As you know, I’m being sparing in my comments at the moment, but I’d like to make a few specific criticisms of where Government and Broxtowe’s local representation is taking us.
- Local hardline policies
Loyalty to Conservative hard-liners is now consistently trumping the public interest. The Conservatives on the County Council voted solidly against Nottinghamshire being one of the counties asking for greater help for social care, even though there is an obvious crisis and plenty of Conservatives elsewhere are among those pressing for action. Instead, the Government is cutting corporation tax on dividends, which is clearly nice for shareholders but not an obvious priority, since we already have one of the lowest rates in the developed world and we really need companies to be investing, not paying out fat dividends.
Meanwhile, Anna Soubry manages in her latest email to write over 500 words on the current crisis in hospitals without addressing the basic issue that under Government policy the NHS is not seen as a sufficient priority. She suggests that more people should go to GPs (following Mrs May’s argument that GPs need to work harder), that it’s our own fault for being too fat (hardly a new phenomenon), that it’s because we’re living longer, and because “systems can be improved”. Sorry, Ms Soubry, the basic new problem is that the Government is not funding the service adequately.
Don’t take my word for it: this is what the people responsible say:
The BMA: “conditions in hospitals across the country are reaching a dangerous level”
The Royal College of Nursing: “NHS conditions are the worst ever”
The Royal College of Physicians:”The NHS is underfunded, under doctored and overstretched”.
We understand that Government funding is tight. But do we think that dividends or health are more important? Dividends, apparently.
Going to the local level, even with something as basic as allowing Stapleford to get a good supermarket is being blocked: the Conservative council won’t allow Aldi to go ahead until they get 10 houses built. Aldi is not a housebuilder so it’s not actually in their power to ensure that the houses are built quickly, but Ms Soubry blandly implies that it’s Aldi’s fault: “With some quick and clever thinking, Aldi can deliver both a great new store and 10 much needed homes. Time to get on with it!” I understand her instinct to be loyal to the Conservative council, however obstructionist, but surely the need for the entire Stapleford community should take first priority over a handful of new houses?
- The Brexit deal and national priorities
There is a fairly clear choice on how to do Brexit – in a limited way that removes us from the EU but keeps our access to the single market, or a zealot way that pulls us out at any cost. Hostage to the most militant Tory backbenchers, Ms May is adopting a set of policies that involves lower public spending, more cuts to corporation tax, reduced employment rights, lower environmental standards, slower wages growth, higher prices and later retirement. This is not in the national interest, and it doesn’t reflect either the small Tory majority in Parliament or a Brexit vote which was as close as 52-48.
The underlying problem here is that the Conservatives feel comfortable with their 10% polling lead and think they can indulge themselves with extreme policies and still win. Labour has a responsibility here to pull itself together, and the last few months have been an improvement on that front though there is still some way to go. But I’d also encourage voters not to create monolithic Conservative representation in the County elections in May: if we are governed by one party at national, county and borough level, we will simply not get sensible, balanced policies. I have an interest here, as I’m standing for Labour in Eastwood, but it’s a point that goes well beyond sheer party allegiance. One-party states do not work well, and we need local representation prepared to challenge the Government.