Austerity: a Cruel and Barmy Experiment

In My View… by Simon Parker of South East Cornwall Labour Party

simonDid you know that if you vote for a political party that states in its manifesto it intends to impose billions of pounds of cuts to public services, there is a good chance that’s what will happen? Of course you do. But it seems there are some out there in Voterland who have not grasped the basic concept of cause and effect. Vote Tory and you get austerity. Simples! Or so you’d think.

I was this week speaking to a relative who clearly fails to understand the connection between placing a cross on a ballot paper and what happens in our hospitals, schools, police stations and – in this case – adult social care departments.

My relative was wondering how he should go about organising some public sector social care for his 93-year-old father. The gent in question isn’t medically ill, just frail and in need of a bit of assistance in order to stay safely and happily in his own, modest, flat. This chap served in the armed forces during the Second World War, worked all his life and – crucially – paid his tax and National Insurance, in the safe knowledge that, when the time came, the state would honour the contract he had entered into: cradle to grave care for all, paid for by direct taxation. That has been the right of everyone in this fair land since the Welfare State was founded by Labour in 1945, and continued until the Tories began stripping it away as part of their cruel and economically-barmy social experiment.

Everyone who voted Conservative in 2010, 2015 and 2017 knew what they were choosing: austerity for the weakest members of society. However, if the statements of my relative are anything to go by, these same people didn’t think austerity would apply to them; they imagined ill health, unemployment, house repossession, old age, happened to others. But as we all know bad luck is no respecter of voting intentions.

“Why is it so hard to access public social care these days?” my relative asked. Simple: because you voted for a party that openly stated it would impose savage cuts to services.

Here in Cornwall, these cuts have been especially damaging. Cornwall Council has seen significant cuts to its central grant funding since austerity began in 2010, with a reduction of around 40% – or £300 million. Think of that figure for a minute: £300 million. What did it buy? Not luxuries, but essential services for those in need. And now those services have vanished – plus another £77m the council has been told to cut over the next four years.

The people who access those services are – in a word – us. So this is a plea, to my Tory-voting relative and to you: if you want to risk being unable to access care should you, or someone you love, become ill or disabled or frail or unemployed or homeless, please go ahead and vote again for the most self-seeking, inept and cruel administration this country has seen in modern times.

If, on the other hand, you believe in the post-war consensus of all political parties until now, that public services should be properly funded through direct taxation, maybe it’s time to reboot your voting habit.

First published in the Cornish Times, 25/01/19

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