A friend who has spent much of his life campaigning for the Labour Party, and then what he believes to be truer socialism, has now given up in despair and dismisses as pointless every attempt at progressive political initiatives. He is the Private Fraser of the proletariat:: "We're all doomed."
Before I pluck up the courage to challenge him to think of at least three things to be pleased about, I thought I should first of all try to think of at least ten of my own. Here they are:
- I live in a country to which people want to come rather than one from which they want to leave, or even escape.
- * I can go wherever I want in my country without the permission of state officials and without having to carry documents to prove to them who I am (and, by implication, that they have given me permission to exist.)
- ** We now have a fixed-term parliament. The absurd convention by which one of the contenders can fire the starting gun for an election when s/he thinks s/he has the best chance of winning has been abolished, and not before time.
- ** My retirement pension is now linked to wage inflation, price inflation or 2.5%, whichever is the highest. Post Mrs Thatcher it was linked to price inflation, which was often well below wage inflation, so pensioners fell behind in the share of national prosperity most had worked to create.
- ** Income tax has become more progressive, with the marginal rate raised to 45%. Yes, I know Gordon Brown put it up to 50%, and in my view it should have stayed there, but Labour were in power with massive majorities for 13 years, and for all but the last four weeks of their government the marginal rate stood at a lowly 40%.
- * Tax evasion and avoidance by wealthy individuals and, particularly, multinational companies, have moved up the political agenda and there are real signs that governments are going to try to tackle them. If all individuals and companies paid their fair share of taxes we could expand the welfare state and defeat Beveridge's "Five Giants" without inconveniencing anybody.
- ** Although there are disputes about how much is "new money," the pupil premium ensures that more of the education budget goes to the pupils and schools in most need.
- * The government is sticking to its promise to devote 0.7% of our National Income to assisting the development of the poorest countries. Again, about time too, as the promise was first made back in the 1960s.
- ** Our rights and liberties are still protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, which British lawyers helped to write, at the instigation of, among others, Winston Churchill..
- ** Shared paternity and maternity leave gives greater opportunity for new parents to jump off the consumerist treadmill for a while and devote themselves to the important things in life.
** Mostly or even entirely due to the presence of Liberal Democrats in government.
I should be interested to hear of any further additions to my list.