Political issues for the 2019 election

(1) Brexit

This is, according to the Ipsos Mori monthly poll of political issues, still the most important political issue. However, while it was way above the others at the start of the campaigning period, with two-thirds mentioning Brexit in the first Mori poll, in November Mori found that it had changed and the NHS was seen as almost as important an issue.

Labour are trying to shift the gound on to domestic issues, like the NHS, but it could also be that the advent of the now-annual winter NHS crisis is once again forcing the NHS up the table in prominence.

Brexit is still, but only just about, the most important issue, with 55% of voters rating it as very important.

To see the Ipsos-Mori results, click here:

https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/key-issues.jpg

(2) The NHS

Johnson has promised that spending will be raised for the NHS, to fulfill the 2016 pledge that more money would be available as and when Britain left the EU, which it hasn’t yet. He is also visiting a lot of hospitals as part of his campaign.

Labour fear that a result of Brexit will be further privatisation of the NHS and, through a Trade Treaty with the US, the opening up of the NHS to US pharmaceuticals, with a resulting rise in prices of medicines. Here a GP expresses her concern at what might happen if US-style healthcare as advocated by ERG supporters and Farage comes to Britain.

One concern expressed by NHS trusts is that the NHS would have to pay a lot for US drugs as a price of a trade deal with the US. Read more here.

54% of Ipsos Mori respondents gave the NHS as a very important issue.

(3) Crime, law and order and anti-social behaviour

Law and order is an issue where the Tories usually do well. Johnson has responded by recruiting an extra 20,000 officers. Knife crime is particularly bothering people. In the survey, 32% gave this as an issue of concern, higher than the previous month.

(4) Care for older and disabled people

This has pushed itself up the political agenda in the campaign, with 31% mentioning it as very important.

The “care crisis” has been longstanding now but both major parties are making pitches to increase funding in this till-now very neglected sector. It won’t have escaped notice that age is now one of the most decisive factors in voting, that older people are the most likely to turn out and vote, and around 60% of people over 65 vote Conservative..

(5) Immigration

This is issue was of major importance in the 2016 referendum but slipped back in the period afterwards. However, it has been re-emerging as the parties position themselves on the issue and make criticism of their opponents’ approach. 26% gave this issue as very important.

(6) Education and schools

Like the NHS, this is an issue on which Labout tend to do better. Johnson has increased spending here too. 24% gave education as in their top issues.

(7) Poverty/inequality

24% gave this as one of their top issues, an increased percentage.

Here is one of the most glaring of political issues staring us in the face, rampant and rising inequality. As this article (see link below) says, “Roughly a quarter of national wealth is controlled by the country’s top 1% of rich people, a proportion that has risen inexorably under the policies started by Margaret Thatcher”. At the same time we “have 8 million people living in poverty in families where at least one person is in work, 4 million of them children”. The maldistribution is both in income and wealth, and is also partly concealed offshore. It’s not only unjust. It destabilises our politics because it creates a small group with a vested interest in keeping it that way by manipulating our politics and subverting it. Hence Brexit and the neoliberal agenda behind it. It is also bad economics since excessive wealth at one end that grows also means a counterbalancing increase in poverty at the other end. We last had this sort of maldistribution before WW1 and that era was followed by an era of revolutions. We need a government that commits to reversing this national disgrace. It would also help deal with the discontents that led to Brexit. Read more on this link

Another political issue is the huge level of poverty in the UK, one price being paid for the age of austerity if not that of Thatcherism. Over 14m live in poverty, 4m of whom are children. The UN predicts that by 2022, 40% of the UK population will be in poverty. Apart from it being a massive injustice, when 1% have 21% of the UK’s wealth and the top 10% have 53%, and it is a colossal hardship for many of those concerned, it is also a looming disaster for the country, it is bad economics and it creates a huge unproductive or low productive part of society. Such figures also warn of future unrest such as we’ve not seen before. However, in the main, the poor don’t vote. Will the politicians take action?

(8) Lack of faith in politics

A number of surveys have revealed that faith in politics is very low. In the above-mentioned survey, 21% said it was of concern.

(9) The economy

This was given 26% by the survey, along with 27% for the environment and 21% for housing respectively. In previous elections before the Brexit crisis, the economy would be higher up the list of priorities.

However, the economy is not in a good state. Since the referendum, growth has slowed down and is now flirting with recession, as companies pause investment, skilled people leave the UK and inward migration falls. Consumer spending has so far just helped avert recession.

Worse still, independent experts are pointing to a “black hole” in government finances as it has embarked on a pre-election spending spree on the NHS, education and the police in order to widen its appeal among working class Leave voters. As a result the government is likely to overshoot its deficit target by £16bn. Moreover the autumn budget was cancelled and thus the refused to publish the OBR assessment of government finances. It has a also refused to publish the Treasury assessment of the Johnson deal with the EU.

The Tories are also promising to cut corporate and higher rate taxes, which is likely to worsen the deficit and lead to more austerity measures soon.

This comes after a decade of austerity which has seen a dramatic squeeze in living standards. People in the UK today are, on average, £128 a year poorer than in 2008. Five million UK workers are now in low-paid jobs and facing some form of insecurity at work. Household debt is now higher than it was before the crisis, and a staggering 14 million people live in poverty.

It is in this context that the government proposes to take Britain out of the EU and further squeeze the British economy. Johnson’s deal is estimated by the independent NIESR to take out 4% from the economy by the end of the 2020’s.

Other issues

Democracy

Both sides accuse the each other of abusing, ignoring or undermining democracy.

From a Remain point of view:

Another political issue should be the deliberate undermining of British democracy by Johnson, Cummings, the Vote Leave team and the hard Right that have taken over the Tory party and look set, according to current polling (health warnings apply), to take over the UK. Today we have the deliberate withholding of a Parliamentary report into the Russian connection with the 2016 referendum. We already have evidence of criminality behind the 2016 vote, which has disabled the British state, well reported by Carole Cadwalladr. We also have the attempted prorogation of Parliament to try to muzzle it between 10 and 24 Sept., which the Supreme Court declared unlawful and contrary to the UK constitution. We have Johnson’s blatant attempts to force through his policies without Parliamentary consent. We have somebody as PM who does not respect the rue of law. We should be very concerned about this man being in control of our government. He is plainly not to be trusted. This election should be about protecting our democracy. Will it be?

From a Leave perspective:

The Remainers are ignoring the “will of the people” as expressed in the 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

Foreign affairs

One political issue that doesn’t traditionally grab most voters, but should, is foreign affairs, or rather the steep fall in Britain’s global influence as a result of Brexit. We have gone from a gentle decline (“punching above our weight”) to a sudden, sharp drop that is palpable to all that care to look. For Brexiters that dream of World War 2 glories and empire, our history since that time has been a shedding of empire and a dependence on “the special relationship” in what became a bipolar world of US and Russian hegemony. Yet since the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, rather than the fall of the Soviet Union and the triumph of liberal democracy and the”end of history”, we have shifted to a multipolar world dominated by not just the US but emerging superpowers such as, but not only, China. It might have seemed that Britain, which was retreating to being a middle-sized power, could continue to “punch above its weight” through both the “special relationship” and its role as a major member of the EU. Yet, as Trump pulls apart the post-war international structures, or what’s left of them, and Putin works to weaken Europe from the east, the UK obliges this new multipolar world by pulling out of the EU and thus not only destroying what influence it had but, by extension, damaged, arguably fatally, the structure around it that held at bay the “barbarians” without, to borrow an analogy from the fall of the Roman Empire.  But will this be an issue that will preoccupy and trouble our voters or our politicians?

 

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