After 12 bleak years of various Conservative governments, led by inadequate Prime Ministers, the UK is on its knees. Democracy is under attack like never before; the disaster of Brexit, which has resulted in a catalogue of negatives including social polarization, isolationism and rabid tribalism.
Years of grinding austerity, underinvestment in public services, frozen wages and staggering levels of incompetence have culminated in the unmitigated mess we see before us: A country in terminal decline, poverty growing, inequality entrenched, and to cap it all The Wicked Witch of the raving Right, Liz Truss, has now been elected leader of the Conservatives, and, as they are in office, the new Prime Minister. A totally undemocratic electoral process, but hey, ‘that’s the way it’s always been’.
She was voted in, in a country of around 69 million people, by 81,326 (57.4% of the total gaggle) Conservative members. A tiny group, overwhelmingly old, posh, white, male, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-environment – pro-fossil fuels, backward-looking nationalists. A crazy bunch operating within a dysfunctional system that, like much of the UK parliamentary structure and the primordial electoral model, desperately needs reforming.
The revolting campaign rhetoric spouted by Truss, was we hoped, just that, ranting rhetoric aimed solely at the conservative golf club nobs. Alas, in her first pronouncements as PM, surrounded by baying Tory sycophants, it was clear that Truss lives not in the real world at all, but in a crumbling castle for one, built on a foundation of Neo-Liberal doctrine, situated further to the right than any UK Prime-Minister in recent years.
Despite decades of disappointment, whenever a new PM/government takes office, naivety gives rise to a prickle of optimism: surely now things will improve, surely social justice will be prioritized, peace and environmental action imperatives. Well, PM Truss swiftly crushed any such childish hopes with her first speech in parliament and her wooden responses during Prime Minister’s Questions. Arrogance masquerading as certainty imbued every cruel statement of policy intent, and, as opposition parties shook their heads in disbelief, people around the country, millions of whom are struggling to pay rising energy bills and increased food prices, were again crushed.
Truss, her cabinet, and thanks to a purge of moderate voices undertaken by Boris Johnson to quieten dissent, most, if not all of the parliamentary party, is now firmly wedded to an extreme version of Neo-Liberalism and the failed doctrine of Trickle Down economics. After forty years of most boats being sunk by the rising tide, the Ideology of Injustice has been shown to deepen inequality, intensify poverty and further concentrate wealth in the pockets of The Already Wealthy.
In addition to economic plans designed to benefit corporations and, by her own admission, intensify inequality (‘I’m not interested in re-distribution’ she told the BBC), she plans to increase military spending, allow global energy companies to restart gas extraction in the North Sea, end the moratorium on fracking and abolish green levies, which are used to fund energy efficiency and renewable electricity. She despises labor rights and the Trades Union movement, peaceful public protest and immigrants, all of which she is threatening to criminalize or clutter with so much bureaucracy as to make such human rights unenforceable.
Her policies, dogmatism and the doctrine that underpin them are, in many ways, terrifying. And with the suspension of parliament and consequently, any form of scrutiny, resulting from the death of The Queen, there is a danger, or for her, an opportunity, that she attempts to introduce legislation under cover of national mourning. If Truss and her gang get their way, the limited form of democracy that exists in the UK will become a distant memory, rather as ethics and honesty in public office, compassion and honoring international commitments have in recent years.
The list of national crises that the Truss government inherits, most if not all of which she had a grubby hand in causing, is long, and growing. As is public anger. It is a list resulting from ideological obsession, gross incompetence and absenteeism.
The National Health Service (NHS) is in crisis – years of underfunding, lack of training and Brexit, which saw thousands of NHS workers from Europe leave the UK, have led to around 135,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nurses and over 8,000 doctors in England alone. The service has the longest waiting lists for routine treatments on record; if you dial 999 for and ambulance, it could be hours, or in extreme cases days before it arrives. Social care is dysfunctional; there is a housing crisis, property prices are sky high, rents are unaffordable, tenancies offer no security homelessness is increasing – according to Government figures, “between January to March 2022, 74,230 households were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness,” up 5.4% in the same period in 2021, a further 38,000 were regarded as at “risk of homelessness”.
Inflation is at 10.1% and rising, recession predicted, poverty booming. Thousands of people/families (many of whom are in full-time employment) rely on food banks for basic supplies – over two million people visited a food bank last year, and this doesn’t include independent providers – local charities, churches etc. Ten years ago food banks barely existed in the UK, now there are estimated to be 2,572, and constitute a growth area. (…)
Wages for most people in the UK have been effectively frozen for years; and now, with rising inflation income is reducing in value, economic hardship intensifying, fury rising. Unions, which have been greatly weakened in the last thirty years through restrictive legislation have rediscovered their courage and purpose, and in response to members demands have organised strikes in a number of areas…
- UK: Fragmentation and Decline Under Conservative Rule – by Graham Peebles – counterpunch.org, 19 sep 2022.