Wednesday 21 May 2014

A chance to scale our cot sides in the polling booth

In my admittedly limited experience, children are born intensely conservative. They hate change.

Take my younger son. (Not literally, please.)

Now aged two, he has latterly taken to climbing out of his cot in the evenings. On a couple of occasions he has hurt himself in the process, so last week we gave him the happy news that we would be removing the cot’s sides to convert it into a bed.

Cue much pouting and floods of tears. Through his choking sobs, I made out the words: “My no want a bed. My want to sleep in a cot.”

A child with strong conservative views on just about everything

As with children, so with adult politics. Whenever we are offered a radical choice, we tend to fall back on the old principle of “better the devil you know”.

Hence the fate of the North East Assembly and Alternative Vote referendums. Or, looking further afield, the votes on independence for Quebec or the creation of an Australian republic.

I suspect that this augurs badly for those campaigning for a “yes” vote in the Scottish independence referendum, but it also creates a real mountain to climb for those arguing for our withdrawal from the EU, in the unlikely event that we are ever allowed to vote on that.

Particularly as the classic Big Lie about three million jobs going straight down the gurgler on our exit will be repeated relentlessly throughout any campaign.

This argument has featured to some extent in the current enthralling European election campaign, but for me the real impact of the “party of in” came in the letter I received last week from my elder son’s school.

This announced that, from September, his school lunches will be free of charge. And instructed me in a rather hectoring manner to write back immediately if I did not want him to have them, explaining my reasons why.

As it happens, I am perfectly content for him to eat a school dinner, which is why I have been cheerfully paying for the privilege for the last year.

Once I could have met this cost from the child allowance the Government kindly gave us when our sons were born. Gordon Brown even threw in a £250 cheque to kick-start our elder boy’s Child Trust Fund.

Our benefactor, possibly giving an early example of the "Farage wave"

Then George Osborne decreed that, because I earn more than some arbitrary limit, this child allowance would be taken away again. Though no one ever actually wrote explaining how I could stop receiving it.

So the money still flows into a joint bank account, my wife spends it on the children, and it gets clawed back from me when I submit my tax return at the end of the year. A classic time- and money-wasting bureaucratic merry-go-round.

I am not complaining about being asked to make my contribution to cutting the deficit, but the logic of now giving me another benefit I do not need completely eludes me. In fact, it makes me fear for the sanity of those currently running the country.

Free school meals are Nick Clegg’s big idea and presumably designed to make me feel warmer towards his party. If so, it is a wheeze that has backfired spectacularly.

It has strengthened my desire not to see another coalition after the next General Election, and particularly not to allow the Liberal Democrats to become our permanent party of government, swinging like a weathervane between left and right.

Stolen, with thanks, from the Daily Referendum blog

I have already taken the opportunity to express my view in tomorrow’s European elections. Voting early because, about four general elections ago, I requested a postal vote that somehow became a permanent fixture.

I resisted the temptation to show my disgust with the loons currently in power by voting for a party dominated by even bigger ones.

That UKIP carnival in full swing

I do not seek to influence your own vote in any way, but I do urge you to cast one, no matter how much contempt you may feel for politicians in general and the European Parliament in particular.

The people who say: “Don’t vote, it only encourages them” are quite wrong. Because voting is the only peaceful way we have of exerting influence on those who seek power over us, and eventually climbing over our own cot sides to sanity and freedom.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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