This year’s Remembrance Day marking, as it did, the centenary of the end of the First World War is an appropriate time for reflection. I have been pondering the achingly poignant phrase of the inscription of the (admittedly Second World War) Kohima memorial: ‘For your tomorrow we gave our today.’ The obvious question is, would the dead be happy with what we have done with the tomorrows?
As regular readers of my posts will be aware, the Armed Forces have been eviscerated by round after round of defence cuts which, combined with pathetically weak thinking, mean that to all intents and purposes the Realm is not defended. Failed military incursions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria (still continuing) show ineptitude at scales that dwarf the errors of Gallipoli or the fall of Singapore.
And it’s not just defence. The national debt, caused by the combination of decades of politicians spending money they did not have, plus the massive costs of sorting out the banking crisis – itself made possible by the abject failure of financial regulation that the government is supposed to provide – leaves this country teetering on the brink of a protracted recession.
National Insurance (which were it not a government scheme would be a Ponzi fraud on a scale that makes Bernie Madoff look like a minor shyster) is in trouble. It is reported that the government is contemplating additional taxes for the over-40s, to top it up as otherwise it won’t be able to cope. That’s right, the scheme that has already failed wants more money to paper over the fissures to postpone proper reform.
The health service is in such a state that, on the ludicrous premise of a ‘birthday present’, the government has just bunged it another £20billion which it did not have. Mr Hammond may have proclaimed that austerity is over, but he still hasn’t balanced the books.
Even the criminal law system, arguably the bedrock of a functioning society, is in tatters and on the verge of collapse. If you haven’t yet found The Secret Barrister read it now and prepare to be shocked. Ill-thought-out legislation combined with the inevitable tight funding means that it does not work.
Benefit reform has halted owing to botched implementation. HS2 may or may not have ground to a halt, the extra runway at Heathrow (or maybe yet Gatwick) continues its journey to the long grass and of course the East Coast Main Line has now been nationalised. Power infrastructure is at near capacity, water mains still leak and flood defences remain weak. Houses are unaffordable, with almost none being built.
And of course, there’s Brexit.
To win an election, Cameron promised a referendum. Then, with the shameful connivance of the Civil Service, he forbade any consideration of how to leave and resigned instead of fixing the problem he had created. Having fought an election promising to deliver Brexit, the hopeless and hapless Mrs May now has a choice between something that seems awfully like Brexit in name only or no-deal, for which there is still no substantive preparation.
As Mrs May stood with the wreath on Sunday I wonder if she was thinking what she would say to the fallen. How she would explain the succession of failures and justify the lack of anyone taking responsibility.
But it’s not just her fault. We’re the idiots who also elected the succession of fools, chancers and charlatans (that’s you, Tone) who have dominated politics for much of my life. We’re the ones who hand over our tax to (not quite) plug the hole in the nation’s finances. We’re the cretins that time after time vote, thereby giving this failed system a thin veneer of democratic respectability. We sit by as the BBC propagate the soundbites and fail to investigate the details. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, we’re nuts.
And we clearly have not made the most of the opportunities secured for us at the huge personal cost of those who fought for this, the 36,528th tomorrow. Which makes it hard to wear a poppy with pride.