Friday, 8 May 2015

From Politics to Productivity

Janan Ganesh, in Tuesday's FT, called this election campaign a 'carnival of nonsense'. Westminster politicians have had weeks of fun and folly, promising us the earth, frightening the impressionable and finally carving promises into stones and "watch my lips no tax increases" legislation.

Elections are democracy's theatre. For six weeks politicians must emerge from their palace and prance around in front of us, spouting scripts and taking the parts of the Big Bad Wolf and innocent Cinderella, often within the same speech.

That is now all over, till next time. The people have spoken. 

The Scottish people have spoken for a centre left agenda, social services, education, childcare, and properly redistributive taxation to pay for it all. 

The English (does anyone really know why?) have voted for cuts to welfare and a widening gap between rich and poor. Oh yes, and for £100 billion on the atom bomb, to be conveniently parked somewhere in North Britain.

Which will make the next four years interesting.

Because now we need productivity, not theatre scripts and Cinderella.

We need productivity focused on the people who need it most - people surviving on next to nothing. People who live in the former council estates now dominated by private landlords. People whose benefits have been stopped by the kangaroo social security courts. People who rely on food banks to feed their children.

Because, and this is bad news for politicians with inflated egos, this is not about politics. Politicians and their parties are just tools for system change. They, through the agency of Government, can do stuff that the rest of us cannot.

In England, that means that politicians will spend more on bombs (something that most normal citizens don't do) and give less to the poor (ditto.)

In Scotland we now, more urgently than ever, need to use the agency of our own Government, to be productive for the poor. We need a fully devolved Holyrood with the power to remove the ridiculous Bedroom Tax. A Holyrood that can legislate to build tens of thousand of council homes. That can grant-aid childcare and free meals. That can link together education, nutrition, housing and benefits to build an environment in which children in Scotland's poorest families can escape the cycle of poverty that their parents, and likely their grandparents, are locked in to.

England has voted to remain locked in poverty. They had the choice, and a clear numerical majority (54% of voters in England, counting Tory and UKIP voters) has voted for the conservative right. That was their choice, not ours.

It is now, urgently, the moment for Scotland to be radical, to break away from Westminster's cycle of poverty. To win back the levers of power. It is time for Scotland to show that we can do a better job than the Cinderellas in Downing Street. It is time to do some hard work, to produce a decent, fair, good society.

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