Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Thoughts For The New Year

Published Thursday 2 January, 2014

As I sit here at my study window, looking at our garden bravely taking the battering of yet another "ridge of low pressure from the Atlantic" those balmy summer days and, to my mind even lovelier, wonderful late autumnal afternoons from 2013 seem from another world. My mind turns to 2014 unfolding before us: What will be the sunshine moments? Where can we expect changing colours? Who will deliver those frosts and dark skies? 

The people of Scotland will get to choose whether they want to leave the United Kingdom for ever.......or not. Alex Salmond, a political purveyor of snake oil of truly Wilsonian proportions, will be hoping that the hearts of his fellow countrymen, buoyed up by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and a celebration of a defeat of some Scotsmen allied to the English by some other Scotsmen (....er....not wearing kilts Mr Gibson) 700 years ago will rule their heads and that they will set out on the path of sad realisation that independence is forever, not just for a parliamentary term.

Independence means taking your interest rates (and thus your monetary and fiscal policy) from a far more powerful neighbour who no longer has to worry about what you do or think; independence means promising loads of public expenditure whilst being saddled with 5/60ths of the UK's huge deficit; independence means taking on the Governmental guarantee for the cost of decommissioning the North Sea oil fields in the decades ahead (the quid pro quo for enjoying the oil revenue); independence means facing up to the fact that the two banks who did most to bring the UK economy to its knees both had "Scotland" in their titles and that the cost of ensuring that can never happen again must be borne proportionally by those north of Hadrian's Wall.

Globalisation doesn't take prisoners; it gives wealth and job creators choice of where to locate; just ask those who looked over the cliff edge and didn't like what they saw at Grangemouth in Mr Salmond's own back yard. An independent Scotland would need cuts in public spending and tax rises, flexible labour laws and a dose of the harsh reality of globalised economics if it has any chance of succeeding, but "vote for me and you will get lots more of what you don't like but as a minnow not a big fish in the dangerous globalised ocean" isn't exactly the best electioneering slogan of all time! And we haven't even started to look at membership of Nato, foreign policy, trade relationships, border controls and the status of residents of Scotland seeking or currently enjoying public office in the UK.

Mind you, there would be one big benefit from the good people of Scotland failing to understand  we are all truly "better together": at least never again will a Westminster MP elected by a Scottish constituency have no say on the education or healthcare of his own constituents but a real voting influence on the education and healthcare of English people, who never elected him in any way at all.

So we move on in our peering down the looking glass of the year ahead......

At last the UK economy is on a sustainable path of good growth with all the knock-on benefits of lower unemployment and increased tax revenues. Whatever happens the Nation must not alter course now. We are nowhere near out of the woods yet and releasing the purse strings in either the public or private sector would be very dangerous indeed. The UK is back in pole position as the location of choice for inward investment; this is not a coincidence. Overseas investors like what they see and admire the smack of firm economic policy that is delivering it. More (and better) jobs and increased tax-yielding profits will be the result.

The fulsome support of manufacturing must continue; even more apprenticeships must be offered, with the tax-payer picking up the tab for small businesses where needs be; a war must be waged against illiteracy and innumeracy at any age, but especially amongst school leavers; the NIMBY's and the BANANA's (Build Absolutely Nothing Absolutely Nowhere at All!) must be roundly defeated, including those in the Coalition itself, and nuclear power stations, airport expansion schemes, port, railway and road improvement projects must all start, not just be talked about...again.

May 2014 will bring the Euro-elections, and probably UKIP's finest moment. Tory, Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians would do well not to write off the result as a one-off, a letting-off of steam that won't stand up in the General Election twelve months further on. UKIP finds support amongst all classes, all earning levels, all political leanings; they provide a means of registering enormous dissatisfaction with the status quo, with an apparently out-of-touch cross-party political class, with the condescending air of "nanny knows best" that blows far too often from south-east England. The dire need for serious reform in the EU and the real and perceived perils of unfettered immigration might be the recruiting sergeants for UKIP but the reservoir in which they fish runs deep; the frustrated anger of millions in our Country at the metropolitan elite will be ignored at their peril.

The year ahead will bring us the Winter Olympics in Putinland; if they have done nothing else but bring about the liberty of some, then they have been worthwhile. Let us hope that we do not see terrorist atrocities killing and maiming the innocent; all disputes only get settled by talking in the end........let us pray for a realisation of that of Olympic proportions.

Summer days will see England going out of the World Cup in Brazil on penalties in the Quarter-finals......as usual. It is strange to see soccer-mad Brazil so socially reluctant to put on one of the greatest shows on Earth; the times they are certainly a'changin.

As I look at the sunshine and storms around the World, it is another year in flux:-

Where will the China-Japan spat take the World?

Will Obamacare take root in spite, not because, of technology?

Will President Hollande be forced from The Élysée in an unprecedented display of understanding by the French people that globalisation is unavoidably for them as well as everyone else?

Could North and South Korea start to talk again?

Whither Syria?

Will Iran come more and more back into the international fold?

How will the good people of South Africa deal with post-Mandela reality?

So them's me thoughts dear readers. I shall go and put the kettle on and raise a cuppa to you all. Pat and I wish you all a prosperous, healthy and peaceful 2014.....and please, oh please, can Leicester Tigers and Aston Villa go through the whole of this year unbeaten?!