Managed to miss Any Questions from Bury St Edmunds. Had I managed to get along I would have asked why more people are not supportive of the Coalition. In the circles in which I move, the Coalition is deeply unpopular: there's a new sense of `Who's side are you on?' emerging, which brings back memories of the 80s. As a supporter of the Coalition I find myself playing the role of Defender, despite having very human doubts and reservations. But I detect a change in atmosphere with one or two people I know, particular those who support left-parties - who are just seething. Put up taxes a few pence they say - and we won't need to do all this. It's all so UNNECESSARY.
Well, let's look at this. Is this all about tax and spend. Yes and no. Sure, we could jack up tax on people in work to keep the public sector at a comparable level to what is now. We could leave the welfare state as it is, in which a third of the populations of places like Manchester and Glasgow live entirely on benefit. We could allow the NHS and other parts of the public sector to operate like nationalised industries with levels of productivity that are, frankly, shameful.
And we could tolerate the insane levels of bureaucracy that all of us encounter every time our lives connect with the state. I say that as a local Councillor who, in a current attempt to get a very and obvious safety change done to a patch of pavement and road (seven feet by five) have had to engage seven public sector staff (police, road safety people, engineers, planning people) over a period of five months for a total of about 100 hours - and that's a generous guess. At forty quid an hour that's four grand to solve a grand's worth of problem. Frustratingly, this particular problem could have been sorted in a quarter of that time, and that's generous. I dare say it could all have been resolved in a day. Instead, there's a mini-industry built around it, largely by the councils themselves. We just need to do away with nearly all of it.
Back to my point. The attackers of the Coalition forget three important things. First, the state is in desperate need of reform. This cannot be ducked if the we are going to deal with the challenges of the next 50 years. Second, this would have had to happen anyway, even if Labour had won, something the Harriet Harmans forget. Thirdly, Labour has absolutely nothing to contribute to the discussion of where this country is going. Neither before or since the election has a senior Labour person said anything remotely convincing about where we need to take our economy, society and polity. Its leadership contest is a joke and it is going to be a long time before they are in the game again, in my view. The only people who could have got them there (Milburn, Purnell etc) have all been purged. David Miliband MIGHT come up with something. Ed is just an old-style social democrat and Balls is a useful attack-dog but little more.
I say all this because I am a bit sick to the teeth at the moment of the Polly Toynbee anti-coalition feeling being opportunistically whipped up by the party who got us into this shit in the first place.