Views on the Irish thing

“I’m writing just after an encounter
With an English journalist in search of ‘views
On the Irish thing’. […]

Expertly civil-tongued with civil neighbours
On the high wires of first wireless reports,
Sucking the fake taste, the stony flavours
Of those sanctioned, old, elaborate retorts:

‘Oh, it’s disgraceful, surely, I agree.’
‘Where’s it going to end?’ ‘It’s getting worse.’
‘They’re murderers.’ ‘Internment, understandably …’
The ‘voice of sanity’ is getting hoarse.

‘Religion’s never mentioned here,’ of course.
‘You know them by their eyes,’ and hold your tongue.
‘One side’s as bad as the other,’ never worse.

[…] the tight gag of place
And times: yes, yes. Of the “wee six” I sing
Where to be saved you only must save face
And whatever you say, you say nothing.”

From ‘Whatever You Say, Say Nothing’, Seamus Heaney, 1975

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Autumn Statement: My response – an opportunity missed

Agree with every word Andy Winter has written, so I’m reblogging his take on the Autumn Statement. I’d only add to it that we need to move into an era where renting becomes an affordable, desirable, long-term option in the UK, as it is in most of continental Europe. At the moment, renters bear all of the responsibility of home ownership with none of the rights or securities – and they’re very often paying a higher % of their income on keeping the rented roof over their heads than homeowners do on their mortgages.

Andy Winter's Blog

The Chancellor, Philip Hamond, presented his Autumn Statement to Parliament today (23rd November 2016). This is my instant response ….

The decision to abolish upfront letting agents’ fees is warmly welcomed. For far too long tens of thousands of renters have been ripped off by extortionate fees charged by unscrupulous letting agents. To replace these charges we need a fair deal for renters. This must include controls on charges associated with the renewal of six month assured shorthold tenancy agreements where agents levy charges for things that have not changed.

Landlords should also welcome these changes. They need to know what fees are being charged in their names, and fees that are being charged to them and to their tenants.

The announcement of £1.4 billion for ‘affordable’ housing would be welcomed if it is to be spent on homes for rent, but it appears not to be the case. Therefore…

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The myth of quick-fix politics

23rd June 2016: UK votes to leave the EU

9th November 2016: US elects Donald Trump as President

Nigel Farage in the UK and Donald Trump in the US both stand on incredibly similar platforms. They blame all domestic policies on immigration and all problems everywhere on “the political elite”. They portray themselves as the man on the street who tells it like it is. And they promise that if you vote for them, you will get your country back.

Why do people turn out in their millions to vote for them? Because the world is suddenly full of racist, sexist homophobes? No. There are such people amongst their voters, but it’s not the majority and I don’t think it’s the main reason people believe in Farage and Trump. By and large, it’s because they are the political equivalent of the fad diet.

They are successfully marketing a brand of quick-fix politics. There’s an initial populism, just as on the Atkins diet there’s an initial weight loss. There’s the mapping on to it of whatever you want the final goal to be. It doesn’t mean it’s good, healthy or sustainable, but in the short term it makes people feel better about themselves and it seems to work.

And the problem we now have is that the slow, steady process of decent policy-making sounds as dull an option as eating home-cooked meals and taking regular exercise. But hey, we know it works. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. And pass the casserole dish.