The Rights and Wrongs of Britain Today and Years Gone By

The role of the State is now under scrutiny with support for increased Tax and Spending. Sluggish economic growth has made for weak tax income, in spite of stealth taxes.

4 mins read
[Roberto Catarinicchia/ Unsplash]

Britain 58 years ago when I came here and today are worlds apart. You would excuse me for saying that, because I have had a good life in Britain, remaining a Sri Lankan citizen?

But, the fact is that millions of Brits, we are told, have had to cut back, rather cut down or skip meals amid a savage cost-of-living crisis, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Brits are, perhaps, becoming more or less generously disposed towards those living in poverty?

Although class still matters and Brits strongly believe in their hearts that a person’s economic and cultural wealth shapes their future. It is well known that social class affects one’s opportunities a great deal. Climbing up the ladder for the young is seen as nearly impossible, due to too many reasons.

The young have had to unwillingly accept and become aware of how, in an aging society, public spending has become increasingly focused on the needs of the old. Inequality is not matched by greater support for more spending for the young, and the young know that. The simple fact is that a Conservative government is also aware of the vote bank of the aged. The best that the young can aim for is “not a home, but shared living accommodation.” I say this because, with the Bank of England increasing its Bank Rate, mortgages are few and far between for contemplation.

How to reverse British decline?

Britain’s economic woes are far from unique in the West, but they are different in degree. High inequality and low growth after the pandemic, after two wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and the recent unrest in Parliament mean that the average household in Britain is seen as significantly poorer than in some other parts of Europe or even the world.

An upsurge in support for state action and the role of the state appears to be shifting under our feet. Nearly twice as many Brits (55%) believe that the state should increase taxes and spend more on health, education, and social benefits. According to research, it appears that a Conservative Government is too entrenched in saving the “Old Boys,” pledging to mend the public finances with austerity in the public sector and benefit cuts.

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is due to deliver the Spring Budget on Wednesday, 06 March 2024. He will use this election budget to reboot the Conservative Party’s flat performance recently. He is widely expected to announce sweeping tax cuts demanded by the Parliamentary Conservative Party.

The public simultaneously wants the government to keep prices under control, inflation down, and mortgages down.

What do Brits want today?

Brits today think about many things differently than they did fifty years ago.

Brits have become more liberal in their views and attitudes over time. This includes foreign food, colored migrants, same-sex relationships, single parenting, the role of women in the home, how to live within one’s means, annual holidays, etc., among others. Some other views remain deeply embedded if not entrenched in their psyche.

When I came to England, the aroma of foreign food was taboo. I was questioned whether I would be cooking “rice and curry” in my flat, which was rented to me. The smell of curried rice was not acceptable. Today spicy food has taken a fancy, delivered to the door by “Deliveroo or Just Eat.” Police often used to “Stop and Search” colored migrants as drug peddlers. Nobody accepted that religious beliefs had pride of place in office routine. Friday Prayers are now accepted at some offices.

Britain now looks, feels different and is different. Even the weather has ameliorated. No more freezing fog and snow throughout the entire winter.

This change may reflect the political debate and the media discussion on public uncertainty and political scrutiny taking place openly today.

Throughout the 27 years Britain was ruled by Conservative Governments and in the immediate past 14 years of the Tory Government, the public record has been seen as neglect of the “Working Class” as perceived by the Labour Party and generally by many working people.

After the global financial crisis of 2008, which cratered the economy of Britain, we witnessed the largest government deficit of the post-war era. The Conservatives came to power pledging to mend the public finances. There was a period of austerity in the public sector and benefit cuts tolerated by the public. This was on the excuse of promising to cut the National Debt. But, the shortfall has steadily risen to 96.5% at present.

Another perception was that the NHS was safe in Tory hands. We see after COVID-19, Emergency Health Care under tremendous stress and strain, a five-hour minimum wait to get the attention of a Doctor, two hours minimum to obtain a Blood Test result, patient beds at a premium, Consultants discharging patients without Discharge medication, or referral reports, sent to G.P’s. There are all sorts of excuses, excuses galore! All this due to staff shortages, hospital care mismanagement, curtailment on provision of wanted and necessary infrastructure. We now see a shortfall, undersupply of hospital care staff due to curtailment of NHS spending. With an ageing population, P.M. Sunak is now wanting to cut NHS waiting lists for medical care and treatment. This it seems too little, too late?

Understandably, Brexit, COVID-19, Cost of Living Crisis, Wars in Ukraine, Gaza notwithstanding, and the drama of five Prime Ministers in 8 years intervening, the public is crying out for redress, especially as Schools, Hospitals, and Infrastructure now demand urgent government investment infrastructure soonest.

The role of the State is now under scrutiny with support for increased Tax and Spending. Sluggish economic growth has made for weak tax income, in spite of stealth taxes.

Net migration to UK has increased sharply. The Prime Minister wants to divert attention by bringing in the issue of small boat illegal migrants?

The record of hate crime too has risen. This is thought to be in large measure due to the increase in people’s tolerance/acceptance and the reporting of incidents, and not due to an adequate response to prevention, or rather a genuine rise in crime?

What can we expect in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget is awaited in eager anticipation?

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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