Our paths crossed in a public park in Sunderland. I was still a priest at the time and he was the Member of Parliament for Sunderland South. I recognised him immediately. Chris Mullin, one time journalist and now a Labour politician. We smiled a morning greeting as we passed one another. Among politicians, among people generally, Chris Mullin stands out for his honesty and integrity. He came to people’s attention especially because of his advocating of the cause of six men wrongly imprisoned for the Birmingham pub bombing in which several people died and many were horribly injured.
The other day Chris, now retired, wrote an article for the Guardian newspaper in which he advocates raising taxes in the UK and not cutting them. He suggests an extra two pence in the pound on income tax, a tax of 22%, in order to raise ten billion pounds towards the provision of public services. His basic argument is that everything in life has to be paid for and if we want good public services, especially to help the poor, then we have to put our hand in our pocket. That makes simple sense to me.
In her leaving address today, Liz Truss repeats again the Tory mantra that people like to keep more of their own money, and so her party will always be the party of low taxes. I find this obnoxious. It appeals to the selfish individual that lurks inside all of us, and on which the Conservative party have always based their existence. By promoting individual prosperity before any other consideration they know they are on a vote winner. Socialism and the Common Good will always come a poor second to English Tory self interest.
The industries of the North in earlier times were places of common life and common endeavour. I grew up in a coalmining community. We always voted Labour to try and promote the interests of those communities. Wealthier people in more southern climes voted Tory because that protected their private interests of money and property. This north/south, Tory/Labour divide still characterises the UK, but communities have dwindled and private, individual life is all we have left. As a result people vote Tory for individual prosperity. The Common Good is a neglected notion.
25 October 2022