Well, that’s interesting!

The 2015 UK election has thrown up a result that few predicted (although I claim to have predicted a Conservative victory and the wipeout of Labour in Scotland).  The immediate aftermath has been more surprising, with the leaders of Labour, UKIP and the LibDems all resigning immediately.

As I see it the Conservatives ran a professional focussed campaign with a leader who looked like he had energy and committment.  Labour, on the other hand, had a man who looked uncomfortable at every turn who seemed unsure of his core messages.  The Conservatives, backed by a solidly Tory press, had consistently undermined his credibility but his plan to “carve in stone” his promises, with a daft theatrical prop, was misguided and played into their hands.

The Conservative strategy of playing the ‘fear’ card of an SNP/Labour coalition worked, which goes to show how politically unsophisticated we are as a nation.  There never was any risk of Labour being coerced by SNP but it played on the smouldering anti-Scottish, or put another way pro-English, nationalism.  Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) proved to be both astute and charismatic, giving short shrift to the idea that the SNP victory in Scotland cost Labour the election: even had every seat in Scotland been won by Labour they would still have been a chasm away from a workable coalition.  The fact is that Labour failed to even win most of the marginal seats it needed in England.

The LibDems paid for going into coalition, and having supported some brutal anti-working class policies, with their collapsing vote going back to Labour or the Conservatives according to the underlying instincts of their voters.

The most interesting things to ponder (apart from just how painful the next five years will be) are whether a Conservative government with a working majority will now be beset by friction from within, what will happen to the Union (UK), how will Nicola Sturgeon manage Alec Salmond, and how will the Labour party react?  The right wing of the Conservative party, unfettered by considerations of survival, may well press for even more anti-working class policies and a more “robust” stance on Europe, immigration and security.  If Cameron is too accommodating to Scotland, effectively creating a separate country in all but name, he will run into opposition from his own party.  On the other hand if he frustrates the desire of Scotland for more devolution, as expressed by what promises to be a vocal cadre of SNP MPs, he may well provoke a second Independence referendum.  The SNP have proved that, in one part of these islands at least, there is hunger for a more left-leaning party: will Labour return to their core values?  They certainly will need a different kind of leader – I’d vote for Hilary Benn, but that’s not going to happen.

Personally, as a pensioner, I expect to be worse off in the next 3-5 years.  The unspecified £12 billion cuts to the welfare budget come on top of those already announced in the 2015 budget – but not yet in effect.  I expect several benefits to be means tested; will we lose our bus pass, our winter heating allowance, free prescriptions and so on?  In England we already suffer reduced health care from overstretched and underfunded GP surgeries and hospitals.  Local Authorities were already slashing bus services and support facilities for the elderly and other vulnerable groups.  The Conservatives are gambling (with our lives – they and their cronies will do OK whatever happens) that by 2017/18 our, and the global, economy will be ‘fixed’ and the brakes can come off again.  What if the world economy doesn’t recover as they hope.  Despite their propaganda, the last Labour government didn’t create the world crash and there are still signs that it could happen again and meantime the food banks will get more trade.

What if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow…….?

None of what I’m writing here is new.  I was thinking about what I would do with the rest of my life if I was given a finite time to live: a diagnosis of a terminal illness.  Then I had the blinding flash of the obvious: we all have a terminal illness – called life.  We are all dying from the day we are born.  Inexorably, unavoidably, the clock is winding down.  Why then do we have this way of carrying on our lives as if there is always tomorrow?  I’m fully aware that this doesn’t apply to everyone: some people manage to live in the moment and some spend their lives preparing for the end.  Many people don’t have the luxury of planning their lives: they are too poor or insecure to do more than survive day-to-day.

Many of us have already had, and all will eventually have, experience of unanticipated events that change our lives.  Some are good things but some are accidents, loved ones die, people get ill without warning.  Events like that have the effect of pulling us up short, making us re-evaluate our lives and priorities, but for the most part we carry on more or less as before.  Why is that?

I suppose, for one thing, a root and branch re-evaluation implies we have got something wrong, and nobody likes to admit that.  For another thing, even for the retired, our lives are made to progress through routines, and routine sets its own priorities.  There is comfort in the predictable.

When I began writing this piece the question it posed was theoretical, and the dilemma academic.  However a real-life diagnosis of terminal cancer, in a loved one, has given it added relevance and poignancy.  Living each day to the maximum, and in ‘the moment, after a lifetime of living for the future and planning ahead, is very, very hard.  It is particularly difficult when the medics are telling us to live day-by-day while, at the same time, offering some slight hope that there may be a future.




Alice slips on her shoes, quietly opens the door, pulls up a frayed coat collar against the rain and walks unsteadily away. Turning the corner she stops, leans against a wall to breathe and listen, but there is only the echo of a barking dog and her own footfall moving on. She does not know where to, but it will not be back: her bloodied eye tells her that. It is not the first time he has hit her, this time for forgetting his lottery ticket. His ticket. Her ticket, and five million pounds, will take her far, far away.


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