Covid is not over.

Government

We’re still in a pandemic, yet the Government is treating it as if it’s already over.

As shops, pubs, leisure centres and beauty salons continue to reopen there is a definite unease around. Many people continue to be worried by the prospect of doing what, until a few months ago, were ordinary things. It is because there is no reassurance or clear signs that it is genuinely going to curtail the virus.

Frankly, this has not been handled well at all by the UK Government. A poll conducted here showed all respondents agreeing with that. There have been several reports of the failure to act quick enough on lockdown measures may have contributed to deaths being twice as high as they could have been. These numbers are not a political statement. They are a reflection of poor strategy and lax message discipline, which continue to seep through.

Compared to the response in the other three home nations, serious questions remain about the situation in England. There have been few deaths in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in the past few days, even factoring in smaller population sizes. And yet, when there were over 100 deaths in England yesterday, up considerably compared to previous weeks, people continued to take to the pubs.

I have also seen people dismissing these figures as a one-off, but what this pandemic has shown is the importance of analysing the data, and that wishful thinking does not help in reality.

Now there is talk of increasing the mandatory use of face coverings in settings such as shops. It’s a sensible message – but one that feels like it has been adopted far too late and handled poorly.

The Government are giving mixed messages here, with Boris Johnson seeming to promote stricter mask-wearing during a photo opportunity in his Uxbridge constituency. Meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said in the Marr programme that he trusted people’s common sense on the issue. It does not clarify anything and further increases uncertainty.

You would think that over a few months, Number 10 would have learnt that they need to handle things better, not just rely on common sense and give a decisive message to people. Take the second “Boris Broadcast” which was possibly one of the worst public addresses made by a Prime Minister, and something that every in Number 10 should have been trying to avoid repeating.

Is it that they are trying to pass the blame to the individual? Or is it an admission that they have given up or feel economically threatened?

Either way, the response in the past few weeks seems to be designed for short term popularity rather than long term public health benefit.

Why are we debating whether “conversion therapy” should or shouldn’t be illegal in the UK in 2020?

Government

It has only been four days since Pride Month ended, and yet, in an insensitive move that has rightly backfired, the Petitions Committee wanted to gather more intel on how to define “conversion therapy” and the impact that it has on the LGBT+ community by getting people to fill out a survey as a platform for people to share their opinions about something that is clearly wrong.

This sparked outrage because it felt like the process was being drawn out, and people were being asked to justify why something that causes incredible harm like this form of torture should be made illegal. It also came across as tone-deaf, with a handful of unsympathetic questions.

In a response that was welcomed, links to the survey were subsequently deleted, although there were some reports of the survey still being active hours after this. The apology itself (below) sounds incredibly arrogant, but at least they responded quickly.

What this does highlight is unnecessary levels of intransigence and delay, which characterise many other areas of policy I discuss here. And there is a clear way to approach this.

The Government committed to taking action on this two years ago. A petition (and I note, that petitions are something that the Government has not initiated) with enough signatures to be debated in Parliament may have reminded them of this, but the response will not exactly be reassuring.

When responding to the petition, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said that the Government was still considering how to move forward with this “very complex issue”. I can think of other “very complex issues” which have been being discussed relentlessly at a similar time to this which apparently are not a problem (Brexit).

I would be interested to know what exactly is complex about “conversion therapy”. If anyone had undergone significant amounts of psychological trauma that were later revealed, action would be demanded. This is exactly what “conversion therapy” involves. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to defend the indefensible. And yet, nothing obvious is being done about this issue which continues to have an impact on people’s lives on a daily basis.

Things like “conversion therapy” still being legal highlight the UK still has a long way to go in overcoming LGBT+ discrimination and poor treatment. It’s not just about putting up a Pride flag for one month a year, it’s about taking real action.

Action in the future is not good enough. Action needs to happen now.

Data on BLM and LGBT+ shows there is a lot of work to be done

Data

Considering the amount that has been said about Black Lives Matter in the past few weeks and the amount of attention this is now being rightly given to it, and the fact that today would also have been UK Black Pride, I think it is worth talking about both of these issues together.

The best way to kick off this conversation is to look at the data and ask questions about what the numbers tell us. Unfortunately, there is little data available, a problem that has been highlighted by a range of studies, and many of these often group BAME together as a single category. I will warn you that much of the below is uncomfortable but necessary reading.

With this in mind, let’s start by looking at LGBT+ hate crimes. YouGov and Stonewall carried out research with a sample of 5,000 LGBT+ people. The overall question about hate crime showed a 70% increase in LGBT+ related hate crimes for BAME LGBT+ people compared to white LGBT+ people.

Coupled with this significant increase, the vast majority of these incidents do not get reported to the police. As an LGBT+ person, I have experienced incidences of hate crime and have not thought to report these and brushed them off, even when this should have been done. This is a major problem, but it is even more profound for BAME LGBT+ people.

What the research exposes is that this also translates into discrimination, and compared to all LGBT+ people it is higher for BAME people in all settings, despite legal measures in place designed to reduce this.

What this points to is that these are not things that happen once in a while or have been ‘fixed’. In fact, it shows systemic issues and a lack of attention being paid to resolving them. It also reflects difficulties in reporting or prosecuting for these crimes, which many under-resourced investigation teams simply cannot handle.

Online abuse is also a problem. Compared to 9% of white LGBT+ people who said they had experienced online abuse in the past month, among BAME LGBT+ people this number rises to 20%. That is an appalling increase of 122%.

Related to this, it has been well-reported that social media platforms are struggling to police incidents of abuse and hate crime. Trying to salvage advertising spend from Unilever, Facebook highlighted that they removed 86% of hate speech from the platform last year. However, this only covers reported hate speech and suggests there is limited capacity for any proactive content removal. Many in the LGBT+ community feel more comfortable in an online forum, and an attack on these platforms should be treated as seriously as what happens offline.

Moving to another piece of research from YouGov and Stonewall, an important area to mention is domestic abuse, which is 50% more likely among BAME LGBT+ people. This points to problems within the community itself, where discrimination within the LGBT+ community due to background disproportionately affects BAME LGBT+ people, and even more so for black LGBT+ people.

It shows that the problems faced by BAME LGBT+ people are not just external. Within the community, LGBT+ people have to confront their own prejudices and it needs to become a more inclusive place. We have to set an example as a community and must act swiftly.

Finally, there is a vital area that has not been addressed. Mental health. At a time where there is more attention, there is still a lack of research. However, there is an interesting study from 2016 of 5,799 gay and bisexual men in the UK which focuses on mental health and indicates that inequality in mental health is more pronounced for gay and bisexual men from black backgrounds.

The stats here reaffirm that there is still so much to be done about mental health, particularly in the LGBT+ community, and that there needs to be a closer look at how this interacts with attributes such as race.

This is the theme that is apparent from all the research I’ve discussed, and as we celebrate Pride is something that needs to be thought about. Pride shows that we can do better. We have done it before and can do it again.

Cummings strikes again with a reshuffle

Government

Today, Boris Johnson carried out a much anticipated Cabinet reshuffle. The whole plan was to promote a “new generation” of talent. Behind this, many have speculated that Dominic Cummings may be trying to increase his influence over the Cabinet to achieve his aims.

This was made particularly clear with the resignation stroke dismissal (take your pick) of now-former Chancellor Savid Javid when Johnson/Cummings told him he had to sack all of his advisors as a condition of keeping his role. Although I’m not a personally a fan of Javid, I have some respect for him standing up for his team at the last moment.

His replacement, Rishi Sunak – the MP who covered for Boris Johnson in some of the TV election debate and is from an investment background, takes his place. Sunak is seen amongst numerous Tories as a ‘rising star’; although this could be a disadvantage as expectations are high. He is favoured by Cummings and Johnson, which many have interpreted as a sign of him being a yes person.

And this points to a glaring problem. If the Cabinet is full of yes people, then this results in tunnel-vision which doesn’t allow for reasonable points to be raised from those with reservations. Yes, this may be an attempt from the PM and those around him to give the perception they are getting stuff done; but it only takes a severe misjudgement or wrong move to unravel, opening them to accusations of irresponsibility.

An even bigger issue is the influence of Dominic Cummings, who seems to be carrying out his work unchecked and with no accountability. Which is an interesting coincidence, especially as he was behind a campaign with the core message of taking back control from “unelected bureaucrats”.

This reshuffle also does very little about diversity. There is no LGBT+ representation in the Cabinet still. Women, in general, are in a worse position in this Cabinet than the last. Yes, there is an increase in BAME representation, but this doesn’t go far enough. And under-qualified people like Dominic Raab are still there.

What this tells us about the next few years is a bit unnerving. Not only is the Cabinet full of lackeys, but it’s also struggling with diversity and seems to be a clear indication of Cummings making a power grab.

Reshuffles, moves and scuffles

This Week in UK Politics

Meanwhile, things are carrying on in Stormont as they piece their new power-sharing agreement together. Amongst this are a slew of announcements this weekend. And the Lib Dems have declared their new leader will be revealed in the summer.

Something particularly striking this weekend that will have an impact next week came from Number 10. Effectively, the head of the Policy Unit, Munira Mirza, is to tell senior members of the Cabinet that a reshuffle is pending and the only way for people to remain in it will be to focus on “delivery” of policies over media appearances.

This may present a very early sign about the type of Government Johnson seeks to manage – one where he is very much the central figure and the party stays on message. Possibly an early idea of Cummings’ approach to overhauling the workings of power.

It does mark a departure from Theresa May’s administration where leaks and inaction often appeared to be the order of the day. This can be seen as an attempt to present the Government as united and in control, which may possibly be helping with polling (latest stats below). The Guardian has more on this story.

As UK MEPs were in Brussels for the final time, there were words of regret from many of their former colleagues – some of whom have formed a WhatsApp group. On the UK Government side, there is a hardening of stance, seen from remarks from Chancellor Savid Javid. He has said that there will be no alignment with EU rules after Brexit, which seemingly contradicts the previous approach.

By declaring a lack of alignment, alarm bells were raised in the food/drink and automotive sectors. It also has mired the Government in some controversy as it has been one of the first public acknowledgements from a senior Minister that some industries will not benefit from Brexit. Linked to this was an admission from these industries that prices are likely to rise significantly. The BBC has further coverage.

Perhaps the Government feels empowered now it has a difficult to attain majority to say the things it was not comfortable saying before in a public forum. Or maybe it is a strategy of ‘talking tough’ while pursuing a much safer course of action. This may also challenge conventional wisdom about the Conservatives being the party of business. At the same time, it could just represent Javid’s personal take being off-message – maybe one of the reasons why Johnson is seeking to instil more rigid discipline.

Another sign of Johnson wanting to make his mark is the news that Ministers are considering the possibility of moving the House of Lords to York or Birmingham to “reconnect” with voters. The Conservatives’ chairman, James Cleverly, told Sophy Ridge that it was one of the options being considered. This follows a report in the Sunday Times which claimed a decision could be made in the next few months.

On the face of it, the proposal sounds reasonable. However, Labour MPs like Nadia Whittome called it ‘superficial’. Ultimately, while this removes some of the Parliamentary institutions from London, it does not address the House of Lords itself which remains unelected and lends itself to undue influence from a dominant party in the House of Commons. While the idea itself may not have universal backing, there is a fair amount of talk about de-centralising power in the Labour leadership contest.

As an update from last week’s post, Emily Thornberry managed to secure the last-minute nominations she needed to enter the Labour leadership contest. There have been hustings in Liverpool for both leader and deputy leader. Meanwhile, unions and constituency parties are deliberating on who they should back, to secure passage to the final stage of the vote. So far, polling from YouGov indicates that Keir Starmer is likely to win the vote in the second round, with a comfortable margin against favourite for second place, Rebecca Long-Bailey.

In Northern Ireland, the Government has been criticised for its financial package not being enough to fill the gap in public services. Both First and Deputy First Ministers have united on the attack, putting pressure on the Government to release extra funds. The Conservatives are so-far remaining fixed in their stance, possibly viewing this as not a priority. One would expect this argument to carry on in the background of UK politics as a whole, and the foreground of Northern Irish politics. Given the Government was able to bail out Flybe to some extent this week – despite ruling out that possibility – it is not unreasonable to assume they may give way in spite of their obstinance if it keeps Stormont quiet.

Another development that is likely to ruffle a few feathers is the release of a cross-party report into electoral law and protecting the integrity of British elections. Some of the recommendations include unlimited fines for those who breach electoral law and in response to groups like Cambridge Analytica, a call to restrict the ability to micro-target voters on social media.

This would reflect a change in the law not seen since 2001 – but will people like Dominic Cummings who have benefitted from the existing laws block this from coming into effect? And will this actually help the Electoral Commission to have a much more meaningful role when it has struggled to keep up with a myriad of developments? The Guardian has more.

Something else that is worth a mention is an update on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are to give up their royal titles, become financially independent and pay back the public purse for the renovation of their UK home in Windsor. While this is a huge development in the Royal Family, what is disheartening is the response to it. People have turned to the realms of conspiracy theories, disrespect and racism.

To those that say the UK does not have a problem with racism, stop kidding yourselves. The UK has a massive problem with racism – we have all seen it but many are uncomfortable to admit it. While so much progress appears to have been made in other areas, this appears to be persistent and needs to be dealt with urgently. It does not have a place in this century, let alone this decade.

Finally, an update on the latest stats. Labour maintained a council seat in Brislington East, Bristol with a marginal dip in vote share (1.1%). The Liberal Democrats saw a double-figure increase. This has been reflected in the State of the Parties page on this site.

After a short break, Westminster voting intention polls are back. The latest Opinium poll sees an increase in Conservative, Brexit Party and Green voting intention, at the expense of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

It would seem that Boris Johnson is currently experiencing a honeymoon – which is not unexpected. A rare sign of normality in these unprecedented times.

Iran, Royals, the EU and Labour candidates

This Week in UK Politics

Just when you thought UK politics would calm down a bit with a newly dominant Conservative Party and the return to easy majorities for the Government – things seemed to flare up a bit.

Iran

First among these was the escalation of tension in Iran, where the US assassinated a senior general, and Trump took to Twitter to brag about it. Classy. The fact that this happened on another sovereign nation’s soil raised alarm bells with many who started talking about the possibility of World War Three – and drew comparisons with the ‘dodgy dossier’ ahead of the Iraq conflict.

Iran retaliated by bombing a seemingly unoccupied US airbase, and things seemed to calm down. What is now emerging is that caught up in this may have been a Boeing aircraft heading for Ukraine being shot down by Iran – although the facts of this are still being settled.

The Government was slow to respond, with Boris Johnson still being on holiday and seeming to ignore a letter from Jeremy Corbyn who still has the right to ask questions of the Government in these matters as a member of the privy council. This inaction opened the Conservatives up to a fair amount of criticism. Once the response came, it was ambiguous – claiming to be working on a European response; while condemning and praising the assassination at the same time.

In PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn asked the Prime Minister a series of questions around whether the activity was illegal, what would happen to British people living in the are and whether the Government’s response was related to a potential trade deal. The initial exchanges between them were helpful and there were constructive answers to the questions. Things took a turn when Corbyn mentioned links to a trade deal, where the Prime Minister started on the attack, criticising Corbyn and claiming the allegation was “absolute fiction”.

You can watch how this all played out below.

The Royals

When people thought nothing else could fit into the news agenda, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan) unilaterally declared they were going to step back as senior members of the Royal Family. This was apparently without the knowledge of anybody else and was apparently due to The Sun being on the brink of telling everyone anyway. And how did they announce this? Via Instagram.

Many people would probably wonder this is being mentioned on a politics blog, as surely the Royal Family is above politics? Arguably, there are massive implications here as even though these royals are working to be financially independent as they call it, this has not turned out well for other members of the family i.e. the Wessexes, and there will still be a fair amount of public money spent on the couple such as their security detail. It is telling that the Government is now involved with the “emergency” negotiations with the Royal Family.

Secondly, it has raised further questions about the role of the Royal Family – and how it should look going into a new decade. Many had touted that the Cambridges and Sussexes were the ‘new face’, and represented a new approach, but this has raised several questions. This also highlights potential issues with press behaviour towards certain members of the Royal Family, which has been invasive and particularly in Meghan’s case teetering on abusive.

In a broader sense, it relates to many comments made on here previously about the nature of debate recently being toxic and highly personal. It shows that this issue is not just confined to the explicitly political space and that a wider conversation should be started in society about addressing this.

The EU

Less than a month to Brexit (part one) and conversation has started to turn toward the future relationship between the UK and the European Union where negotiations cannot formally start until the UK ceases to be a Member State.

The new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, made it clear in a speech at the London School of Economics that a full trade deal between the UK and EU (which Boris Johnson is aiming for) will be ‘impossible’ to conclude by the end of the transition period in December.

She took a pragmatic stance and said that the EU was ready to negotiate an “ambitious” partnership – but that the talks would be tough. As discussed in the 2019 review post on here, this reaffirmation of a trade deal being extremely difficult to achieve in less than a year is something to be expected and many in Number 10 and the Department for Exiting the European Union will be studying this closely.

It shows that even though the first hurdle may have been crossed by Johnson, the next one will be much more pressurised – where the expectations are much higher.

Labour Candidates

The Labour leadership election has started, with the party’s ruling committee meeting at the start of the week to decide the rules for electing a new leader.

There was much speculation about the rules potentially being tampered with to ensure a Corbyn 2.0 candidate had the most success. This was not the case, and the rules for the leadership election were not deemed to be too controversial.

In the early stages, Keir Starmer emerged as the frontrunner – easily reaching the necessary number of nominations from MPs and MEPs, and with Unison putting its weight behind him. Other candidates in the running (as of Sunday evening) are Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy.

Each of these candidates represents a very diverse range of opinions within the party, and the question that will be asked is how they will bring the party together when the election results sparked a new wave of internal disagreement.

The following week will be a key part of the campaign, with nominations closing for both leader and deputy leader before an extensive voting process takes place.

Meanwhile, there has been little word about the internal post-mortem that Corbyn spoke of after the election, which is highly likely to have an impact on the leadership campaign as it progresses.

Reviewing UK politics in 2019 – political debate

2019 Review

2019 has been a rollercoaster of a year in UK politics. There have been several themes throughout the year, including Brexit, the environment, the NHS, the General Election and the nature of the political debate. In the final of this series, the focus is on the election and the broader nature of the political debate.

If at the start of 2019, someone had told me that the Conservatives would see their largest majority since the Thatcher era before the year was out, I would have laughed them out the door. Theresa May was really struggling to make any progress on Brexit and was hindered by political saboteurs everywhere she looked. And yet, here we are.

The way events have played out in the past few months has sometimes made me think that the whole Theresa May premiership was almost a scheme to enable the rise of Boris as Prime Minister with a strong hand. But, the reality is closer to the election being an almighty gamble from senior Conservatives and advisers that “getting Brexit done” was a sufficient mantra to see them through, even though that had not exactly gone swimmingly for Johnson’s predecessor.

What was particularly striking about the election campaign was that despite so many faux pas and even resorting to hiding in a fridge, Johnson seemed like he could do no wrong. Parties were able to get away with lying and creating fake “fact check” accounts, discrediting the work of fact-checking organisations such as Full Fact and contributing to broader issues with political debate.

First among these is misleading voters by trying to pose as a neutral or unknown source to influence opinion. Not only is it dishonest. It also leads to a sense of distrust – not just in politics but in other institutions such as the media and academia. It also ends with people putting up barriers and becoming more isolated, getting stuck in echo chambers. Great for Facebook targeting – not so great for democracy.

Secondly, this division leads to solutions that only work for a small group of highly engaged people. Everyone else is disaffected and exhausted. As a result, policy-making turns into something that is short term and does not benefit the community in its entirety. It leads to an environment of pettiness when pragmatism is often what is required.

Ultimately, this pettiness turns into a sense of powerlessness and the differences between people become more pronounced, as those in charge start attributing blame to other groups. Take this election for example, where the Prime Minister blamed “remainers” for the delay when his deal had been voted for in principle by those he criticised. Rather than bringing people together, this served to drive a further wedge between 52% and 48% of UK voters.

And this also had a wider impact on attitudes to particular minority groups as people feel entitled and empowered to exclude people or claim “their” territory. While the data is not there yet, I have heard more anecdotes about Islamophobic and homophobic abuse in the last few months than I have before.

This effect can be seen in an especially stark way on social media. Twitter replies on the most innocent of tweets can be a dark place, where personal attacks are rife, and the focus is not as much on what is said, but who is saying it. It feels like there is a void of meaningful debate and engagement around the substance of arguments. Surely for there to be progress, this needs to happen.

Another theme to arise from the election is the avoidance of scrutiny. This has been seen in both the PM and Corbyn refusing to do some of the TV debates, and the Prime Minister refusing to sit down with Andrew Neil for an interview – who had some choice words to say.

This avoidance of scrutiny sets a precedent that senior politicians can act in this way, and treat the public with a casual disregard. The fact that Johnson won by avoiding difficult questions and detail is a worrying trend. There is no easy way to move on but to attempt to foster a culture of people questioning what they read and demanding detail.

While this has focused on the Conservatives mainly, there are some themes here which apply to other parties. Labour activists on social media were cajoling people and spreading fake polls to try bolstering the perception that they were in the lead. Jeremy Corbyn was presenting documents in a not particularly honest way. The Liberal Democrats’ “bollocks to Brexit” strategy alienated leave voters. The Brexit Party seemed to shift its position every five minutes.

Any way you look at it, the election was a disaster for the British public.

What needs to be done is some research into the political climate, and the best way of doing this is listening to people. Perhaps this decade can mark a shift to listening and acting in the interests of everyone, rather than just for those who are engaged and making people believe they have a stake in the future.

Reviewing UK politics in 2019 – the NHS

2019 Review

2019 has been a rollercoaster of a year in UK politics. There have been several themes throughout the year, including Brexit, the environment, the NHS, the General Election and the nature of the political debate. In the third of this series, the focus is on the NHS.

For a few years now, there have been countless discussions about NHS funding gaps and any investment being made in the health service only enough to stem decline rather than to further improve it.

Some of the stats make for uncomfortable reading. According to the Health Foundation:

Essential parts of the NHS in England are experiencing the worst performance against waiting times targets since the targets were set.

The Health Foundation (https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/nhs-performance-and-waiting-times#lf-section-49181-anchor)

This covers waiting times in A&E departments and for routine treatments in England. However, there are also problems in Wales and Scotland, even when there are different parties with responsibility for the NHS (due to devolution). Speaking in a more general sense, the Health Foundation adds:

If the NHS is to achieve its long-term vision of a service that can prevent ill-health, better manage long-term conditions, and treat people earlier, NHS staff will need time, space and skills to make change at all levels of the health and care system.  

The Health Foundation (https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/nhs-performance-and-waiting-times#lf-section-49181-anchor)

This just highlights the challenges faced by the NHS, and that the problems faced by it have no simple solutions.

Alongside this, little has been done to address the social care crisis, where this is a still substantial deficit and a perceived lack of leadership on something which is only going to become more complex as the population continues to age. There is also a blame game, where nobody is apparently taking ownership.

There have also been high expectations of the Health Service to better address mental health treatment and to invest in new treatments – yet, the budget for the NHS is struggling to catch up and does not have the option to be proactive. The Conservatives committed to the “biggest” spending increase on health for a “generation” in their manifesto, amounting to £34bn (excluding inflation). That figure initially sounds impressive, but according to Full Fact:

Whether or not you count inflation, the funding that’s been announced for the NHS won’t be enough to address future issues the service will face, according to expert think tanks.

Full Fact (https://fullfact.org/election-2019/nhs-spending-biggest-boost/)

The Conservatives were widely criticised for some of the other commitments made regarding the NHS, such as building new hospitals. Again, let’s hear what Full Fact said about this commitment in their manifesto:

One of the key pledges that appears in the manifesto, to build “40 new hospitals”, does not appear to be costed in this manifesto, as most of them are not intended to be built during the next parliament. £2.7 billion was committed in September this year to upgrade six existing hospitals, while the remaining hospitals were allocated £100 million to develop plans for upgrades. But there is no money yet for any actual building work on these, and the scheme has “the aim of delivering between 2025 and 2030”.

Full Fact (https://fullfact.org/election-2019/conservative-manifesto-2019/)

There is also an issue of recruitment, where the Government made a vague commitment to 50,000 new nurses. Even this figure is misleading as it includes 18,500 existing nurses who will be encouraged to stay. It seems with the promises are soundbites rather than anything with more substantial planning behind it. This is concerning, particularly as the Conservatives have been in charge since 2010.

Linked to this, there has been more talk about the era of austerity being over, with increases in investment pledged for the Police. Sticking with this example, when the stats are interrogated further, the increase in Police numbers would still not fully account for the total roles cut since the Conservatives came to power.

A broader point arising from this is that there are a growing number of issues with public services, which are becoming difficult to manage, and require a longer-term view rather than short-term initiatives to plug a gap. They also require investment, and with this honesty with voters that for high-quality public services there is going to be a premium to pay. Decisions also need to be made about what the priorities really are. The woes faced by the NHS are merely a symptom of this failure to act in a meaningful way.

Those with responsibility for health and social care provision have a real opportunity as we enter a new decade to think carefully about both short and long-term priorities and how to address them in a way that is realistic about the costs. This needs to cross party lines, with balanced input from experts.