Tuesday, 5 January 2010


The New Year is upon us, and Europe is largely covered by a blanket of snow. "Coldest winter ever" I hear them cry. The disappointing summers and icy winters only reinforce in my mind that something about the climate change argument is amiss!

Without doubt up and down the country we'll see a scrabble for salt. At least we had our starter for ten of snow before Christmas when councils learned the hard way. I'm sure many of us can cast our minds back to a time when snow didn't mean a half day at work. When kids trudged to school in cold sodden shoes, trains ran through blizzards and people woke up half an hour early to scrape their cars and clear their drives. You would think judging by today's reaction we were in fact a central African savanna the way we receive snow.

The whole Northern Hemispehre has had it's fair share of the white stuff this year; in the American capital Washington had 2 foot of snow, the largest snowfall ever recorded in a single December day. Londoners, famed for their steely resolve, saw an inch fall and said "I think I will work a half day!"

Why is it that trains run across Siberia but your commuter route to work can't cope with a centimeter of snow? It's preparedness. Every time we've been faced with a high snowfall or a cold snap in recent years Britain has ground to a halt. We have the necessary salt reserves but cannot seem to mobilise our local authorities to make preparatory arrangements. Let me explain why.

If you were living off a yearly allowance, into which you had to factor all daily running costs, and were forced to implement efficiencies, what would you drop? You couldn't stop paying for your daily needs - accommodation, food, electricity, water. But you might consider say not going to the dentist. Most years you do, but this year you can't afford it, so hopefully there's nothing wrong with your teeth. Councils must work on the same strategies. Why spend hundreds of thousands on stockpiling salt when street lighting, schools and roads must be afforded?

Every spring we start our new financial year. People like to clean their houses and traditionally in the Christian Calendar the pantry is emptied before a period of fasting. You might look at your bank accounts and decide you need to hone down your spending. Over the course of a lifetime you pick up direct debits, standing orders, loans and debts until your outgoings almost outweigh what is being paid in. Our economy is much the same. The national debt, the recession, the NHS all need constant funding and should not be put on the backburner during a time of frugality. The only way to increase funds is to raise taxation, and expect the people suffering the most to stump up the cost of running the country. So this Spring we will see a new Government at the helm, and already we are hearing promises and retorts as to how that money will be saved. How taxes will be fair and how wages will be protected. But when I cast my eye down the balance sheet there's one big expenditure that could easily be chopped, quicker than your subscription to Sky TV, half of whose channels you never even watch.

Why then do we pay more than £50 million a day into the EU when so little is given to us in return? £50 million that could build a new school a day. £50 million that could afford the treatment of cancer patients who do not qualify for care under their local NHS Trust. £50 million that could fund better support for our returning soldiers. £50 million that could be pumped into farming, invested into enterprises, used to fund industry.

Britain no longer makes anything. We relinquished the last bastion of economic independence when we shut our mines. Today we export very little and the majority of our manufacturing comes from foreign firms. Yet at the same time we are handing over control of our industries, our farming, The City, fishing and everything else to Europe, a continent to which we only partly feel associated and who throughout history have been both our greatest allies and enemies. We are paying this Union far more money than we could ever hope to get out and using the prosperity our nation earned over centuries to fund those poorer countries who are more likely to represent the future of manufacturing than ourselves.

To me it's simple. We take stock of what we have left before we palm it all off to Brussels, we hold it tight in our hands, we remember what the British were great at - organisation, cooperation, quick thinking and determination that made our little island a world leader. We stop mistaking more politicians for democracy. We stand side by side again, as four nations bound by a common spirit. We forget about L'Union Europeen and focus once more on Royaume Uni. We forget about European wealth and focus on our Commonwealth. We bring back industries that bind communities together and put money back into our economy. And hopefully in the process we save enough to give our local councils proper budgets to make my community, your village, his town and her city a better place to live. And we might even be able to put a bit to one side to salt our roads next December.

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