The new conservative government will preside over us for the next five years, bringing new laws into practice, while scrapping other (important) ones in the process. Britain, now fully in the hands of the Tories (besides Scotland who, thankfully have an SNP majority), will change drastically, and while a handful of us have the privilege of remaining relatively impartial to such transformations, the majority of us will feel the consequences.
For those of you who are unsure what the next five years under a conservative government will mean for you, I’ve compiled a brief list of the issues and policies that should be at the forefront of our post-election political analysis:
- Restrictions on our freedom of speech – Through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill in particular, which passed this February as part of the national witch-hunt against British Muslims, both universities and schools have become target-sites for government crackdowns on “radicalisation”. Such crackdowns have been described by many to be a part of the government’s attempt to criminalise and silence specific thoughts and beliefs, while simultaneously promoting conservative “British values“. The CTS-Bill also encourages teachers, professors and staff in schools and universities to essentially “spy” on their students and report any behaviour that is considered “radical”. Such measures may create a culture of mistrust, silencing and rampant Islamophobia, where, no doubt, Muslim children and students will be the prime targets of harassment and scrutiny.
- State-sponsored surveillance – In a recent snippet from the National Security Council, David Cameron has stated:”For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”. This is not the first time that Cameron, bolstered by Home Secretary Theresa May, has advocated for increased surveillance on UK citizens. Unfortunately, the next five years in power will give the Conservatives the perfect opportunity to tighten state-sponsored surveillance, leaving UK citizens with little, if any, hope for privacy. Theresa May has already hinted that they intend to move quickly when it comes to their surveillance agenda, now that opposition to the proposal of a ‘Snooper’s Charter‘ by the previous Liberal Democrat coalition has expired.
- Privatisation of the NHS – It has long been known that the Conservatives intend to increasingly privatise the NHS, eventually leading to an entirely privatised healthcare system. In fact, last week newspapers revealed that the NHS Supply Chain have agreed to a privatisation deal worth £780 million in order to tackle the treatment and diagnosis backlog. What is perhaps most unsettling about this deal (besides the price tag) is the poor quality of care record of some of the 11 private firms who will now oversee multiple diagnostic tests and treatments across various NHS sectors. Many of us did not expect this encroaching privatisation to occur at such a rapid pace, in spite of staunch opposition by MPs and the public alike.
- More austerity and cuts – We’ve already witnessed and felt the effects of the austerity measures and cuts implemented by the coalition government over the past five years, and… It’s about to get a whole lot worse. Chancellor George Osborne has recently announced his plan to cut £12bn from Britain’s Welfare bill as early as July. This is only one of the annual cuts the Conservatives intend to make under their austerity measures. Those who will be hit the most hard by these cuts are benefit seekers, the disabled, low-income families and in general, vulnerable people who rely on state-welfare:
‘What we do know is that the Tories will freeze the level of working-age benefits for two years from next April, disqualify most 18- to 21-year-olds from claiming housing benefit, and reduce the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000. Those three policies, the IFS calculates, will find the Tories about £1.5bn a year.’ – Patrick Butler for The Guardian
- Scrapping of the Human Rights Act – Remember Michael Gove? The previous Secretary of State for Education, who, increased university tuition fees to £9,000 a year, backed the privatisation of educational institutions (including up to 3,000 schools given away to private firms for free) and drafted a disastrously narrow new national curriculum for schools. Grim, right? Well, under our lovely new Conservative government, he has now been appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. Perhaps Cameron thought it wise to appoint Gove Secretary of State for Justice on the basis of him advocating for the return of hanging in the UK! All sarcasm aside, we have reason to be worried about Gove’s moves in the next couple of years, as it has been made clear that he intends to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with his own reformed bill:
‘The plans, which would see the human rights act replaced by a British bill of rights, say that the European court of human rights would be “no longer binding over the UK’s supreme court”. The ECHR would also be “no longer able to order a change to UK law” although British citizens would still be entitled to appeal to the Strasbourg-based court.’ – Nicholas Watt for The Guardian
- Draconian immigration laws – Despite current immigration restrictions already having serious effects, where thousands of refugees continue to drown in the Mediterranean and elsewhere because of EU and British government policy. British policy outlines that the government is against planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, in the hope that drowning thousands of children, women and men will act as a ‘deterrent’ from entering the UK (perhaps it is important for them to remember that many of these refugees are fleeing wars started and/or sponsored by Western countries…). With politicians and the British media increasingly using immigrants and refugees as scape-goats for the inequalities perpetuated through increasing austerity and neo-liberalisation, policies that help to line the pockets of the 1% at the expense of the poor, it will not be surprising to see new immigration laws put into action in the next five years.