Boris Johnson’s manifesto committed to ‘end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborn babies and children by 2030’, while still imposing maternity fees for migrant mothers – a measure that puts vulnerable women in Britain at risk
That this morning is Friday the 13th is poetic indeed. We have shifted towards the Conservatives’ cold embrace for a full decade, and now we know we have at least five more years to go. So, with Boris Johnson in command of a very healthy majority, it’s time to familiarise yourself with what his government has in store – yes, especially if you happened to vote Tory.
Let’s start with the single issue Johnson concerned himself with for much of the campaign: Brexit. We know by now that the prime minister has refused to rule out a no-deal exit by the end of 2020, but let’s take a deeper look at what the party’s pledge on the EU really looks like.
According to the manifesto, and Johnson’s protestations, we will leave the European Union by 31 January and secure a trade agreement 11 months later. That doesn’t leave much time for the prime minister to pull through this time around. And with so many other missed deadlines in his shadow, few believe it’s actually achievable. Why? Well, for starters, the EU has repeatedly poo-pooed (as he might say) the prospect, with a leak just days ago suggesting that EU leaders have abandoned their promise to finalise a trade deal swiftly. On Wednesday, a leaked recording of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier further poured cold water on Johnson’s ambitions, admitting during a closed meeting that the UK’s timetable to wrap up trade talks by 2021 is “unrealistic” and suggests negotiations will drag on until long after the end of next year.
There’s also the mammoth complication of Johnson successfully agreeing a new customs arrangement for Northern Ireland. Another leaked document, this time from the Department for Exiting the European Union, revealed this week that the endeavour would be a “major strategic, political and operational challenge”, due to the likelihood of “high levels of checks and controls”, which has been taken by the DUP as an indication that Johnson “broke (his) word”, after promising the opposite.
There are other Brexit-related gems, including taking back “control of our money” and giving us the chance to “control our own trade policy”. Which essentially means that for all the warnings from leading think tanks and industry experts, our self-appointed fairy godfather for leaving the EU will magically transform Brexit from a decaying pumpkin carcass into a beautiful glass carriage.
You may also recall the Tories’ promise to “introduce an immigration points-based immigration system”. But what you may not know is that commitment means precisely nothing; we have had a points-based system since 2010, thanks to Labour. More importantly, such a system is not, despite assurances from the Tories, dependent on “getting Brexit done”.
In fact, that section of the manifesto reads like a cynical rewrite of the rights Brexit will actually take away. It promises to “end the role of the European Court of Justice”, presumably, to ensure the party’s freedom to proceed with Brexit as it pleases, although no details as to how it will do that, are provided in the manifesto.
And let’s not forget page 48 of the manifesto, ironically subtitled “Protect our democracy”, where both introducing voter ID, an unnecessary measure suspected to serve as a means of restricting certain members of the electorate from exercising their democratic rights, and getting rid of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act are proposed as a means of upholding “democracy and the rule of law”. As Gina Miller pointed out in November, the manifesto also proposes stopping the “abuse” of judicial review in order to “conduct politics by another means, or to create needless delays” – again, more doublespeak for making sure that Johnson gets his way one way or another.
The party’s approach to the climate crisis is just as disappointing. It mentions the issue only 10 times – which shouldn’t be a surprise, given the PM’s unwillingness to join the Channel 4 climate debate during the campaign, but it nevertheless alarming. Especially considering the fact that the Tories have pocketed more than £1m in so-called “dirty money” from investors in the fossil fuels responsible for the climate emergency.
Laughably, this government has also pledged to “seek to protect those persecuted for their faith”. Though how it will do that while both refusing to take Islamophobia seriously, and deporting asylum seekers fleeing religious persecution, doesn’t quite add up. Nor does its promise to “eradicate human trafficking”, while failing to end the practice of criminalising, wrongfully detaining, and deporting trafficking victims.
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There are more counterfactual promises like those, such as the commitment “end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborn babies and children by 2030”, while still imposing maternity fees for migrant mothers, a measure that has been described as putting migrant women “at risk”.
Which brings us to the NHS. Aside from the the rhetoric and number fiddling over the number of new nurses, there is little in terms of a tangible plan for improvement. Missing entirely from the manifesto, as predicted, is the much-discussed prospect of more privatisation, which the government denies will occur despite having already handed £15bn worth of NHS contracts to private companies since 2015.
The party’s announcement of what is actually an old pledge to cram 10,000 more people into prison a year, as well as plans to enforce longer sentences is worrying too. Rather than helping to curb reoffending, experts have warned that such moves will make an already dire situation worse. And it’s no better when it comes to extending stop and search either – a practice that already disproportionately discriminates against black men.
Then there are the likely issues that will arise regardless of the bogus pledges that make up the government’s manifesto. We’ve already seen a spike in hate crimes in the period since the Brexit referendum. What will happen now that he has a mandate to do exactly as he pleases?
This, fellow citizens of the United (for now) Kingdom, is just the tip of the iceberg of issues that await us. None of us deserve what’s in store.
As depressing as this is, however, it’s not too late to fight against this government’s extreme agenda. This is, after all, a democracy.