Edmonton Alberta, 5.30 pm, -26°C with windchill, snow.
2013 has been a good year for me personally, though it hasn’t felt like that all of the time. The big event was selling our house in Edmo and buying a coastguard’s cottage in Devon. I thought it was the right time to sell and move our capital back to Blighty, and for once my financial judgement seems to have been correct. And we have avoided a lot of the stress of repatriation by selling well in advance of our move next June. I’ve also had a couple of articles published this year, and I’ve got a credit in a book; although my real ambition is to finish my novel and get it published, these small achievements boost my confidence.
As far as politics is concerned, I end the year a far less enthusiastic Lib Dem than I was at the beginning.
There were a couple of things this year that really got to me emotionally. The first was Thatcher’s funeral. I loathed Thatcher. So did a half the population during the time she was in power. There was no way she was entitled to a
state ’ceremonial’ funeral. It was an insult to great leaders like Wellington and Churchill who had state funerals, and it was an insult too, to great Prime Ministers like Attlee or Lloyd George who didn’t. The funeral was divisive, and reflected badly on the politicians of all parties who attended it, showing them up as shallow opportunists.
Shallow opportunism was also in evidence after the death of Mandela. It was unfortunate, to put it mildly, that the same MPs who’d fallen over backwards to praise the supporter of apartheid, and bosom friend of torturer General Pinochet, were a few months later wanting to remind the world they’d once shaken hands with Mandela, or if not, knew someone who did. Mandela’s long march to freedom would have been significantly shorter without the Iron Lady.
Overall, the intellectually vapid and histrionic performance by MPs of all parties in 2013 left a bad smell, and will have done nothing to counter the general cynicism with which politicians are viewed nowadays.
Secondly, I still feel upset about the prejudice being whipped up towards the Roma people. I’m not able to view this issue with emotional detachment. I’m not sure why: I am not Roma, and my connections with the Roma community are historical and tenuous. But, I find the hatred being expressed to the Roma both appalling and quite frightening. At the very best, it takes our society back to the levels of prejudice shown against the Afro-Caribbean population in the 1960s. At worst we are part of a European trend that will end in ethnic cleansing, 1930s style.
And that brings me on to the subject of Nick Clegg. I’ve come to the conclusion that Clegg is just not an instinctive liberal. Time and time again, when he has to think on his feet, his pronouncements are illiberal, and then have to be corrected at a later stage, if at all. He had been described as a Europhile Tory, and that is probably correct. His comment about the Roma, quoted by Tanya Gold in her excellent Guardian article this week, was the last straw. It is really shameful that the comment of a Liberal leader gets quoted as an example of racism. I don’t like him as leader of the party. If we are to continue in coalition, then we need a leader who is liberal to the core. Until he is replaced, I’m going to be picky about what campaign work I involve myself with.
I end the year despondent about environmental issues. When we get to Devon, we will be retrofitting our cottage to reduce our carbon footprint as much as is practicable, or we can afford; but, it seems a futile gesture; no more than a means of reducing our fuel bills and placating our consciences. With no international agreement in sight that will result in significant reductions in emissions, anything we do as individuals, or as a country, is just pissing in the wind. In that context the coalition’s failure to live up to its green promise seems almost irrelevant.