Thursday, 16 October 2008

In an ideal world

In an ideal world I'd buy one of the huge houses at the top of Oram's Arbour in Winchester. I'd enjoy the view through the trees across this magical strip of urban park. The view expands over the city itself and onto the Downs, rising proudly on the other side.

This isn't an idea world. So, although we are planning a move out of London, it wont be to Winchester yet. Instead a more affordable house in Ascot awaits and yes, you did read that correctly. It's a nice house, about the best we can afford even at this time of dropping house prices and although it's not the Arbour, it is next to the strip of land below. And, for the moment, that will more than do.

Monday, 13 October 2008

If at first you don't succeed

History is a funny old thing. Or not as the case may be. But with history it is possible to take yours eyes off the present.
We are currently so obsessed with 1929 and the depression that followed that we are in danger of missing impact of the depression.
There are two major government initiatives that must be stopped. Firstly the attempt to alter the rules of detention so that someone can be detained for up to 42 days without charge. The second is the expensive farrago of the identity card scheme. I abhor these ideas without reservation.
I abhor them because of the manner in which the whole nature of innocent until proven guilty is challenged by them. I abhor the necessity to collect information to which the government in not entitled. But I fear what could happen should the benign, paternal nature of modern government be replaced by something more repressive or authoritarian.
It couldn't happen here? Could it? Britain escaped fascism in the 1930s and has, whatever anyone may tell you, avoided extremes of governments. Although the Thatcher government seems to have been located on the extremity of British politics, its driven ideology has, until the last two weeks, become the norm. From 1979 until 2008 the centre of British politics shifted so that monetarist, decentralised, deregulated economics has been the accepted way for the economy to be run. Want to do it differently? Look at the States where anyone who disagrees with this philosophy is automatically a dangerous liberal or even a socialist (although let's face, those are tags used without any understanding of what they actually mean).
What would it take for our system to collapse? A sustained economic crisis perhaps? A collapse in faith in politicians? A charismatic figure to draw attention away from the issues and create folk devils to feed on an irrational hatred? Well, two out of the three are in place. Thank god for the lack of charisma in this country.
But who might these folk devils be? Well, Facebook groups suggesting that if people don't like it they should return home, do not help. Even if some of the comments may be attempts at humour, these groups do more damage than the Daily Mail ever could. By normalising these opinions it becomes easier for them to be expressed publicly in a manner which can become accepted.
The underlying current is that someone must be blamed. We are not conditioned to be able to challenge those who may actually be responsible. We ought to be attacking the monsters who have deregulated everything. We ought to be attacking upwards. As usual we are attacking downwards.
So, it couldn't happen here could it?

Monday, 6 October 2008

Love knows no boundaries

Love overcomes all barriers. Apparently. That includes the Home Office Border Agency.

There was a time when obtaining permission to get married meant appeasing parents.

More recently it alluded to convincing priests that you really had been going to church all this time, not just at Christmas and Easter if at all. Now getting a certificate of approval is required for all non-British people who dare to marry someone from these shores.

There will be those who say that it will stop marriages of convenience. But charging £295 and requiring a couple of photographs is hardly the way to do it. It’s not a measure to stop illegal immigration; it’s a method of raising revenue. Just like the £500 it cost for Diana’s Leave to Remain (and the £500 is cost last year too). Now doubt, once we’re married Diana’s visa will need to be altered to reflect her right to remain here indefinitely. That’s the big one at £795.

Marriage will not get Diana her ‘indefinite leave to remain straight away’. Marriage will give Diana another two years on her visa. After a further two years she will get resident status.

There are many conflicts here. First is the desire amongst our politicians to promote the family as the means of fixing an apparently broken society. Second is the desire amongst our politicians to promote strict immigration controls as a means of preventing our society becoming ever more broken. Third comes the promise to keep taxes low, direct income tax that is. Well, taxing foreigners who want to come here, or who are already here is hardly going to be unpopular as it helps to reinforce the fears stoked by numbers one and two.

And so marriage becomes a political football. Except for those involved. So, for those invited, forgive us if we don’t have a brass band at our wedding in October 2009, if we try and pass off the wedding cake as dessert or if we don’t have the finest champagne. Just remember the £1100 we’ve had to pay the government and enjoy the party we have managed to put on.