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The Tories’ general election campaign is coming apart at the seams. The dementia tax blew up in their face; cuts to the state pension have taken chunks out of their traditional voter base; and cuts to security services, carried out during Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary, have come back to haunt them after a series of terror attacks exposed the under-resourced state of Britain’s police.
But their humiliation reached a new high on Sunday when Peter Kirkham, a former Senior Investigating Officer for the Met, was asked by Sky News about government claims that there are more police on streets. His answer was emphatic: “No. There are not. People that are alleging that are lying.” Asked for clarification as to whether this meant that the government and the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, were lying, Kirkham confirmed this without hesitation.
Even Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s Director of Strategy, is now calling for Theresa May to resign.
Public service crisis
Throughout her election campaign, Theresa May has appeared extremely awkward when addressing the public – something like a malfunctioning robot. She has also refused to take part in any genuine debate amongst the leaders… so much for strong and stable!
But can we really blame her for being so evasive? When she has engaged with the public, she has been met with huge anger. Workers from a multitude of backgrounds – firefighters, teachers, head-teachers, support workers, paramedics, nurses, doctors, police officers, prison officers, librarians, administrative staff, job coaches, court workers, revenue inspectors… the list goes on – are quick to highlight the Tories’ atrocious track-record in the provision of often life-saving public services.
Yet her response each time is the same: “In our manifesto, we are committed to providing record levels of funding for [insert public service here].” The only record the Tories are breaking is for the most lies told during a general election (Tony Blair a close second).
Mental health provision
The one remaining pillar of the Tories’ languishing campaign is their promise to tackle the mental health crisis. To anyone affected by Tory austerity this promise would be funny if it were not so tragic.
May’s solution is to propose alterations to the Equalities Act to reduce workplace discrimination, roll out mental health workers in schools and recruit 10,000 more staff by 2020.
She has also said that she would replace “in its entirety the flawed Mental Health Act”, which “too often leads to detention, disproportionate effects and the forced treatment of vulnerable people”.
But none of this addresses the principle causes of mental health problems in the modern world, which are social in character – i.e. overwork, economic and social insecurity, exclusion, etc. This is for good reason! The Tories’ track record on these issues is appalling!
Since the Conservatives first came to power in 2010, more than 1 million public sector jobs have been lost; the number of homeless children has risen by 60%; in-work poverty now effects one in eight workers; funding for local government (councils) has been cut by 40%; the number of people dependent on food banks is now in excess of one million; and disability benefits have been stripped to the bone.
According to a 2015 report by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), one UK worker is made ill by stress every two minutes. The problem is responsible for 11.3million lost work days and 39% of all work-related illness. Things have gotten considerably worse since then.
In addition to this, the Tories’ deplorable work capability assessment, benefit sanctions, and unsympathetic work coaches – many of whom are overworked themselves, or incentivised to punish claimants – have added to the misery of the mentally ill. Until these are changed, the mentally ill will continue to suffer.
Many will attempt and often succeed at suicide, putting additional strain on an already over-stretched NHS. Even the BBC has noted that there has been a 50% rise in deaths of people using mental health services over the last three years
Theresa May’s proposals also conveniently ignore the Tories’ role in massively underfunding mental health services.
Over the last four years alone, mental health trusts have lost more than £150 million from their budgets. According to Mind, the mental health charity, these cuts are putting at least 11,000 mental health patients each year at greater risk of suicide because they are not promptly followed up after leaving in-patient care.
It is difficult to overstate the dire consequences that all this has had for Britain’s mental health.
Break with austerity!
But there is now a chance to break with cuts and privatisation by voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Many, of course, will be doing this while pinching their nose. The majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) have opposed Corbyn every step of the way, even organising anti-democratic coups against his leadership.
To those people I say this.
On 8 June, vote Labour. Even if that means voting for Liz Kendall, Michael Dugher, and Hillary Benn. But on 9 June, campaign for mandatory reselection, to remove the agents of big business, and let us build a party which can unite around an anti-austerity program. A party for the 99%!