Last week in Parliament, we debated the Queen’s Speech. This is written by the Government and sets out their plans for the coming year. Now that the Tories have a big majority, they can win almost every parliamentary vote very easily and that’s exactly what happened in an important vote last week.
In their Queen’s Speech, the Conservatives set out additional funding for the NHS which – according to experts – actually amounts to less than is needed to maintain services at their current level. With the Tories seemingly unwilling to give our NHS the funding that it desperately needs, Labour forced a vote to increase spending to the kind of levels that would be needed to provide people with the service that they deserve.
Unfortunately, the Tories used their new big majority to vote against providing the NHS and social care system with this funding, despite every other party (even the Tories’ old friends the DUP!) in Parliament agreeing with Labour. I wonder what people in places like Leigh, Bury and Heywood think of their new Tory MPs voting against providing this funding and support for health and social care – I’d imagine some will be quite disappointed.
And that really is the point. Last month Boris Johnson won a majority in part because of all sorts of promises on things like the NHS, schools and the police. He asked voters to ignore a decade of cuts that his party had made in all these areas and to trust him to put things right (despite having been a member of both David Cameron and Theresa May’s cabinets and voting repeatedly for cuts). Unfortunately, it seems that he was just saying whatever his focus groups told him he should say to win the election. Action speaks louder than words though and last week’s vote speaks very loudly indeed.
I think it’s also important to be clear what the impact of this Tory inaction is. The NHS is facing a crisis and it’s a crisis that has been created by a decade of cuts. The evidence is all around – from longer waiting lists to overcrowded A&Es to crumbling hospital. Following their vote against proper funding for the NHS last week, this week the Tories will introduce a law to legally cap NHS spending for the next four years at a level that fails to tackle this crisis.
So when it comes to the NHS or school funding or police numbers, let’s all judge Boris Johnson and his government not by their words but by their actions. He has promised a lot and now he better deliver. So far it’s not looking good.