What we need in 2011 is an opposition
By Christopher Booker
There is no greater problem confronting us as a new year dawns than the way that “politics” has come to have two quite different meanings, On the one hand, to the political class and much of the media, it is about such questions as whether the Coalition can last, whether Ed Miliband is any good as leader of the Labour Party, or who is going to win the Oldham by-election. Looming behind all this, however, as Everest to a molehill, are those real political issues shaping people’s lives which scarcely ever get talked about in the Westminster bubble, because our main parties are so agreed on them that they can simply be buried from view.
There is, for instance, the astonishing way they avoid talking to us honestly about the scale of our government deficit. How often do we hear any politician pointing out that, thanks to Gordon Brown’s hubristic decision in 1998 to double spending in a decade, the state is still having to borrow an additional £3 billion every week to cover the resulting shortfall? In Westminster they prattle about “cuts”, but the reality remains that George Osborne’s plans do not envisage any reduction in public spending, only an accelerating rate of increase, from £696 billion a year to £739 billion by 2014. With the prospect that, by then, we shall be paying the equivalent of £60 a week for every household in the land to cover the interest on the debt, our headlong rush to national bankruptcy continues unchecked.
Equally unchecked is the rush to take over ever more of the power to govern our country by the EU, which again our Government seems unable to resist.
Tomorrow, with the EU facing the greatest crisis in its history through the slow-motion collapse of the single currency, with Spain and Italy hanging over the abyss, its External Action Service begins work. It plans to set up 136 EU embassies across the world to represent its Common Foreign Policy.
This year will see the EU’s noose tightening around Britain’s biggest revenue earner, the City of London, as three powerful new agencies take over the supervision and regulation of our banking, insurance and stock markets.
In 2010, we conceded to Brussels the right to “supervise” our national budget, just as the EU proposes to increase its own budget by further billions. The Commission is now hell-bent on getting the power to raise its own taxes, on energy, carbon emissions or financial transactions, which could hit Britain much harder than anyone else. But again, as the EU extends its “competences” in every direction, we hear barely a squeak from our own politicians, who for years have tried to hide from us just how much of the power to run our country they have lost and continue to give away.
A third hugely important issue on which all our main parties are unanimous is the grotesque hijacking of our energy policy through the obsession of our political class and the EU with global warming. As we shiver through a third freezing winter in a row, heading towards an unprecedented energy crisis, all that matters to them is their infatuation with building thousands more useless and absurdly expensive windmills. Last Thursday night, the amount of electricity supplied to the grid by wind turbines was again a mere one thousandth of the total.
On this as on the other issues, what we lack above all, in these days of coalition and consensus, are politicians prepared to step outside the cosy little bubble and face up honestly, on our behalf, to what is going on in the real world. If there is one paramount challenge in 2011 it is the need to shake ourselves free of the tyranny of a political class which has completely lost the plot. What we need, first and foremost, is some proper opposition.