The UK General Election 2017

This is a talk I was hoping to give at Earth Cafe in Plymouth on 29-Apr-2017.

Unfortunately, in the event it wasn't possible to speak there.

10 minute read.

On the 8th of June we have the most important general election of my lifetime. I was born in 1963 so I was just too young to vote in 1979, when Thatcher took the Tories into power and started a new and terrible era in British politics. We had 18 years of Tory savagery, during which they dismantled whole industries, privatised all our utilities, suppressed Unions and removed humans rights, worker’s rights, tenant’s rights.

This election threatens a return to that destruction. If they gain a majority they will be difficult to remove. They already plan boundary changes that will give them an even bigger advantage in the future. They have changed voter registration laws to make it harder for many people to vote, mostly the sort of people who don’t vote Tory. They will entrench their position.

We need to stop them.

What is at stake?

The Destruction of the NHS

Since 1945 the NHS has provided health care, free to all in the UK. It is the largest employer in Europe and provides some of the most cost effective health care in the world. Yet it is under attack.

Funding cuts in the NHS have led to a crisis. Training bursaries have been removed, leading to a massive fall in the numbers of nurses applying. Attacks on nurses and doctors have led to the first strikes in the health service decades. Overworked and underpaid health workers are being put under increasing pressure. GPs are leaving in droves. Front line services are being starved of funding, services are being cut, hospitals are being closed, surgeries are being closed. Waiting times are up, bed numbers, already some of the lowest in Europe per capita, are being cut.

Services have been contracted out on an unprecedented scale to predatory companies like Branson’s Virgin Health. Half of all firms linked to health care privatisation have links to the Tory party. Many Tory MPs profit personally from health privatisation. The Heath Minister, Jeremy Hunt, even co-authored a book on the privatisation of the NHS. The NHS is not safe in their hands.

Their aim is the sell the NHS off to their rich mates. The result will be a destruction of the NHS as we know it and a move to the US system of healthcare. The US healthcare system is the most expensive in the world, providing huge profits for companies, but has the worst outcomes of any Western economy. If you are rich you pay through the nose. If you are poor you die. Simple as that. Health care costs are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.

We must preserve the NHS. The only way we can do that is by removing the Tories from power.

Housing is in crisis

Housing costs have risen sharply, so called ‘affordable’ homes are out of the reach of most people. Unless you are rich or inherit money, most people can’t afford to buy a home. Social housing is still being sold off, the supply has been massively reduced since the 1970s. The Tories have been trying to force the sale of Housing Association homes. More and more people are being pushed into the unregulated and expensive private rental sector.

The housing crisis is not an accident, but the result of deliberate government policy. Thatcher’s Government in the 1980s took away tenant’s rights, removed rent caps, sold off council homes and prevented the building of new council houses. On the financial side they deregulated the banks and created a credit boom, resulting in spiralling house prices.

Decent housing is a fundamental right, but as long as housing is treated as an investment and not a home, the crisis will continue.

The spiralling costs of housing benefit are directly related to these increased costs. If social housing was publicly owned, as it used to be, we wouldn’t have this problem. Currently it is just another way of transferring public money into the hands of private landlords.

There is a solution. We can simply reverse the Tory changes. Re-introduce tenant’s rights, introduce rent caps, regulate landlords, tax second homes and rental earnings and most importantly build more homes, especially publicly owned homes.

The Environment is at stake

The Tories are ideologically opposed to environmental protection. They believe in unfettered market forces.

More than half the jobs in the renewable energy industry have been lost under the Tories, around 18,000 jobs. They have blocked the building of on-shore wind farms, the cheapest form of renewable energy. They have slashed renewable energy tariffs and imposed taxes on schools and businesses who have invested in solar energy. Instead they continue to subsidise the Oil and Gas industries. We urgently need low carbon energy, but they oppose it every step of the way.

Another example of an environmental issue; Air Quality.

The UK has a terrible problem with air quality. A Royal College of Physicians report last year estimates that 40,000 deaths each year, in the UK, are attributable to air pollution. Yet the UK government has consistently opposed controls on air quality. I find this depressing as I co-authored a report in 1995 that highlighted the role of diesel fumes in these preventable deaths. It is something we’ve known about for a long time, yet nothing has been done. The Government was taken to court last week over its failure to publish a DEFRA report into air pollution.

The Tories want to scrap environmental regulations. We need to scrap the Tories.

Education is at stake

The Tories are planning £3Bn in cuts to the education budget. They are pushing divisive Grammar Schools while starving funding to state schools. The cuts will mean larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and a poorer education for all. For all that is, except the very rich.

Teachers are stressed, work long hours but are attacked and undermined by the Government.

There is a web site you can use to see the cuts planned in your area.

I could also talk about transport, foreign policy, arms sales to oppressive regimes, the state spying on citizens, Brexit, the countless ways that the Tories threaten both world peace and stability, the environment, and the quality of life for people here and abroad. They are damaging to your health and they are damaging to the planet’s health.

What can you do?

Firstly : make sure you are registered to vote.

The closing date for registration is 22nd May. Make sure your voice is heard. If you have no vote, you have no representation.

It is easy to register online.

Secondly : Vote tactically.

In the UK we have the first-past-the-post electoral system. It is notoriously unfair and unrepresentative and ensures the dominance of some parties while preventing any representation for minority parties. We need a better and fairer system, but for this election the only sensible strategy is to use tactical voting.

Voting tactically means voting for the party most likely to beat the Tories in your area. In Plymouth that means voting Labour. In other constituencies that will vary. But remember that the Lib Dems propped up the Cameron Government that gave us their failed austerity experiment.

And Finally: Talk to your friends and family. Use social media. Get the word out. It is essential that we vote the Tories out.

Resources :