Saturday, 9 May 2015

5 Reasons To Be Worried About The Next 5 Years


He's done it. David William Donald Cameron and the Tory party have successfully gained a majority in a shock result to an election that was hyped up to be the closest in recent memory. Much of the country will of course be celebrating, but perhaps Britain should be cautious about how these next 5 years of Conservative government (potentially more) will pan out to be. Here are 5 major causes concern for Cameron's next term in government.


EU 
A significant point of discussion over the next couple of years will certainly be that of Britain's European Union membership. Cameron and the Conservatives, influenced no doubt by the wind of Euroskepticism on the right (à la Nigel Farage), have pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership by 2017. Of course, the public could vote yes and perhaps little will change, but should a no vote be the result, we could see some devastating results.

3,445,000 British jobs are dependent upon exports to the European Union, and many of these will come under threat as a result of the decrease in trade with the EU that an independent Britain would experience.. Of course trade with EU countries would not totally cease should Britain leave the EU, but we would become a far less attractive trade partner if we could not be a part of the EU trade concessions programme. As a non-EU country, it would cost more for France, Germany and the rest of Europe to trade with us; making us a less attractive trade partner. Furthermore, the price of our imports from Europe would be very likely to increase.

Cameron's consideration of an EU exit poses a real threat to the Britain, not just economically but socially. Britain enjoys numerous privileges as a result of its EU membership- such as the freedom of movement it grants and the advantages it brings for students wishing to study abroad. And let's not forget the clout of the EU on the global stage. We are no longer the Empire that the Sun never sets on- Britain would lose a great deal of global prominence should it leave the European Union.

Green Troubles
The Tories don't have the greatest record on Green energy, and it seems that environmentally the next five years may not be all rosy for Britain. David Cameron's reported remarks from 2 years ago that he wanted to get rid of the "green crap" that are the green levies on energy bills pretty much sums up the party's attitude to the environment.

Goodbye Wind Power- hello Fracking?
The Conservative Party Manifesto, however, tells us more about the energy policy Cameron seeks to pursue in office. Despite the party's pledge to invest in green energies that "represent value for money", plans to scrap subsidies for onshore wind farms (the cheapest form of carbon-neutral energy) are soon to go forward. The controversial fracking program is also to continue, despite the possibility it brings of contaminating water supplies and also releasing harmful methane and ozone gases.

Britain has seen terrible flooding problems in the past years, and many have claimed this to be partly attributable to a lack of spending on the part of the government building sustainable flood defences. Despite, this, the Conservative government have already cut spending on flood defences, and are seeking to further minimise spending on the flood issue in their next term- meaning parts of Britain are likely to suffer hugely yet again next time the flooding comes.

Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts
A signature of post-Thathcher Conservatism, we will undoubtedly see in the coming years a series of ruthless cuts made to government spending made in the name of streamlining the economy, reducing dependency on the government and cutting this 'deficit' that Chancellor George Osbourne has often milked for political points in the past 5 years.

In the past 5 years, many of the governments' austerity plans (such as scrapping housing benefits for young people) have been opposed and thus halted (or at least watered down) by the presence of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition.

With the Conservatives now in command of a majority in the House of Commons rather than being in coalition, they hold almost total autonomy over government policy. Now, they are set to go on an aggressive slimming down of public spending, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility, with a 'rollercoaster ride' of £30bn of cuts lined up for the next five years.

These cuts include a reduction of the annual benefits cap by £3k to £23,000 and a removal of the youth housing benefits (the ones eanumber of food bank users doubling to 2 million a year.
rlier mentioned, that the Lib Dems prevented being passed through). In total, the Conservatives have £12bn of welfare spendings cuts planned out that will hit the working class, poorest of society almost exclusively. The impact will be devastating: an Oxford University study claims this £12bn of social welfare cuts will result in the

Austerity arguably doesn't even work- the Economic Policy Institute (see graph) are just one of numerous organisations that have highlighted that Austerity impedes economic growth. That's primarily because austerity increases poverty, meaning demand is also shot down. Think of economic growth as a table, supported by consumer spending. Squeezing the public squeezes consumer spending, effectively chopping of the legs of the table and leading the whole thing to collapse.

'Flexible Hours'
The government have claimed to reduced unemployment during their last five years in office, which is in fact true: but as with most things, when it comes to jobs quality is just as important as quantity. According to the ONS, between October and December 2014, 697,000 people were working on 'zero-hour contracts'- a highly controversial form of employment in which there is no guarantee whatsoever of the employee being able to work a certain number of hours. People have often described turning up to work to find out they aren't needed, before having to head back home for a day without pay.

The uncertainty of a zero-hour contract creates problems for workers- not only does it waste time that could be spent being productive, but it creates huge instability for families that are most likely already riding the poverty line. It leaves hundreds of thousands of people unsure whether they will be able to afford their housing, their heating for the winter, or even their food.

Labour promised to put a ban to zero-hour contracts, and so did the Tories. Well, kind of- Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory Work and Pensions Secretary promised simply a paltry rebranding, to call them 'flexible hours'. So on this front we will see change- but unfortunately where it really matters to the poorest in Britain the status quo will continue under the Conservatives. 

A Government Run for the Wealthy, By The Wealthy
Amidst all the cuts that will devastate the poorest in British society, the following 5 years will probably be rather rosy for the upper-middle and upper class of British society.
£1.2bn could have been raised by a 'Mansion Tax' that would increase the contribution of the wealthiest to society, but it was ignored by the Tories, who chose to instead tax people on welfare with spare rooms in their house. This is just one of the many examples of the Conservative Party working for the wealthy elite, against the interests of the impoverished in Britain, those who really need the government's help.

This is where we come to the National Health Service, where perhaps the Conservatives will have the most devastating effect. Areas of the cherished national institution are already losing funds and being privatised. In the past five years, payments from the government to the NHS for each patient that is treated has been cut in effect by 10%, leading to problems that have already arisen such as a lack of beds and the infamous A&E waiting times. The government's response to this is, rather than taking the blame, often to criticise these areas of the NHS and push for their sale to private 'more efficient' hands. Just in the past month, the Tories signed off a £780m sale to a group of private companies that with dubious past records. 

Take one of these companies, Vanguard, that was previously given the responsibility for eye treatments in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton. The contract was terminated just 4 days after beginning, with HALF of the 60 patients it had treated facing post-treatment complications as severe as a complete loss of sight

This highlights the illusion that private companies provide the best results for the consumer. Of course, this is indeed often the case (no one would argue to nationalise Apple, for example), but health is a completely different ball game. As is clear in the United States, a profit-driven health sector is against the public's interests, but it is indeed in the interests of those big businesses that these services are handed to. 

And these are just a few of the results of the Tory squeeze on the NHS. Between 2010 and December 2014, 4000 nurses had lost their jobs. Those who haven't lost their jobs to the cuts have seen their pay frozen for a number of years. For the patients and the staff of the NHS, the next few years are not looking rosy. 




Mohammad Lone Editor