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Britain is poorer, sicker and less safe. Have the Conservatives brought Britain down?

Britain is poorer, sicker and less safe.  Have the Conservatives brought Britain down?
Britain is poorer, sicker and less safe.  Have the Conservatives brought Britain down?

 


It was reported that a prisoner imprisoned at Wandsworth Prison in London was planning an escape in early September last year.

PodcastIf you're listening, butcher's knives are on your budget.

In 2010, Britain's Conservative Party came to power promising to cut everything. Austerity was supposed to save Britain, but instead it broke it?

Daniel Khalife was a former soldier and suspected spy awaiting trial for terrorism crimes.

He was reportedly working in the prison kitchen when he entered the loading dock around 7:30 a.m. and tied himself under a delivery truck that was unloading food.

By the time police caught up with the truck a few miles down the road, Khalife had already gotten out, leaving only the bed sheet straps he was holding on to.

London police have made a desperate appeal to the public for help finding Khalife, who they say “could be anywhere in the UK”.

In fact, he was “nowhere in England.” He was on the other side of London in prison and was found three days later.

But how was this escape possible?

On the day Khalife allegedly escaped, 39% of staff at Wandsworth Prison did not show up for work.

In addition, the prisons were in decline, overcrowded, and severely understaffed.

Traces of wanted Daniel Khalif are painted on a telephone pole near Wandsworth Prison following his escape in 2023. (Reuters: Anna Gordon)

It all goes back to the ‘austerity policy’ introduced by the Conservative Party when it came to power 14 years ago.

It was designed to save the country. Instead it seems broken.

Systems have been weakened, more and more people are relying on charities and food rations, and one in five households with children are struggling to afford food.

Until 17 years ago, Britons were the wealthiest economy in the world.

Since then they have regressed more than any other large economy.

So what was the austerity program, and how much of it is to blame?

Tories come to power

Conservative leader David Cameron won on a promise of austerity (Reuters: Luke MacGregor)

In 2010, a soft-spoken Eton-educated man named David Cameron, who is also Queen Elizabeth II's fifth cousin, led the Conservatives to election victory.

It was shortly after the 2008 global financial crisis and the Conservatives' message was simple. The GFC was that it was the other team's fault.

The UK has been particularly hard hit by the crisis due to its heavy dependence on the financial services sector.

The British army was embroiled in two wars, there were waves of strikes, and unemployment was rising.

Gordon Brown, the fastidious, publicly-educated Scottish boomer Labor prime minister, is set to be replaced by upper-class British Gen Xer David Cameron, according to opinion polls.

David Cameron presented himself as the young, secure leader of the Conservative Party.

It was a return to predictable politics. Historically, Tories have generally been in government. This has been the case for most of the last 300 years.

But that predictability was coming to an end.

George Osborne's austerity plan

George Osborne displays his budget box outside 11 Downing Street before reading the era-defining austerity budget. (AP Photo: Akira Suemori)

David Cameron has launched a funky new plan with a funky new name – a word that will come to define a decade of austerity.

The man tasked with enforcing the austerity measures was George Osborne, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer and a close friend of David Cameron.

The 38-year-old was the eldest son of wallpaper magnate Peter Osborne, 17th Baron Ballentaylor and Ballylemon.

Osborne began working for the Conservative Party soon after graduating from Oxford.

He believed in small government, taking people off benefits and putting them to work. This was the core of his ideology.

“The best way to help is to [people] It’s about letting them help themselves.”

He thought it could solve all the problems and that was the exact opposite of what Labor had been doing.

an ominous beginning

David Cameron's Conservatives began their era of government the way all British governments do – with the monarch's traditional speech at the opening of parliament.

Although this speech was written by the government for the king to read, it created a stark juxtaposition.

The queen brought a golden carriage from one of her palaces, wearing a diamond-encrusted crown, sat on a golden throne, and told everyone to prepare for cuts in government spending.

But the cuts didn't apply to everyone.

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When Osborne started showing off his cuts, he found himself cornered by the Queen at a state dinner.

He told his podcast Political Money that Her Majesty the Queen had called for bagpipe schools not to be cut.

In fact, the Army Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming School was due to close due to budget cuts. Osborne didn't spare it.

“I immediately sent a message to the palace that they can be assured that British Army pipers will remain well trained,” he said in the podcast.

It's really hard to think of a more British story than that.

Cut, cut, cut

A protester holds up a mask of George Osborne outside the Houses of Parliament during the presentation of the 2010 Budget. (Reuters: Luke MacGregor)

George Osborne delivered his first budget speech the month after the UK election.

He called it an “emergency budget” and spent 55 minutes announcing the cuts.

Except for national health insurance, old-age pensions, and some large-scale infrastructure projects, no damage was sustained.

In a 90-second speech, he announced 13 cuts to benefits for single parents, children, working families and pregnant women.

As the months passed, more and more cuts were announced.

Public service jobs will be cut and wages for those who remain will be frozen.

Osborne said the cuts were tough but fair. But that wasn't the case.

Treasury's own analysis found the cuts would disproportionately affect low-income people.

Britain's Conservative government has imposed austerity measures to reduce the country's soaring national debt.

There have been significant cuts in budget spending to reduce the UK government's historic debt levels.

By 2010 it had reached 131% of GDP, and although interest rates on government loans were low, George Osborne was concerned that interest rates would rise.

But they didn't. In fact, 2010 was the perfect time to borrow as much money as possible.

chaos and corruption

The anti-austerity protest march through central London in 2012 was just one of many over the past few years. (AP Photo: Matt Dunham)

After 14 years of austerity, the data has not been good for the UK and in many cases has had the opposite of what was intended.

In 2018, Phillip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, visited the UK.

He is an international human rights lawyer who has performed a variety of work at the United Nations in extremely poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Central America.

“What I saw in food banks, schools, community centres, job centers and libraries was a lot of misery,” he said.

“A lot of people think the system is failing them. A lot of people think the system is really there to punish them.”

Unemployment continued to rise even after Osborne's austerity budget was announced.

Research from the Office for National Statistics has found that austerity measures have had a 'hugely detrimental' impact on life expectancy, with around 335,000 extra deaths between 2012 and 2019 compared to previously reported.

Unemployment in the UK has increased. Poverty has increased. Government debt has even increased relative to GDP.

Philip Allston said: “Britain could eliminate most, if not all, of its poverty if it wanted to, but it is clear that this is a political choice.”

In 2015, people were still protesting against the Conservative government and its austerity policies. (AP Photo: Tim Ireland))

Almost every developed country in the world has spent the last two decades dealing with challenges like the UK's: globalisation, the energy transition and the rise of social media.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Homes are more expensive. The cost of living is rising, but wages are not. Trust in politicians and institutions is eroding.

But the extreme, ideology-driven austerity policies of David Cameron and George Osborne have accelerated this situation and undoubtedly made one of the world's wealthiest countries more insecure, poorer and sicker. Yes.

Research from the Office for National Statistics has linked increases in knife attacks and violence to cuts to youth services.

Some of this might have happened under another government, but Osborne's tough austerity policies have added fuel to the fire.

Sources

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2/ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-06-15/did-the-uk-conservatives-break-britain/103964332

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