We have a “right to be angry”, but who should be the true focus of our discontent?
by Matt Coot
Before you start reading this article, I just want to tell you that I am sincerely trying to find positive things to write about the Conservative Party. I know my blog seems to be full of articles that are clearly anti-Tory. The reason of this is a simple one: I keep being angered or disgusted by Tory policy and actions. I will, one day, write a pro-Tory article. Today is not that day.
So here’s my story… I am twenty-nine years old. When I was sixteen, I started a part-time job alongside my sixth form studies. When I moved to Bath for university, I continued working part-time. When I left university, I moved home to live with my parents. I also started a full-time position in a school. After one year and three months, I was promoted. I started to rent a one bed house in my hometown. After a year, I gave in to the financial pressures and moved back in with my parents. I left the job at the school and started my own business. After six months, I decided that I would need part-time employment whilst I was building up the business to make sure I was financially stable. I started working part-time in a higher than National Living Wage job. I am still living with my parents because I cannot afford to rent, let alone afford to own a property.
Theresa May has said that the young have a “right to be angry” about the lack of homes. Throughout her speech, which was about new reforms to planning rules, the prime minister focused the blame upon developers, builders, and councils. She has also called the rise in rough sleeping a “source of national shame”. But who can we blame for all this? Who can we be angry at? Is she right to focus her blame elsewhere?
Recently I wrote two articles about the United Kingdom being a Country in Crisis. Within these articles, I wrote about the housing crisis and the rise of people sleeping rough.
The “source of national shame”
As I argued in those articles, the data clearly shows a correlation between the Conservatives being in government and the rise of people sleeping rough. There has also been a substantial rise of people living in poverty in the UK, again with a strong correlation between the rise and the Conservatives being in government. So who is to blame for this “source of national shame”?
The Prime Minister’s speech, when discussing the rise of rough sleepers, seemed to focus on mental health, alcoholism, and drug use. To me, this seems like May is using subtle mentions of these issues as subconscious psychological manipulations to reinforce the stigma that surrounds rough sleepers. In other words, suggesting that the blame of these people sleeping rough was their own. This distracts from the real reason we have higher numbers of rough sleepers. Then again, perhaps I am being too cynical and seeing the bad side to everything. Maybe the in-depth study of speechwriting during my university studies as made me far too cynical. Or, perhaps I’m seeing through the despicable tactics of the Tories.
May said that the Tories were “spending record levels on mental health support”, but the truth is, we have seen massive losses of mental health nurses. There are people who need mental health support, who have to wait months – sometimes years – for sufficient support. I should know, I’m one of them. But don’t just take my word for it, The Guardian have released a result of one of their investigations today, showing that 271 most vulnerable mental health patients have died after 706 failings by health bodies during 2012 and 2017. As The Guardian states, “Bodies such as the Commons health select committee, NHS Providers, mental health staff organisations and charities have warned that NHS services have too few staff. There are 6,000 fewer mental health nurses in England than in 2010 and the number psychiatrists for children and adolescents is also falling”. Also, analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, experts in the field, show that the income of mental health trusts is lower than six years ago. This is because of inflation. In this analysis, it is suggested that funding is, in real terms, £105 million lower than five years ago.
To state that the Conservative government is improving mental health support is a lie. I do not say this lightly, but the facts speak for themselves: mental health support is not being funded sufficiently. Therefore, the fault of the rise of people sleeping rough who have mental health issues, the “47% of rough sleepers” in London (how very London-centric of the PM), well, that rise is the fault of this government failing the people of this country.
As for alcoholism and drug use, I would first of all like to disagree with how these issues have been separated from mental health issues. Addiction is a mental health illness. The separation of these issues from mental health in this speech is something that I fear is strategic in nature. You see, the use of mentioning these issues is blatantly to stir up stigmatism and ignorance amongst those listening. They are used to blame the rough sleeper, which is disgusting. The speech states that the Tories are trying to help these matters, but, to me, the only reason they brought these topics up is because they are aware of the stigmatism that surrounds some people’s perception of rough sleepers, and this stigmatism distracts people from blaming the government. Well, it doesn’t distract me.
I’m going to use a phrase that Prime Minister Theresa May seems to like to use. This country has “record levels” of rough sleepers on the streets of the UK and this has been a rise that has occurred since the Tories got into government in 2010. Coincidence? No. The poorer are getting poorer. Poverty is on the rise, as is homelessness. Who is to blame for this “source of national shame”? Perhaps Mrs May would like to look in a mirror. Perhaps the blame is clearly that of the Conservative government.
“Incredible work in tackling failings”
Going back to the housing crisis, how can the Prime Minister think that anyone is going to agree that the Secretary of State for Housing, Sajid Javid,
and the ministerial team “are doing incredible work in tackling failings at every level of the housing sector” when reports show that Javid returned £72 million of unspent funds that had been allocated for affordable housing? This massive sum was returned because it was “no longer required”. Along with this, £329 million, which was allocated for the Starter Homes project (to help first time buyers), was returned because the entire project was scrapped. That’s just over £400 million unspent by Sajid Javid and his team, which could have been spent on improving the situation for the people that Theresa May highlighted in her speech. This isn’t the first time though, as in 2016/2017, Javid was responsible for returning £220 million, which had been allocated for the “Affordable Homes Programme”, and £50 million, which had been allocated for Starter Homes. So that’s £400 million in 2017/2018, and £270 million in 2016/2017. A total of £670,000,000 that could have been spent on providing housing for the millions of people who are unable to buy their own home. Instead, it was wasted by the government. Is the Secretary of State for Housing doing an “incredible job”? The facts speak for themselves. Sajid Javid is failing this country and is exacerbating the housing crisis.
It is also interesting that the Prime Minister’s speech discussed how the stream-lined planning process under these new reforms will mean that “much-needed homes aren’t held up by endless appeals and bureaucracy”. In January, Sajid Javid spoke upon a similar theme of developments being held up by “NIMBY” (Not In My BackYard) councils, “if you are NIMBY, the government is not going to be your friend”. Except Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, is a consistent NIMBY campaigner, in his home constituency, in 2012, 2015, and 2016. Altogether, he protested against 3,275 new homes. The hypocrisy of those in government would be astounding, if it wasn’t expected from this government.
Theresa May said in her speech that “we cannot fulfil that dream, we cannot bring about the kind of society I want to see, unless we tackle one of the biggest barriers to social mobility we face today”. She said that the “biggest barrier” was the housing crisis, but isn’t it time we face facts and accept that the “biggest barrier” to this country being a “fairer place for all”, is in fact the Conservative Party? When will we open our eyes and say ‘no more’ to the biggest barrier of them all?
To sum up this article, and the last few articles written about UK political and social issues, I would like to show precisely what the Conservative Party have been responsible for:
- Exacerbating the housing crisis by refusing to spend £670 million on affordable housing and reducing 44,000 council homes;
- 59000 families in temporary accommodation;
- Rough sleeping risen by 169% since 2010;
- A rise of companies entering insolvency putting thousands of jobs at risk;
- Rising numbers of unemployed people, resulting in 1.47 million unemployed by the end of 2017;
- A struggling NHS with an upcoming funding gap of £30 billion in 2020;
- Risking the Good Friday Agreements with a stubborn approach to negotiating Brexit with the European Union;
- No more free school meals for the one million children in poverty;
- 500 children’s centres forced to close due to cash-strapped councils;
- Funding for children’s centres halved since 2010;
- At least 478 libraries, and 140 mobile libraries, have been closed since 2010. Those libraries who have survived the cull has had a reduction in resources and staffing;
- Attempting to disenfranchise a quarter of the electorate, focusing on those who oppose them.
There is much more than just these issues. There is much more out there that we can uncover, if we only choose to look.
It is my heartfelt belief that the Tories are betraying this nation. The Tories have failed so many people in this country and forced them into dreadful circumstances. Now should be the time when we say ‘no more’.