Opinion: The Government is setting Britain up for failure
Shadow Trade and International Development Secretary _KnowYourPlace_ writes for the Guardian.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Guardian.
With the delivery of the Queen’s speech just yesterday, the nation was given it’s clearest glimpse yet of what it is in for in the coming parliamentary term. Things do not look promising. The government made little or no mention of key issues that are negatively affecting our nation such as long term underinvestment in infrastructure projects, sluggish productivity growth, the conundrum regarding the Northern Irish border, sub-par primary and secondary educational standards, massive cuts to police, rising crime, and a perpetually underfunded NHS. The Government will deny this, of course, and point to the small portions that they have pledged to throw in the direction of these issues. They are wrong to do so. A dollar here for the NHS or a dollar here for education does not in the slightest begin to solve the ginormous issues that these institutions, and by extension, the nation, face.
Let us start with infrastructure. The Government made absolutely zero mention of infrastructure throughout the entire Queen’s speech. Despite the fact that many economists believe that the U.K. needs several billion more dollars in infrastructure spending over the next decade, the Government apparently has no plan to make such an investment. This is scandalous. We know that infrastructure investment helps to create good paying jobs while also increasing the productive potential of the economy in the long run. Even official government estimates in the past have shown that there are numerous infrastructure projects that have benefit to cost ratios of over 3 that are sitting waiting to be built. It appears that these projects will have to wait longer still, until a Labour or, indeed, a TLC coalition takes over and has the opportunity to make the proper investments in infrastructure that this nation needs.
Moving on to policing, we find a stunning lack of care on the part of the Government. While the Government did promise in the Queen’s speech to increase funding to PCSO’s, they made no mention of increases in funds to non-civilian police forces, who’s funding levels are still well below pre-recession levels. Even more damning, the government has made no commitment whatsoever to rehire the over 10,000 police officers who were sacked from 2009 to 2014. This Government and its members have been complicit in allowing crime to rise and its victims to multiply due to a lack of uniformed officers. They apparently intend to continue this policy for the next term.
With regards to productivity growth, we have already seen the inaction on the part of the Government. At a time when our universities need funding increases, our public educational system is in desperate need of reform, and private companies need further tax credits to continue research, the government offers them nothing but its half-hearted sympathy. For decades now, and especially since the financial crisis, the United Kingdom has suffered greatly from low rates of productivity growth. This sluggish growth is important since productivity growth is closely and causally tied to income growth and standard of living increases. While numerous institutions and economists have been calling for increased public investment to combat this productivity crisis for years, the Government seems content to completely ignore this issue. Perhaps they are planning further cuts to productivity enhancing British institutions and programs that have helped this nation so much in the past and the present. Perhaps they are simply negligent. Whatever the case, the TLC and Labour stand ready to oppose any Tory cuts to infrastructure, healthcare, R&D, education, and other vital public investments which our economic health depends on.
When it comes to one of the prides of our country, the NHS, the government offers no broad, ambitious plan of reform or increased investment as the TLC and Labour do, but instead promise only to decrease waiting times for transgender patients who are seeking hormonal therapy and other related measures. While this commitment is certainly welcome by all on the opposition benches, it must be made clear that it is simply not enough. Our current hospitals are severely underfunded, not to mention the fact that we actually need more hospitals to be built across the country, especially in rural areas. While our nurses and doctors work overtime to make up for Tory austerity, the Conservatives, yet again, seem content with their own negligence. The healthcare workers of Britain are facing a bleak next few years as they will only see their resource shortage problems grow greater and greater under this radical right wing government.
Last but most certainly not least, is the issue of Brexit. The parties in government have a less than stellar track record when it comes to this issue. They have supported the most extreme of Brexits, the type that will cause maximum harm to the British economy, society, culture, and standing in the world with the smallest possible gain. The Queen’s speech made clear that this government has plans to continue charging full speed toward the cliffside. The Government promises to make up for lost trade with Europe by vaguely promising to seek trade deals elsewhere. They also promise to present a solution to the Northern Irish border question by pledging to, in a stroke of brilliance, sign a treaty! What a marvelous idea! How could no one have thought of any of this before? We spend all this time pontificating on about details and consequences when the government have decided to wisk our problems away with a bit of ink and a prayer. I, for one, will not be holding out much hope for the Government’s detail-starved “plans” to save us from the disaster that is Brexit.
In the end, the only thing we truly learned from the Queen’s speech is to expect another several years’ worth of austerity and national decline. As the economy sputters and jobs are lost; as respect for Britain internationally falls to lower and lower marks; as cherished British institutions crumble due to lack of care; the British people will begin to ask themselves what the root cause of this malaise is. The answer, shamefully, will come when someone points a finger at Westminster and it’s government.
Written by _KnowYourPlace_ for the Guardian.