From a liberal point of view – April 2017

Six weeks today, we in the UK vote in a General Election.

Let us leave aside the reasons why it was called (which are incoherent), and the reasons why the opposition MPs voted in favour of it (which are incomprehensible). Let us consider instead some information that may influence how we vote.

General Election 170427

What are our liberal values in the context of this election? The hallmark of a liberal society is that it accords equal respect to every member. An absolute pre-requisite is that the society looks after its weak members. People should not go hungry. They should have good accommodation. They should receive good healthcare promptly.

One measure of whether people are going hungry is the number of people requiring help from a food bank. A major provider of such help is the Trussel Trust Foundation. They provide 3-day emergency packs for people who cannot afford to buy food. They report figures showing a dramatic and continuing rise in the need for these packs.

Period 3-day emergency packs provided during the year
2008 – 9 25,899
2009 – 10 40,898
2010 – 11 61,468
2011 – 12 128,697
2012 – 13 346,992
2013 – 14 913,138
2014 – 15 1,084,604
2015 – 16 1,109,309

You can find the data here.

How about adequate accommodation? Homeless Link is an agency that works with government and other providers to help reduce homelessness. They have reported the following statistics.

Calendar year People sleeping rough Households in temporary accommodation
2010 1,768 48,000
2011 2,181 49,000
2012 2,309 53,000
2013 2,414 56,000
2014 2,744 63,000
2015 3,569 69,000
2016 n/a 76,000

The data for temporary accommodation was taken from a graph, and has been rounded to the nearest thousand. You can find the data here.

The King’s Fund reports quarterly on the performance of the NHS. This data is from their latest report:

  • The target time for Ambulance Trusts to respond to Red 1 emergency calls is 8 minutes. When this was introduced in June 2012, it was missed 24% of the time. This has now risen to 33% of the time.
  • A&E Departments have a target that no-one should wait more than 4 hours from arrival to admission, or transfer, or discharge (as appropriate). During 2009 – 10 this was missed less than 2% of the time. It’s now being missed 10% of the time.
  • The target for waiting time after diagnosis is that fewer than 8% of patients should wait longer than 18 weeks before the start of treatment. In 2012, this target was being met comfortably; fewer than 6% of patients waited longer than the target time. The latest report notes that the target has now been missed for ten consecutive months, and exceeds 10%.

You can find the data here.

I haven’t ‘cherry-picked’ these numbers. The data are largely from government bodies. There are many more statistics saying the same thing.

They’re saying this.

Over the period during which we have had a Conservative government, more people have gone hungry; more people have gone homeless; and people have found it harder to obtain care from the NHS.

We are one of the richest nations in the world; our government has been steadily and knowingly providing less help for those who need it most; and this is having an impact on the lives of millions of people.

Today, now, we have people who don’t have enough to eat, don’t have anywhere to sleep, who are dying because they’re not receiving medical help in time.

So, back to this election.

I would normally vote Green. I’m a Green party member. However, if this Conservative government remains in power, the data above suggest that life for the poorest will become even worse.

Consequently, if it starts to look as though a particular candidate can challenge the current Conservative MP in my constituency, then I shall vote for that candidate. It goes against the grain for me; I would far rather vote Green; but the stakes are just too high.