Opinion

Even my dog knows that this government doesn't have a plan

When millions are having to turn to food banks, yet UK tax receipts are up 10 per cent on last year, something doesn't add up

Toastie

Toastie

I was talking to Toastie. This is not uncommon, of course. We were back up the hill behind the library. He had been recovering from an operation on his right hind leg. It was an operation to repair something that went wrong following an earlier operation. He’s been through the mill, has our Toastie. He remains ever-positive. Though, like all dogs, he’s been a little sad following the funeral of that great canine champion Paul O’Grady.

During the recovery period Toastie had been doing a lot of lead walks, and was now building strength back up and starting to rev again the way springers do. On this early evening, he was trotting beside me. This is uncommon, so I sensed he wanted a chat. I asked him what were we, all of us, to do. The ongoing hardening cement of crisis continues to be poured.

Almost three million essential food parcels were handed out by the Trussell Trust between April last year and March this year. Coincidentally, at the same time that dark stat was revealed, the Bank of England’s chief economist Huw Pill said that people in the UK just had to accept that they were poorer than before. And that all of us are in a way to blame for seeking something better. It’s a view, I suppose.

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Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said similar at the end of March. We were warned then that it could take six years to bring the UK living standards back to where they were pre-pandemic. Richard Hughes, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, at least didn’t blame us all, but rather the double-headed impact of the pandemic and Brexit.

All around are markers that illustrate all is far from well – NHS dental provision in England at critical point; the crisis and confusion around voter ID; the government’s utter lack of compassion and good sense in its migration plans; Ronnie O’Sullivan failing to get past the quarters in the World Championships. And it goes wider.

I barely scratched the surface, but I could sense Toastie wanted to respond. And at least I’d get some sense out of him. I looked at his wise, sad eyes and as he cocked his head, I think what he was about to say was this:

It’s a lack of a plan, Paul. The way I see it, there just isn’t one. On neither side, nor in Scotland with its new administration, is a proper programme for government. We have a mixture of serious people and a lot of not serious people. When we have the minister for disability role-playing Liam Neeson, warning people he’s going to go hard on benefit fraud, while there are a multitude of other issues to fix, we know we’re in a bad place.

The government brought in tax receipts of over £786.6 billion last year. That’s up nearly 10 per cent on the year before. Total receipts in were £929bn, that’s up £88bn on the year. That Paul, as Toastie was thinking, is what economists and their like call fiscal headroom.

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Toastie

It would be useful if the government showed they could use this, could form big plans around this growing pot, and that they could govern by policy rather than soundbites. It’s straightforward, really. Stop saying everything is looking bright, face big reality and come up with a big plan.

I was about to ask him to provide a policy overview, but he’d noticed the remains of a ball in the grass under a crabapple tree and off he went.

It’s abundantly clear to the dogs on the street what needs done. I’m all for listening to them more. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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