Ukip lights up Europe debate

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AS A campaign poster, Ukip’s latest election advertisement depicting a burning Union Flag could not be more inflammatory ahead of next month’s European elections.

Posing the question “Who really runs this country?” in such a calculating way, with the European Union’s defining symbol emerging from the embers of Britain’s flag, it is intended to shore up the Eurosceptic vote – even though some will accuse Ukip of resorting to xenophobia in response to recent allegations about party leader Nigel Farage’s expense claims.

Yet, if this poster’s impact culminates with Ukip breaking the Establishment’s grip on power and topping next month’s poll, it will show the scale of David Cameron’s task ahead of the 2015 general election.

If the Tory leader is to be returned to Downing Street in 13 months’ time, he will need to make every centre-right vote count – and also win over a significant number of Labour supporters who stayed loyal to Gordon Brown in 2010.

However, it speaks volumes about the determination of those who want Britain to leave the European Union, even before Mr Cameron has had the chance to try to negotiate a new settlement with Brussels, that they’re prepared to risk splintering the Eurosceptic vote and allowing the pro-European Ed Miliband to prevail by default in May next year.

This is no idle threat. Ukip’s contentious campaign, the most high-profile in the party’s history, is being bankrolled by Yorkshire tycoon Paul Sykes who says he will do “whatever it takes” to 
deliver Mr Farage’s much promised “political earthquake” next month.

The Tory response remains to be seen. There are many who have downplayed Ukip’s significance for some time now. But they need to be careful. For the longer they allow Mr Farage’s party to dominate the debate on European policy, the harder it will be for the Conservatives to regain lost ground and facilitate the type of reforms envisaged by Mr Cameron. The stakes could not be higher.

Over 60s falling deep into debt

THOUGH much of the recent debate on the cost of living has been concentrated on the “squeezed middle” made up of working households whose earnings have failed to keep pace with rising prices, the plight of those at a stage in life which should have seen them achieve financial security is in danger of being overlooked.

Many of those over the age of 60 in Yorkshire are in debt – in some areas by as much as £60,000 – as they contend with the loss of their earning potential coupled with the demands of giving a leg up to children and grandchildren.

It explodes the myth that those born in the post-war “baby boom” years enjoy significant advantages over later generations. Given that they are fast approaching or have already reached retirement age, their position in terms of being able to provide for their non-working years is even more perilous than that facing their children and grandchildren.

While it is important to plan sensibly for later years, the reality is that for those on a fixed income it can be difficult to avoid sinking into debt when everything from utility bills to food is getting more expensive.

As concerning as this situation is, however, there is a risk that it will be dwarfed by the crisis that will confront the next generation of pensioners.

Rising property prices mean they are likely to be saddled with even more debt in the form of substantial mortgages they will struggle to pay off, not to mention pension pots that were neglected during their working years because expenditure in other areas was deemed to be more pressing at the time.

Children put off school sport

a common sight on playing fields every weekend, the phenomenon of the pushy parent is a barrier to children’s participation in sport, with youngsters worrying about living up to unrealistic expectations.

It’s a theory given credence by a survey conducted by the Marylebone Cricket Club, which found that many children would be happy to see competition removed from school sport. Tellingly, almost two in five said that their mothers and fathers would be less interested if there were no winners and losers at the end of the match.

Healthy competition goes a long way to ensuring children fulfil their potential – and lessons learned from school sport stand youngsters in good stead for later life. As such, pushy parents must realise that rather than spurring their children on, often they are holding them back.