Britain’s rising debt: we need statesmen to give us clarity

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Opinion Digest: Time to face the truth about debt - and time for a big conference speech, too

LAST UPDATED AT 10:58 ON Tue 28 Aug 2012

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EXPENDITURE THREATENS NEXT GENERATIONS
JEFF RANDALL ON OUR ADDICTION TO DEBT

Unchecked addiction to personal and national debt is robbing our children of their future, says Jeff Randall in The Daily Telegraph. As we continue to slash spending on infrastructure investment for the future, expenditure on the rising social security bill marches on. This can be attributed to demographics: Britain is home to an ageing population, creating an inverse pyramid of financial obligations with more people at the top being supported by relatively few at the bottom. Voters can be forgiven for their confusion as they are presented with wildly different official estimates of the country’s economic strength, but as Britain slips deeper into a quagmire of debt, “the price of ignorance goes up”.  As Disraeli noted, whereas politicians care only about the next election, statesmen think of the next generation. What we are witnessing today is inter-generational theft, says Randall. Where are the leaders to take us out of the darkness?

THIS RECESSION CALLS FOR A BIG SPEECH
POLLY TOYNBEE ON THE PARTY CONFERENCES

The season of the Big Speech approaches. Politicians may pretend to be on holiday but second and third drafts of party conference speeches are already covered in corrections, writes Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Yet if we cast our minds back to previous conference seasons, how many of these ‘big moments’ do we actually remember? Very few. In wartime, strong rhetoric is an essential fighting weapon – from Henry V to Churchill. But in peace, matching the tone to the temper of the times is everything. But if great speeches spring from times of heightened national drama, then perhaps we have reached a moment for the speech of our age. Never before have we watched a chancellor deliberately depress growth through unshakeable, evidence-denying dogma.  As they write their speeches, Britain’s politicians should draw on the people’s “wells of anger”. This peacetime crisis needs a lick of warlike fire.

SWAP WESTMINSTER FOR THE REAL WORLD
JOHN KAMPFNER ON POMPOUS WESTMINSTER

The forthcoming renovation of the Palace of Westminster may be a blessing in disguise for an institution that envelopes its members in an unreal bubble of privilege, says John Kampfner in The Independent. Buildings affect behaviour and the House of Commons and House of Lords manage the twin feats of being “pompous and inefficient”. Both chambers are shrouded in a Pugin finery that reinforces the members’ false sense of importance. Of course, even the most hidebound MPs retain constituency offices where they meet ordinary people with ordinary concerns. But on returning to the stale air of the palace, they are invited to adopt a different persona. As politicians search for a space to relocate to, why not leave London for Birmingham or Manchester? A period in more modest surroundings would engender the sense of normality found in more modern buildings such as Holyrood or the Reichstag. This would be a refreshing change for British politics, Kampfner argues. · 

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