Besides Brexit: The 5 key issues facing the electorate in #GE17

Tories want to focus on Brexit in snap election, but will voters be more concerned with health, education and the economy?

UK PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY has called a General Election for 8 June, calling on the electorate to back her plans for hard Brexit.

However, opposition parties have said they will campaign over a range of key policy areas where they say the Tories a failing in governance and damaging lives.

CommonSpace looks at the five key policy areas that are likely to be highlighted in the coming weeks.

  1. The NHS

This year has seen NHS England plunge into unprecedented crisis, with the British Red Cross warning of a humanitarian crisis in January.

NHS England in particular has been transformed by the growing involvement of the private sector and internal fragmentation through foundation hospitals. Most winters there are severe shortages in beds and staff, but this year was the worst yet.

Labour will make the NHS a significant plank of their election campaign. The SNP will likely focus on their plans for health and social care integration in Scotland.

Read more: Philippa Whitford MP warns of Scottish repercussions for NHS England crisis

  1. The economy and austerity

During her shock announcement of the forthcoming election, May made the economy part of her pitch – saying that the economy had proved robust in the face of Brexit.

But how robust? Inflation is outstripping pay rises, continuing the slide in real wages, which have shrivelled by an unprecedented 10.4 per cent between 2007 and the beginning of 2017.

Growth remains sluggish at a projected 2 per cent this year before falling back to 1.6 per cent in 2018-19. It’s almost a decade since the first signs of the banking crisis and more than seven since the beginning of the recovery.  A business cycle is only supposed to last around 6 years. According to the resolution foundation, this decades growth, presided over by Conservative Governments has been the slowest in 210 years.

The UK remains £1.7trn in debt, raising questions over the strategy of using austerity measures to reduce public spending.

Opposition parties including the SNP and especially Labour, have called for large increases in public spending to boost economic growth.

Hidden pain: 5 ways the budget will reshape the UK

  1. Disability rights 

The austerity axe has fallen repeatedly on some of the UK’s most vulnerable communities since 2010, but none have been hit so hard as the disabled.

Since the onset of the crisis, thousands of disabled people have died after being found fit for work by private firms in a bid to reduce the disability payments. The suicide rates for disabled people have spiked amid increasing pressure on the disabled in UK society. Campaigners have said disabled people have been scapegoated after the banking collapse, and violent attacks against the disabled have increased.

There are no signs of a let-up in cuts to welfare and services for the disabled, and just two weeks ago yet more cuts were introduced.

Labour and the SNP will likely campaign heavily on the issue, with the SNP talking-up its new social security system, modelled by disabled people’s organisations.

Read more: Disability rights groups slam UK Gov for falling living standards in week of "catastrophic" cuts

  1. Devolution crisis

Underexplored as a UK wide political issue, recent months have drawn the UK’s process of democratic reform and cross-national devolution into crisis.

The decision by the UK Supreme Court in January, that Westminster did not require the consent of devolved administrations for Brexit, exposed the limits of devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The subsequent revelations that some powers may transfer from devolved administrations during the Brussels transfer to Westminster after Brexit has raised major questions over the possible centralisation of power in the UK and the end of a two decade journey for national devolution in the UK.

Constitution expert: May “hasn’t answered” questions on future UK constitution after FM talks

  1. Trump and foreign policy

Brexit will mean a newfound international isolation for the UK in the world system. The state will need to re-organise trading relationships outside the EU single market, and this has brought the Conservatives close to US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Trump came to power in a storm of controversy, having run one of the most rightwing campaigns in US electoral history. His campaign was marked by misogynistic, xenophobic and anti-disabled rhetoric.

May was the first major foreign leader to meet with Trump in February and was informed of his plan to ban citizens from seven majority Muslim nations to enter the country, before the ultimately failed attempt was announced to the public.

As Trump increases military action in Syria and is drawn into a confrontation with North Korea, his growing links with the UK Government, including a scheduled state visit to the UK, will come under increasing scrutiny.

Read More Scottish Tories go silent over Theresa May’s prior knowledge of Trump refugee ban

Picture courtesy of Sheila

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