As someone who suffers from anxiety from time to time, I know what the warning signs are. And the last week of political activity has definitely left me with a sense of almost dread about what is happening to our country.
The latest cuts and the big infrastructure projects felt like the first barrage being laid down for the longest election campaign in history. Defra once again get the biggest cut of all departments, another 10% hacked off in 2015-16. HS2 is going to cost oh just another £10Bn – the numbers are becoming meaningless. The biggest road building exercise since when?
In some ways this has become the political norm now. More cuts, more pretence that new money is being found for new infrastructure projects to revive the economy (smoke and mirrors). But underlying this circus is something far more insidious and radical. The coalition is doing nothing less than actively reshaping our society while we stand and watch. And not without some dark humour too.
Arch enviro-sceptic Owen Paterson has been put in charge of the Environment. His top priority – clear the way for a huge adventure in extracting gas from under our feet. In this he has been spurred on by his “personal think tank” climate denialist brother in law Matt Ridley. Ridley is a scientist, but he is also a newly elected Lord (presumably he will be given a ministerial job at DECC soon – replacing the sensible Greg Barker?), former chair of Northern Rock (remember them?) and nephew of another destructive former Environment Secretary Nick Ridley, he who disbanded the Nature Conservancy Council. Huge subsidies (or your and my taxes if you like) will be paid to extract this fossil fuel out of the ground.
O-Patz’s next priority is chief cheerleader for the GM-lobby or big Agri as it’s also known. O-Patz wants us all to reap the benefits of GM-food, enticing us with quasi-religious visions of blind children being healed.
Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt is busy dismantling the NHS and Michael Gove has almost completed the job of divorcing schools from local authorities, and therefore local accountability. IDS is half way through dismantling the welfare state.
A small crumb of good news last week is that Natural England and the Environment Agency are not going to be merged – for now at any rate. But given that both bodies, will have suffered about 50% cuts in their budgets since 2010, it seems like a pyrrhic victory.
English Heritage are going to be hived off as a charity, thus competing with all the other charities for dwindling resources. Ripe for a take-over by the National Trust perhaps? They were offered it 30 years ago and turned it down.
What more can the coalition do before the election?
Let’s have a think shall we?
- abolishing Defra and DCMS altogether,
- returning DECC to the Department for Energy.
- Government policy that climate change is natural and not driven by human activity – abolition of the Climate Act.
- A huge new round of open-cast coal-mining.
- A massive new road-building exercise, included the outer M25, the M27 from Hastings to Bournemouth (via the South Downs and New Forest) and the M303 with a flyover over Stonehenge.
- Big subsidies to energy-hungry industries like Steel, Chemicals and Oil.
- Use of home-grown GMO food will be mandatory in prisons, hospitals and schools.
- Farmers will only receive agricultural subsidies if they produce food intensively – there will be a premium for GMO production.
- The feeding of livestock outside of barns will be banned under the “underutilisation of land” Act.
- All publicly owned land will be sold off for housing development, unless local communities can afford to buy it.
- Affordable housing rules will be abolished as the market will determine what affordability is.
- Planning restrictions will be reversed – planning permission will only be needed when land is not used for housing, industrial uses, waste disposal or recreational activity approved by the Government ie hunting/shooting/golf.
- A ban on charities undertaking “political” activity
- All biodiversity can be offset whenever needed.
- Bees and other pollinators will be “hived off” (sorry) to a private corporation “Bees R Us”. Farmers will have to pay for pollinators to be delivered when needed.
- Any wild animal or plant found to be carrying a disease will automatically be killed under the new “wild animal and plant health and welfare” Act. Severe penalties for any landowner found harbouring diseased wildlife.
- New disease-resistant GM-wildlife (especially trees) will be introduced to replace the diseased ones.
- Under the Underutilisation of land Act “underutilised” land will be subject to a punitive tax or has to be sold to produce food, for more housing, or for hunting/shooting etc.
- Schools prisons and hospitals will be sold off to “sponsors” who will be able to make a profit from running them. These will also be able to charge for their use.
- All benefits will be abolished.
- Capital punishment will be reintroduced.
- The UK will leave the EU and join a new trading block with US and the BRICs.
Anything else you can think of?