Britain at the Crossroads
And they’re off – again! This is surely the longest British General Election campaign in history; it seems to have been going on forever. Nobody knows the eventual outcome, of course, but the odds-setters are bringing the hung-parliament scenario back into play. Labour are still in the driving seat, despite attempts to turn Ed Miliband into a Neil Kinnock Mark-Two; perhaps the electorate have had enough of the Posh Boys for the last five years. Miliband may be an inside-baseballer but his roots are radical; Cameron may appear to be at ease with Middle-England but his instinct is for a Small State. For the Tories, charity and community can pick up the slack where the state used to. Austerity, for the deficit hawks, is a means to an end – the end being a Great Britain reduced to the lowest level of spending since the 1930s. George Osborne may huff and puff all he likes, but no amount of spinning can change the reality that Austerity Britain is a Two Nation solution. The North-South divide hasn’t been this stark since the nadir of Thatcherism in the early 1980s. Students of the Past will see the glaring similarities between the Great Depression and the Great Recession. This is a turning point election; whither Britain, Right or Left? The election is still Labour’s to lose and the least likely result is a Conservative majority. Prime Minister Miliband looks like the more probable outcome of Election 2105.
Close, and a Cigar
Although this writer predicted an Obama rapprochement with Cuba in the first administration, he, along with most other commentators, was surprised with tthe audacity and timing of the move. This is President Obama Unbound, unwilling to put up with anymore nonsense from the Republicans and to make a move none of his Democratic predecessors would ever dare make. The Castros have outlived and out served a panoply of American Presidents since the trade embargo commenced. The Miami Cubans have repeatedly had a block on this particular area of American Foreign Policy – there has been a veto on commonsense since the Cuban Revolution. So who has won? What price the restoration of neighbourly diplomatic relations? Cuba can rightly turn around as a small island and say that it has survived fifty years of economic blockade from the World’s remaining hyper-power. But the Cuban people have been on the back foot since 1989; the collapse of Soviet Communism would always mean a struggle for a relatively small island not rich in natural resources. For the States, it is the final moment of truth for same Hyper Power to admit that the blockade hasn’t worked and was economically, culturally and morally wrong. But actions speak louder than words; neither side will abase themselves, both can look forward to a peaceful coexistence promoted by the Obama Administration, Pope Francis and Raul Castro. In a year of a lot of bad news, this is something positive. In a contest where neither Cuba nor the US could be the ‘winner’, diplomacy has been the worthy victor.
Hope First, Then Money
To be given hope is to be given everything; to lose it, can leave a nation in despair. Austerity may be coming to an end in small areas of the European Union, but for most Euro Zone countries, modest or even sustained growth has come at an enormous price. That price has, in Greece, been the rise of fascism (thankfully, taken on by most of the Greek Establishment and the Left) and a Depression the like of which the country hasn’t seen since World War II. In Spain, unemployment is at an immorally high level, throwing hundreds of thousands onto the dole queue. France’s good life has been dismissed by the Anglo-German model as sclerotic. Italy is is still living La Dolce Vita when she can but is as broke as any other ‘sovereign’. The great hope for 2015 is that people in despair can see light at the end of a tunnel; that they will consider voting Left and Progressive and beware the siren voices of the Washington Consensus. The anti-austerity slogans may have come up against the dead hand of the Financial markets but that doesn’t mean opposition to the status quo should be dismissed as impossible due to circumstances beyond the control of the People. This is not an endorsement of the non-voting revolution but that of a democratic revolution; the vote is still the single most important aspect in our lives as citizens. We can change the system from within; it may be painstaking and incremental but without getting too Obama-esque, a voice of millions can be stronger than the voice of the few. If there is to be a revolution, let it be peaceful and just; our experiences of revolutions show that it is rarely either.