If you ask me why I carry on fighting after 51 years in politics and 36 as a councillor its for these muck-tubs. I want a good future for my children, grandchildren and for yours
One of the problems with politics is that we all spend too much time focussing on narrow bits of our beliefs and the faults of our opposing parties. That leads people to believe that we have no coherent view of the World. They cannot see our big purpose – our end result.
I include myself in that. The nearest that I get to it is describing the sort of sense of place that I want everyone to live in. I ask the question with regard to health, “If we all lived in warm and appropriate accommodation; in a nice clean, green and safe environment; had a job which enables us to pay all our bills with a bit left over for some luxuries; and were able to take time off on holiday with those we love how many visits, big and small, would be saved to our health service. The answer is actually known. Get these things right, the social determinants of health, and there would be 40% less use of our health service. This applies to both physical and mental illnesses.
In fact, good health might not be a bad way of describing what a ‘Heaven on Earth’ might look like. The poorer you are the less healthy you are. There are lots of reasons for this but most of them lie in the sorts of things outlined above.
You could also sum up so many of these symptoms in one word – inequality. So, let me have a bash at this big picture thing:
- There would be a massive reduction in inequality. We are basically the same human animal with marginal differences in capacity and ability. Some of those capacities and abilities have been nurtured in some more than in others. I fail to see why some Chief Executives are worth 1,300 times more than the lowest paid in their company. You can’t eat money. You can live well, fully and happily on a fraction of what some people earn. If two adults working full time cannot afford to live on what they earn without credit support we cannot be paying fairly. This can be dealt with by a more responsible capitalism and taxation!
- Chance in your upbringing is the biggest determinant of a long and healthy life. When my eldest Grandson was born seriously ill I was totally confident that his wonderful parents would give him the best chance in life no matter what incapacities this might lead to (Actually there were none!) As a society we do not do enough to nurture families and supply support where families cannot or will not cope. We need more family friendly policies at work, in taxation and thought about the way we create or demolish communities.
- Having a nice, warm, appropriately sized home in good condition is not a luxury it is a basic human right. Those needs are different. We do not all want gardens, we don’t all want mansions; we don’t all want apartments; we don’t all want semis. But none of us want the squalor in which too many of our people live. Foul conditions with uncaring money-grubbing private landlords (by no means all of them); or poorly maintained social accommodation with little opportunity to move around with flexibility as our life circumstances change.
Too much ‘housing money’ is being poured out to enable people to buy a ‘financial asset’ and not a home. Huge subsidies go to landlords who don’t make a profit, which is fair enough, but a ‘killing’ which is not. The Government needs to take a close look at the housing money it has got and shape it to meet need not greed.
- That ‘home’ needs to be set in a clean, green and safe neighbourhood. Too many of our communities are unsafe, dirty, lacking good quality public space and are wholly uninspiring. Clean, green and safe should apply to all communities and not just the wealthiest. Councils, the Police and all agencies would do better if they set the knowledge of local communities at the heart of localised decision making.
- That neighbourhood needs to be set in a clean, green world. Short term financial gain is trumping long-term environmental care. We have poor air, filthy seas and rivers and waste mountains; and a climate change in place that will sooner or later destroy us and are best by global systems that fail our environment. If people of my generation don’t change our ways then my Grandchildren’s generation will have no hope of a decent environment.
- Having secured their cave our ancestors went out looking for food. Brontosaurs being no longer available we have to look at other sources of good food and find once again that income counts. The poorer you are the worse your diet and the worse your diet the worse your health. It would be too easy to blame lazy mothers and fathers who don’t cook and don’t care. That is clearly true in a small number of cases. Far too many mums and dads just cannot buy good basic food. If you need a stomach filling it is easier to fill it with cheap fried food which is satisfying in the short-term but not in the long term. All parents get pestered to buy cakes, biscuits, sweets and fizzy drinks by psychologically devised advertising and product placements.
We need education to help us choose properly and laws on things like labelling to enable us to choose what food and drink to consume with what potential risk.
- Society moved on because people were educated. Too often our education system fails those who need it most. I am unimpressed by the UK education system which is exam and not education based. By that I mean that our system is based on coaching and memory and not on encouraging children (and adults because education is forever) to want to learn. Our system too quickly creates successes and failures.
We can all be good at something but our education system does not nurture the individual to find that inner seed that can be nourished. It puts kids into education factories with league tables to assess both kids and schools. It does not lead to people with the skills required for life or employment. Of course, I want people to pass exams especially if they are building bridges or cutting me open, but formal exams are only part of what education should be about and not the only goal.
- We need to live at peace where ‘nation shall speak unto nation’ rather than bombing each other either directly or by proxy. There is, at present, only one world to live on. The World has all the resources that we need for all of us to live country if we were not fighting each other and investing our research capabilities into weapon development rather than social development.
I have been on every continent of the World and met people. Most people of all faiths, cultures and skin colours are very good, the sort of people that we can all live with. But minor differences are seized upon by a small number of people who inflame those differences for personal gain. I’m not a pacifist but foreign policies should be directed towards peace and prosperity and not keeping a war machine going.
This is much longer than my normal blog because here I am trying to set out a very big picture indeed. You might argue that I have left things like gender equality out. It is true that I have not covered everything. This is not Richard Kemp’s manifesto for anything but a statement of my priorities. I believe that if we cared more and shared more then many of our other problems would, in time, diminish and disappear.
If I lived in many countries these ideas I would just be dreaming about these things. But I do not – I live in the UK. This Country is wealthy enough to ensure that if we wanted to we could achieve all the things that I mention above with enough left over to help many, many more in other Countries. We could be, if we chose, the World Super Power not because of the strength of our armies but because of the strength of our morality and our actions for good will.
I have just submitted my application to be once again the Lib Dem candidate for Church Ward in next years local election. I want to carry on whilst I have the strength to do so for all the things I talk about above. My anger is as strong as ever that we have a lop-sided society with a lack of equality of opportunity and a lop-sided World in which too many have no food and shelter because of man’s actions.
Despite the many problems that we face as a small Party I honestly believe that there is no other political home for me. Only in the Lib Dems do we have the implicit belief in the type of bottom-up politics that can make the ultimate changes needed in our Country. While the anger is there, the Party is there and the strength is there I’ll be there too! Now where’s my delivery bag!