Are we really a ‘great nation’?

“We are a great nation.”

Sigh.

Philip Hammond is just wrapping up his first ‘Budget’ speech as Chancellor. And yet all I can think of as I stare blankly at the TV screen in my kitchen, is the monotonous din of my tumble drier chug, chug, chugging away in the background.

“Bold in our vision, confident in our strengths and determined in our ambition to build a country that works for everyone.”

Through the tumble drier din and ‘No frills’ Hammond banality, I try and process the numbers. For that, after all, is what a Budget is for.

£1 billion pledged to support digital infrastructure. That means my kids will be able to drain more of my data playing Pokémon Go away from the house than ever before. Brilliant. Fuel duty has been frozen for the 7th year running. But that doesn’t help me when the local garage ups petrol prices at the slightest suggestion of a crude oil price hike. And don’t get me started on the insurance premium tax rise.

‘At least Hammond is optimistic’ I think, optimistically. All George Osborne used to say when he was Chancellor, was how we were struggling through so that one day our kids would be better off. I’d do anything for my kids, but are they really going to be better off than this? Really?

And I don’t just mean financially. I mean, all I want is for them to be happy and safe when they’re older. Doing a job they enjoy, with the freedom to be who and what and with whom they want to be.

But I glance at the news. I shouldn’t. There’s a reason I immerse myself in sport most of the time.

Jo Cox’s murderer is given a full life tariff. What a tragic story. A lovely, popular woman. A strong local MP. Killed for trying to do her job. For trying to help others. Her family must wish she’d never been elected. For doing the things she’d always dreamed of. But we’re a great nation in which you can follow your dreams?

Next – four footballers have spoken of untold horror, having been sexually abused as children by their coaches. So many kids dream of being a professional sportsperson. Both of mine do. But it’s not worth that. But we’re a great nation in which we must build a future that works for everyone, aren’t we?

Paul Stewart played professional football for Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. He was capped by his country. But the brutality he endured as a teenager means he’s never been able to hold his children affectionately, in a way he’d like to be able to. His mind tortured. Tainted. Ruined.

I think back to Hammond. None of this is his fault, of course. But he’s part of a political class that are so out of touch with the rest of the country. Real stuff – bad stuff – is happening. But it’s all too easy to stand up and make a statement that says all the right things while, at the same time, saying nothing.

George Osborne, who’s job Hammond took, said this in his first Budget statement, back in 2010:

“Today we have paid the debts of a failed past. And laid the foundations for a more prosperous future. The richest paying the most and the vulnerable protected. That is our approach. Prosperity for all.”

Wonderful sentiments. But I wonder if ‘the vulnerable’ feel protected, or prosperous, six years on?

I doubt it.

But I do believe there’s greatness in this country. There’s potential. There’s ability. And somewhere, there’s hope. But we need leaders that can inspire younger generations, not turn them off with vacuous promises and platitudes.

I don’t know where all that came from, but that’s how I feel right now. We need to do better for our kids, it’s as simple as that.

And thus I commend this post to the blog. Even if I do say so myself.

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