On Thursday night, ITV held its leadership debate ahead of the 8 June general election. Theresa May refused to attend to defend her own policies. But May would have had no answer to the attack that came from Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, who took just 18 seconds to dismantle the central lie of the Conservative campaign.
Wood picked up on a theme that has been ever more evident since 2010. The Conservative doctrine of ‘austerity first’ only extends to the public services and welfare system to which they are ideologically opposed. As Wood points out:
It is about priorities. And isn’t it interesting how there are always unlimited billions of pounds to spend on foreign wars. There’s £5bn now that’s going to be spent on refurbishing the palaces of Westminster. Yet we can’t put people and health services and social care services first.
— ITV News (@itvnews) May 18, 2017
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Wood is right.
Theresa May’s party demands that, while cutting these basic lifelines to citizens, the taxpayer should subsidise the profits of private companies.
Currently, the UK taxpayer is paying out £93bn a year in financial aid to corporations. That’s more than the annual cost of the entire education system (£59.2bn), all housing-related benefits (£27bn) and unemployment benefits (£3bn) combined.
To put this in perspective, Labour’s manifesto promises universal health and social care, education and welfare. Scrapping tuition fees, restoring university grants, investment in schools, universal childcare, scrapping NHS car parking charges and renationalising the NHS, scrapping the public sector pay cap, reversing cuts to benefits, free further education to open up life-long learning, and an integrated health and social care system offering universal care.
The total cost for providing this is just £48.6bn a year, around half what the May government is currently shelling out to corporations in taxpayer-funded subsidies and tax breaks.
This election is not about shaking a magic money tree. It is about a radically more fair distribution of the money we have, and prioritising the many over the few.
May didn’t just dodge the debates because she would have been defeated by more powerful speakers in Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Caroline Lucas (Green). She dodged them because her policies are simply indefensible.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
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