With What’s at Stake, We Can’t Afford Election Fatigue
Given the non-stop drama of politics recently, it may feel as though elections are of no real importance anymore. But election fatigue is something we can't afford at this juncture in UK history. The outcome of the General Election in seven weeks will make a huge difference to the direction not just of Brexit negotiations, but to the state of the public services - our schools and our hospitals - we hold so dear.
Under the Conservative government we've seen a downhill slide across a number of socio-economic trajectories. We've experienced the biggest ever fall in living standards, and after a very short recovery, we are now faced with another four years income stagnation for the average earner. Wealth inequality has increased, with the housing crisis fuelling an ever increasing mountain of wealth for the 1%, while thousands of others are locked out of the housing market and subject to scrupulous landlords.
Employment may have increased, but when we scratch beneath the surface it's clear this is often bogus self-employment - those forced to register as self-employed so that employers don't have to give them sick pay or paid holiday leave. The number of people on zero hour contracts has increased by 100,000 in the last year alone, and almost two thirds of children in poverty now live in a household where someone works.
On public services we've seen the slowest ever increases to NHS budgets, and the social care system is in severe crisis. In our schools, headteachers are sending home letters asking parents for donations now that schools face the first real terms cuts in twenty years, with spending per pupil expected to fall 6.5% by 2019-20. Undergraduate students have seen their fees triple from £3k to £9k - with students now owing an average of £44,000 by the time they graduate.
What I find most worrying is the increasingly divisive nature of Conservative rhetoric - previously focused on immigrants, but now accentuating the Leave/Remain Brexit fault line. May's speech yesterday as interpreted by the Daily Mail as her wanting to 'crush the saboteurs' - in other words, those with a different opinion on how Brexit should be executed.
Yes, the direction of travel on so many things is extremely worrying. This election campaign is likely to stray into issues of personality and party theatrics, but it is important we focus on the issues and the facts. Where can the money for our public services come from? What would a progressive Brexit look like? How can we address inequality? What would a sensible immigration policy be? And, above all, how can we move this country in a new direction - towards a cohesive country fit for the challenges of the 21st century? CLASS will be putting forward key statistics and commissioning experts to provide answers to these questions and more.