Paine’s words are still relevant today
Ask a British MP what they think of Tom Paine and the chances are they will lift an eyebrow and ask: “Who?”
How marvellous, then, that Jamie Raskin, the chief Democratic prosecutor in the historic trial of Donald Trump, should have begun and ended his case in the United States Senate by quoting the words of the 18th century radical stay-maker from Diss and Thetford.
It was stirring stuff – words that can still make the hair stand on end – and still as relevant to democracy, freedom and social justice today as they were in 1776.
Raskin began by quoting a pamphlet written by Paine to inspire the defeated and dejected armies of George Washington: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Paine’s words worked and Washington eventually defeated King George’s mercenary armies.
The Congressman from Maryland ended by quoting Paine’s explanation of common sense: first, that it is what nature gives to each one of us; but second the ‘sense’ of what we all share together, in common.
Paine’s words made me think of all those weary people working in the NHS as they struggle to overcome the tyranny of Covid – and, to quote Paine again, “tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered”.
Why do we in Britain pay so little attention to Paine’s ideas? After all, he wrote the three best-selling books of the 18th century with The Rights of Man, The Age of Reason and Common Sense, books that helped inspire the American and French revolutions.
Instead of draping himself in the union flag, perhaps Keir Starmer should honour Thomas Paine and be a bit more radical.
Complacency turns to moral bankruptcy
With the constant listing of Suffolk County Council failures to provide essential services and maintain infrastructure for the residents of the county, it has to be asked what are the reasons for this?
Is the majority party, following the national leadership as a role model with a misplaced loyalty, trying to emulate it, or is it complacency of having controlled the administration for so long that it is blind to its own incompetence?
Outwardly, there seems to be no responsibility for these failures; instead, platitudes and excuses are doled out as a matter of course by councillors and officers alike; any inadequacies neither admitted nor learnt from.
In fact, the very structure of checks and balances, vital to good administration, seem to be clogged up by partisan inertia which is not healthy in a democracy.
The climate and ecological breakdown is happening, the waters are rising, and yet the county council fails to deal with localised flooding or even the regular cleaning of drains.
Because of the pandemic, which is part of the unfolding ecological breakdown, huge stresses are being exerted on our society; mental health breakdowns and domestic violence cases are increasing, yet services to deal with these issues, which were seriously underfunded prior to the pandemic, are now totally unfit for purpose.
The council has evaded the consequences of its disastrous school transport plan because of lockdown but has followed up with an equal folly for the education sector of whether to open or to close facilities, in line of course with national guidelines of more of the same floundering, stop-go whimsicality.
There are many who are dismayed at this continuing foolishness and dysfunction and the forthcoming May elections offer the opportunity to show this.
Change is necessary because, quite frankly, any administration which allows a proportion of the nation’s children to go hungry must be morally bankrupt and deserves to be removed from office by all decent-minded people.
Bury St Edmunds
We are paying more and getting less back
Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Tim Passmore, wrote in the Diss Express on January 29, making his annual request for the people of Suffolk to help fund police work.
He says Suffolk is the fourth lowest funded force per head of the population in the country. Well, that’s his fault for not convincing the Home Secretary of his need for more funds.
He fails in that respect year after year and then asks hard-up local people, many of whom are jobless and pensioners, to bail-out his shortcomings.
County lines drug activity is a very serious matter, but it is a national problem and, therefore, the PCC should negotiate his adequate share of government funds to enable his police to fight it effectively.
Covid-19 and buying online has made many local people jobless. More is to come.
Pensioners get a very small annual increase each year, which soon disappears with the various council tax increases. Add them all together and it adds up to each of us becoming poorer year on year.
Are we getting value for all of these council taxes we do pay? My answer is that we are paying more and more for less and less.
Mr Passmore gets a very healthy salary. Back in 2013, the BBC established that UK PCC’s were getting an annual salary of between £70,000 and £85,000 per year. So what is it now, perhaps around £100,000?
That’s enough for maybe three extra police officers. I would rather have the latter than a PCC who appears to be somewhat ineffective.
Elections for county councillors and PCCs should be taking place in May. We should all think very carefully who we vote for.
Bury St Edmunds