which enthused New Labour – very much for the same reasons that feckless Greek governments  borrowed on the international money market to pay for the recurrent costs of feel-good Benefits. No concern that no income was being generated to cover any of the costs.

Housing shortages, growing inequality, Debt. These are major things. I will choose one lesser thing to conclude.

Governments have done remarkably little to improve Quality of Life. It’s something which happens only once in a generation – The Clean Air Act which made Smogs a thing of the past; the Smoking Ban which made pubs and restaurants and cafes and buses tolerable places to be.

Meanwhile, my generation will bequeath a horrible sentimentality about dogs which has, among many other consequences, the effect of making all beaches, promenades, parks, open spaces, country paths, public pavements – all of them places which dog owners feel righteous entitlement to use as dog shitteries. All of them places where dog owners feel entitled to remove the leash and declare “It’s all right; he’s friendly” when their uncontrolled, stinking, slavering pet jumps all over some child whose parents have had the temerity to bring into places which are Dogs First and Humans Second.

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