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By the people, for the people

October 21, 2008

Notwithstanding the celebrations of Hastings Week, which was topped off by a fantastic procession and bonfire, I am starting to hear stories of how the financial crisis is affecting people’s lives.

I spoke to a recently-retired man who is very concerned about his private pension fund which had, it turns out, been managed by an Icelandic firm. The Financial Services Authority has contacted him to say that he might only retrieve a quarter of the fund’s worth.

There is the couple who were ready to exchange on a property that they thought they weren’t going to sell, and then the Wednesday before the Friday of exchange, the financial crisis hit. The prospective purchaser’s deposit was in an Icelandic bank, and the sale of the house has had to go on the back burner.

There is an older St Leonard’s man who is facing residential care due to a recent period of illness. He is wondering if he will have to sell his house to pay for his care, and he knows that following the events on the financial markets, he will get substantially less for the property than he would have achieved a few weeks ago.

These are real people and real life stories of how the economic crisis is making its presence felt.

A big fan of David Dimbelby’s Question Time programme, I could completely understand the frustration of the questioner last Thursday who had had to pay for his own cancer treatment (due to the postcode lottery on cancer drugs) and could not understand how the Government could just ‘find’ £500 billion to bail out the private sector banks.

I am no economist, and I realise that there is long-term benefit in stabilising the financial markets, but it seemed wrong-headed to me, as I read my Saturday paper, that the level of City bonuses in the financial year just ended was not much different than the year before.

Radio and television pundits speak about the socialisation of debt and the privatisation of profit. I think this means that City slickers will mitigate their losses and the taxpayer will, for the good of the country, come up with the readies.

In the context of the current banking crisis, there can be no better time to advocate a redistribution of tax responsibilities from low and middle income families to the very wealthy.

This is the fairest solution in the circumstances. And it is the solution that will help the economy to recover.

In the fragile spirit of cross-party unity (which had survived for a while, prior to David Cameron’s outburst at the end of the week) I hope the other parties will be willing to listen to the good sense being spoken by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, and put the interests of the less well off first.

At the invitation of my Conservative counterpart, I am taking part in a debate tomorrow evening entitled ‘Why bother voting?’

One of the main reasons why people have been turned off politics is that they perceive the system to look after its own at the expense of ordinary folk.

There is no better time to demonstrate that politics and politicians should be of the people, by the people, for the people.


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