Brexit, Brexit, Brexit – the word you hear time and time again. You hear it from the mouths of your family, friends and neighbours; you read it in the newspapers; you see it repeated endlessly as you scroll through social media. It is a cause of anxiety and upset for many on both sides of the debate. Ever since the referendum in 2016, we have seen two early general elections and the departure of two Prime Ministers (and soon, perhaps, a third). While Brexit is a topic which must be addressed, we must not let it push other important issues such as climate change and austerity into the deep, dark corners of our politics.
While it is entirely likely that a Tory-led exit from the E.U will be disastrous for the economy, what will be even more disastrous is global warming. The impact of Brexit may last for generations but the consequences of the excessive heating of our planet will be something we’re stuck with for eternity. The IPCC warns that if governments don’t step up to tackle climate change in the next twelve years, the effects could be irreversible. Rising sea levels could mean more flooding of coastal regions, which will grind businesses to a halt, the Met Office insists. To make matters worse, resulting damage to infrastructure such as roads, bridges and rails will hinder national trade but also stop many workers from going to their places of employment, which will contribute to a massive drain on the economy.
Environmental policy is not simply an infrastructure issue; it will affect living standards, create climate refugees, and ultimately lead to a spiking death rate – and only the Labour Party seem to be offering a real solution to this issue with their “Green New Deal”, created in consultation with climate scientists. Labour alone must push the issue to the top of the agenda pile; not Jo Swinson, who has taken a lax approach to fracking, and certainly not Boris Johnson, who wrote his party’s climate agenda with the help of the fracking industry.
For the past nine years, the Conservative Party’s brutal austerity programme has crushed the working classes, decimating and privatising our public services. Cuts in police, youth centres and drug treatment services imposed by the Conservatives ever since they got into power in 2010 have led to an increase in crime up and down the UK:
- Since 2014, knife crime in the West Midlands has shot up by 103% while knife crime in London has risen by 48%. The number of gun crimes has increased by a third in the West Midlands while London saw an increase of 10%;
- Poorer areas in the U.K such as Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool have suffered an average of £900 million pounds worth of cuts to their health budgets despite having higher rates of disease, while the top ten wealthiest places in the country have suffered a health budget cut of £1 of every £46;
- The government’s stingy spending on education, forcing schools to run fundraisers in order to make up the shortfall. A school in North Yorkshire, for instance, have begun to run fundraisers in the hopes of raising £3,000 in funds to help run the school. Managers at a school in Gloucestershire could not afford to turn on the heating until November time, prompting students and staff to wear coats indoors. Teachers in Essex and inner-London are being put up for jobs in lunchtime supervision due to the schools not being able to afford staff for the job.
These are issues which have been around longer than Brexit and deserve far more attention from the political parties.
For many of us, Brexit has proven to be a dark cloud which overshadows everything else. The electorate must realise that this general election is not and cannot simply be a “Brexit election”; it’s an election for climate change, it’s an election for our police services, our youth centres, our health facilities, our schools. The future isn’t simply Brexit or no Brexit, it’s our children going to well-funded schools and receiving world class education, our police being funded properly so they can make our country a safer place to live, our NHS, and the state of our climate.