So we have a date for another election. Even though we were not meant to have one until 2020. Even though we needed stability through the Brexit negotiations. Theresa May looked at a small majority and weak opposition and decided that she would take advantage of this. Strong leadership. Possibly. Opportunistic and a focus on her retention of power, rather than what the country needs. Certainly. But it is here and so we need to ensure that we do not allow a line of lies to be given and no challenge to the key points. Will we get the right questions asked and will we actually get the politicians to give an answer that they believe, rather than rhetoric and convolution?
So what is it that really affects the people of this country and will these questions be asked? What will each party do that will genuinely change people’s lives.
- Health: By severely underfunding the NHS, the conservatives seem to be allowing the NHS to fail, so that privatisation is the only option. We need to remember that most western economies,( USA the exception), fund and run good national healthcare systems. It is possible, but funding is required and we put in less percentage of GDP than those other western economies. Within this are many other issues; the poor service for mental health patients, our ageing population, an obesity epidemic and the postcode lottery of service for the country. Who do we trust to fix this and create long-term solutions?
- Inequality: There is a growing sense of injustice in the country, whether rightly or wrongly, that there are the haves and have-nots. A sense that it has become more difficult to move up the ladder in life, with evidence that this is the case. Real earnings have not changed for many in the last 10 years, meaning that decisions about homes, children, savings and pensions, University are about money rather than about what is the right thing to do. The South East/everyone else divide is creating tension within the country and quite often there is a perception ‘those in London’ or ‘the south’ do not understand what is happening in the north, south-west, Scotland, Wales. We have seen this grow into the Scotish referendum recently and a 54%-46% decision on independence is not a big difference to turn around. Who can unify the country and bring balance to the economy and equality of life chances equally to everyone?
- Housing Crisis: Fewer people can afford to get on the housing ladder and there are many issues with housing that needs addressing. One that the Conservatives initiated is reforming the buy to let market, which has caused high rents and high house prices in many areas. The other is a lack of house building, which has been endemic for the last 30 years. All parties have failed to rebalance this problem. Finally the amount of brownfield sites that are being ignored so that green belts can be developed, needs to be addressed. I would personally also ask why big companies need to complete these developments and why more land is not sold individually, so that families can build their own houses? Which party can build aspirations for families and give opportunities to them?
- Democracy: Over the last 20 years we have been promised reform in the house of lords and at a local level. Nothing has really changed. Why not? Layers of bureaucracy have been placed in local areas when they should be stripped out, easing decision-making processes. If we have mayors, then this should be reducing the bureaucracy not increasing it and it should then engage local communities. What we have seen is police commissioners that no one wanted or needed, and an endless wait for the mayors, when London has its own for over a decade. The house of lords needs modernising yet no incumbent party wants to change it, just increase its numbers in that house. This lack of democracy only fuels the negativity towards the politicians and increases the apathy towards the democratic process.
I could go on about education, the prison service, our relationship with the EU and the negotiations which will be in turmoil if the Tories do not win a majority and i will try and look at these over the next seven weeks to election day.
I would suggest most people though are not interested in the big picture, but look at what affects themselves first. Have they got a job, are they paid enough, if they work hard are they rewarded. It is only when they have had to wait 5 hours in A&E or they can’t get their children into a local school, do most start to think about the wider picture. This, I feel, is because of the apathy of being promised the world and getting non of it from our politicians. The hyperbole that we had during the Brexit campaign of exaggerated apocalypse or Nirvana should hopefully be fresh in our minds.
Will we actually listen to what they say and think through its effect on us and our community or will we just vote like sheep for who we always voted for? Will we stop looking to the personality and hear the consequences of the promises made to us and our community before we make our decision to vote? The answer is probably not and that is why we have the crop of politicians we currently have, who can lie through a campaign (£350 million a week to the NHS), and the next day say it is impossible? Why should they change until we make them?