Cruel and Wicked Con(s), by Gemma Lutwyche
There are two main risks in this year’s poll; more misery for families, and the break-up of the UK. Returning the Tories back to power, and the SNP having a clean sweep in Scotland, as is being widely predicted, would lead to this.
As the election approaches, one would expect the government to defend their policies and their performance. They find that proposition difficult because their policies have brought families down to their knees. Instead they have taken to strategies of abuse and smearing, and in desperation have been highlighting the dangers of a Labour/SNP coalition.
Labour voters all-round the country fought relentlessly for a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish referendum, led by Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, as they believe in the Union. Now the polls predict a wipeout for Labour in Scotland and a win for the SNP, which will benefit the Conservatives, as it will help them defeat Labour. The SNP is always stronger when there is a Tory government. A strong SNP at Westminster is an endorsement for a rerun of the Scottish independence referendum. During this election campaign Nicola Sturgeon’s charismatic performances have cleverly brought people to think of what the SNP will do for Britain, and their intention to end austerity. But there is a deceit there, as they are a party for Scottish independence, and it is easy to lose sight of this. That is what they stand for, and if given the chance, they will fight for it again.
There is much evidence that the austerity narrative of George Osbourne is a con. From the outset, this government terrified the nation about us ‘going the Greece way’ and put the fear in people that the overspend on the economy was so reckless that we were going to go bust. Our situation was never going to be like the one in Greece. They claimed that they would ‘make work pay’ but we have seen the greatest decline in average earnings since records began. They said that ‘we are all in it together’ whilst defending the banker’s bonuses from EU rules, giving millionaires a huge tax cut, and causing a massive increase in the use of food banks for the poorest in society. They claimed that Labour broke the economy, but it was under George Osbourne that the UK lost its AAA credit rating. The reality is that austerity has choked the economy, and caused a post-recession downturn; an economy which was already growing at the time of the last election in 2010. They have taken money from the most vulnerable in our society, and allowed the rich to get even richer.
The coalition promised their ideological austerity would eliminate the public sector deficit by this election, but they have failed spectacularly, as it has not even been halved. But with their ideological plan to reduce the state, they have managed to emphasize the division in our society, between the ‘strivers’ and the ‘shirkers’, with no consideration for how they are hurting ordinary people. How does cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the £30 per week which helped poorer families with children in education, really reduce the deficit? And the miniscule savings made from the bedroom tax? These policies are cruel, having the result of making ordinary folk feel ashamed to ask for help, and being shamed in our society.
And the Tories’ plan, going forward, instead of learning from their mistake, is to have more of the same. They are planning a shameful £12 billion cut to the welfare budget, again planning to target the vulnerable in our society.
The coalition promised to ring fence the money for the NHS, but their top-down reorganisation has cost billions and they have not been able to address the huge pressures on the system, which have led to the largest squeeze in budgets in its’ history. The shameful cuts to funding, in particular to emergency services and to mental health, have had disastrous effects. Stories of people waiting five hours in A&E for a three year old with a head injury to receive treatment, and hearing the increased numbers of children on antidepressants, as child mental health services no longer have the resources to offer adequate support, are examples I have been privy to. The NHS has been brought to breaking point, kept afloat by a dedicated but exhausted workforce.
It feels that this government cannot bear people who are poor, and who don’t have the resources to support themselves or contribute their communities. A young new mother, trying to adjust to having a new baby, called into the job centre when she is barely home from the labour ward, for a back to work interview, as she is on benefits. A disabled man’s care being withdrawn because it was deemed that his teenage children should care for him. A young family moved to Manchester, miles from their friends and family, because the housing benefit cap precluded local housing near their family in East London. These are just a few examples of the personal misery which I have become aware of. Where is the moral dimension, the compassion towards people? Life is not just about economics. And the reality is that life can take a downturn for any one of us, and it has been heartbreaking to see the suffering of ordinary people from this coalition’s hateful policies.
So, the real risks at this election are in electing the Tories, and electing a strong SNP to Westminster. The Conservative government have promised more austerity including, even if they are denying it, cuts to child benefit, tax credit, and disability living allowance. Can we really risk another five years of family finances being savagely cut, and the poor becoming poorer?
The SNP campaign has appeared to target a change in Britain, but their real aim is to get independence for Scotland. Do we really want a fragmented UK, torn apart by the SNP?
This is calling on all those who have suffered from the coalition’s policies; health professionals, and other public sector workers, those in ethnic minorities, to name a few, and those who think that everyone in society deserves a chance. Find time to go and vote this week, because there has never been a more profoundly important election. And to those who think that their vote wouldn’t make a difference; as highlighted above, there are clear distinctions between the major parties.
Let’s vote for the party which is on our side, which will make this a great and united Britain, a safe and prosperous country, and which has democracy, equality and compassion at the core of its values. Vote Labour on May 7th.
Gemma Lutwyche is a Psychologist, working for the NHS in London.