There are valid reasons to vote David Cameron and the Conservatives out of government; but they’re not being referred to by the media. In terms of their record in office – no matter what their opponents may or may not do – the Coalition’s period has been typified by ineptitude, chaos, and a quite determined callousness: it’s reflected in their reforms to the health service, the schools’ system, prisons, the post office, and especially social security.
700,000 people are waiting for incapacity assessments. A lot of these people will be very ill. 300,000 people are waiting for disability benefit assessments. Circa half a million benefit sanctions are imposed per annum, including people who are incapable of working; with an even larger number of people now dependent on food charity. At least 49 benefit-related deaths have been investigated by the DWP, despite repeated denials. Cuts to mental health services and homeless shelters have seen an upsurge in problems affecting both overlapping groups of people. Reforms in prisons have caused major problems in terms of understaffing, underfunding, and a stark deterioration of prison welfare – as reflected by the increase in suicides among prisoners. This list is hardly exhaustive – but it suffices to demonstrate what type of government the Coalition has been.
Approximately £17-21 billion was removed from social security expenditure between 2010-15. Indexation was the primary method used to achieve this, and it pushed working families into poverty. Poverty now affects more people in work than out of it. 300,000 more children are living in poverty since 2010-11. Disability support was cut by 20%, which is one of many reasons why disabled people have borne the financial brunt of austerity measures: of the 600,000 people who sank into absolute poverty during 2013-14, between 400,000 to 500,000 were disabled. This happened without any real reduction of overall government expenditure actually occurring. The billions in ‘welfare’ cuts were offset by expenditure in other areas: primarily on housing benefit and tax credits, due to an unprecedented stagnation of nominal wages.
Probably the same as a lot of people, I think it’s important that the next government is drastically different to the Coalition; but also, that the Conservatives have to lose it for the right reasons – not because of lame astroturfed letters backfiring, or fibs about liking football coming to light; but because people reject the type of society which they want all of us to live in.