Why top election issues for voters won’t be tackled
By TruePublica: Just before last months general election, the British public thought Brexit was the number one issue that needed to be dealt with. In fact, 68 per cent of the electorate had Brexit in their top three areas of concern. Healthcare came second, crime was third, the economy fourth and the environment next. But as we enter 2020 with an emboldened government what can we realistically expect? As it turns out, not much.
The election message was clear and unambiguous. “Get Brexit done.” It was repeated on posters, adverts, aprons, T-shirts. It was printed wherever there was a space and splashed all over social media. The challenge now is to fulfil that promise. But can Johnson really pull that off and get a good deal. No-one really thinks so.
Quite bafflingly, after all this time, Britain doesn’t have a proper structure for negotiating a trade deal with the EU. There are no specialised teams up and running yet, no guarantee of who will be in charge of each different bit, or how power will be devolved and then used. To the contrary, the EU has quite probably the most skilled and efficient trade negotiators in the world. Right now we have no idea what sort of trading relationship Boris Johnson wants with Europe, and what sort of compromises is he prepared to make? If he does a deal in time, it won’t be good. If he doesn’t – it won’t be good. And right now, the universal opinion from the experts is a no form of Brexit will be good for the country and that in all likelihood Britain with crash out. We don’t even know this crucial question – Is Britain going to pivot towards America and away from Europe or broadly speaking side with Europe?
The new government is prioritising the NHS – that was made abundantly clear in the Queen’s Speech unveiled the week before Christmas and all sorts of promises have been made from money to staffing.
Undoubtedly the most high-profile problems are two-fold – and the ones used by critics to beat the Tories have been the deterioration in waiting times and the scale of nursing staff needed – 50,000 to be precise.
It is now more than three years since any of the three key targets covering A&E, hospital operations and cancer have been met. So will the government come good on its promises? Well, despite the Tory party promises from 2015 that there will be no more privatisation on their watch – £15 billion of contracts were awarded outside the NHS. Analysis shows that almost two-thirds of NHS contracts by value have gone to the private sector in the last four years and that their total yearly value has almost doubled since then. As for promises about employing 50,000 new nurses, that completely fell apart when it was found their plans were to stop over 20,000 leaving the service and even then, they only really meant after another ten years. Don’t expect improvements any time soon.
Boris Johnson promised to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers in his first speech as Prime Minister. Channel4 News FactChecked him extensively on the issue of police strength when he was Mayor of London.
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On one occasion he announced a drive to recruit 5,000 new constables for the Met Police – without mentioning that the Met expected to lose that number of officers through natural wastage so all Mr Johnson was committing to was replacing the ones who left. This sets the tone of this latest election promise.
First, the 20,000 new officers commitment will simply cancel out previous cuts and get us back to 2010 levels. Next, the population has increased by 3.5 million since 2010 and the entire police service including backroom staff has, in fact, fallen by 40,000. So if 20,000 more police officers appeared but no other members of the police workforce numbers were employed they would still be considerably down on 2010 and have little support to help them anyway. Expect no real changes for years to come, especially in rising crime numbers.
The UK has entered 2020 with its economy in “stagnation”, amid long-term uncertainty and rising business costs, according to a new report.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its research suggested “protracted weakness” across the economy, affecting firms in manufacturing and services. Fears of the economy stagnating or falling into recession rose after Boris Johnson revived business fears of a no-deal Brexit by ruling out any extension of talks on a future trade deal with the EU beyond the end of this year.
Very few experts think a good deal with the EU can be hammered out in just one year, where the average length of negotiations across trade deals has taken seven years. Ultimately, this failure to do a deal means the UK crashing out on unfavourable World Trade Organisation terms. The other option is simply taking a deal from the EU with many compromises.
The BCC’s survey of more than 6,400 businesses, covering the final quarter of 2019, highlighted an even worsening picture in the services sector, which accounts for almost 80 per cent of economic output.
All of the sector’s key indicators worsened compared to the previous quarter, remaining well below their historic average. And the balance of manufacturers reporting a rise in export and domestic orders was negative for the second consecutive quarter – the first time this has happened since 2009 and 2011 respectively. Foreign inward investment into Britain has all but collapsed, which will reduce productivity and ultimately reduce employment. Expect the economy after three years of uncertainty to continue to stagnate. Do not expect sunny uplands.
“The BJ government will prioritize ‘easy win’ progress on ‘buzz’ issues for solidifying their core support – by cracking down on immigration, locking up criminals for longer, fixing a few million potholes in roads, and flying the flag on some allegedly ‘low risk’ military adventure overseas.”
The UK is on track to miss a whole range of environmental targets in the early 2020s, including many that are legally binding and come from the EU, according to an analysis by Unearthed and the Financial Times.
In a decade that saw David Cameron promise to lead “the greenest government ever” and Theresa May pledge to “leave the environment in a better state than we found it”, and Boris Johnson promise to “do extraordinary things on the environment”, the data tells a different story.
The analysis of performance against existing targets comes amidst uncertainty over the future of the UK’s environmental regulation.
Boris Johnson recently scrapped a commitment to meet EU environmental standards post-Brexit. The change to Theresa May’s deal mean that though EU standards have already been transposed into UK legislation many could be undone in future.
Tom West, UK environment lead at Clientearth, told Unearthed that: “without a separate binding obligation not to row back from existing environmental standards, there is a risk that the government could relax commitments relatively easily, in the future. That’s why we need a legal commitment to non-regression on environmental standards in primary legislation.”
Moreover, the oversight role of the EU Commission and courts will cease to exist at the end of the transition period.
A combination of the financial crisis, austerity and the Brexit vote has meant that the UK population is still 1.6% poorer than it was a decade ago, equal to £128 per person, according to new analysis from the New Economics Foundation (NEF). This is despite the official statistics suggesting average living standards returned to 2008 levels in 2015. The analysis shows that the official statistics do not bear out the lived experience in the economy.
The analysis from NEF finds that the collapsing value of the pound signified consumer prices outstripping output prices three times: in 1992 after the UK left the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), after the 2008 financial crisis, and after the Brexit vote in 2016. Today, GBP is trading at around USD1.31, in June 2015 is was USD1.56.
Alfie Stirling, Head of Economics at the New Economics Foundation, said:” here is a danger that economists and commentators alike are missing the wood for the trees – agonising over whether we’ve fallen back into technical recession while for the majority of people, the lived experience still does not reflect an economy that is working for them.”
Almost all economists are predicting worse to come with Brexit. No-one is predicting an upsurge of renewed confidence in healthcare, crime-fighting or new protective legislation for the environment. In fact here are Sixteen reasons to expect just another, ‘standard-issue’ Tory government from the London School of Economics who conclude that this government will:
“prioritize ‘easy win’ progress on ‘buzz’ issues for solidifying their core support – by cracking down on immigration, locking up criminals for longer, fixing a few million potholes in roads, and flying the flag on some allegedly ‘low risk’ military adventure overseas. The Johnson government is thus overwhelmingly likely to resemble its Tory predecessors.”