Back in the days of the Thatcher government when Lord Young was Secretary for Trade and Industry, they really knew how to have a proper recession. Four million unemployed and double-digit inflation, they didn’t do things by halves in those days. So, in the eyes of the noble Lord, this last recession was a bit of a pussy cat.
What is interesting about Lord Young’s intemperate remarks is that they illustrate how detached the political establishment has become. The busyness of their lives within the political cocoon they all inhabit has had the effect of desensitising them: it has distanced them from the reality of the real world.
Remarks like “the forecast of 100,000 public sector job losses a year was within the margin of error in the context of the 30 million-strong job sector” and “of course, there will be people who complain, but these are people who think they have a right for the state to support them.” is as insensitive as it is revealing about the way politicians think. Doesn’t it illustrate that the divide in public life is not between political parties, but between the political class and the rest of us? Between elections we are unimportant, a nuisance even, a statistic.
This may be a little cynical, but aren’t we are being failed by our politics and our politicians? They have proved themselves incapable of providing a proper architecture for our society to grow and prosper. They have failed to regulate institutions properly, to manage the economy, to provide an equal society and to have the imagination and the creativity to generate the ‘big ideas’ that will underpin our future prosperity and well-being.
We need urgent political reform. We have to bring to an end the self-serving culture of our political class. We need our politics to be honest, efficient and to answer the needs of the whole nation. How? Well, as Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it”. It’s going to be a real battle, but we need to start the conversation now.