Amy Edwards sees May’s Tories cutting everything, even that which might spite their own face
In 1981, Norman Tebbit infamously ordered Britain’s disenchanted working class to get on its bike. With ‘public discussions’ regarding the withdrawal of crucial council subsidies to local bus services now closed, this is set to become a reality not only for today’s unemployed, but for anybody lacking a car; an appendage apparently councils appear to deem a given in every rural household. If these subsidies are indeed withdrawn from local bus services, villages and small towns across the countryside will be impacted most, as services will be completely withdrawn at worst or sharply reduced at best.
In this very Brexy wasteland of post-referendum politics, with the possibility of rapidly decreasing chocolate portions looming large, one would have ample reason to question such a preoccupation with rural bus services. In the context of a party up against the fallout of this year’s momentous political upheaval, these questions may seem inanely parochial, however the Conservatives underestimate the potential of seemingly ‘small’ issues such to further derail their party, and support base, already torn asunder by the Referendum. The issue is that this move towards further withdrawal of public transport sets councils in the direction of permanently removing the vital infrastructure that makes daily life possible for those physically or financially unable to drive.
After the vote that bisected the UK along lines of age and place, the Conservatives must think carefully about how to avoid alienating yet more voters, not the easiest task in light of new PM May’s votes in favour of cuts to LGBT, disability and women’s crisis services. One of the few groups that appear to have so far escaped May’s wrath, the elderly, will be left high and dry by proposed cuts to bus subsidies, as to many of whom local buses are a lifeline. In allowing the rural elderly to be deprived of these lifelines the Conservatives will simultaneously deprive themselves of their most reliable voters.
But that’s not the main issue in hand. At the other end of the spectrum, shrinking services will inevitably drive up the cost for those that don’t qualify for a bus pass, despite the fact that increasing fares have long been a constant across the nation.
For most living in the countryside, attending the nearest secondary school involves a bus or train ride, a human right seemingly simple, yet becoming more problematic year on year. However, Conservative cuts to funding for local councils do not stop at public transport. What is particularly worrying about this regression in Britain’s public transport is that it comes hand in hand with the countrywide closure of small, local schools. With two siblings still in compulsory education this is disquieting. At primary and secondary level these schools are amalgamated as part of Gove’s infamous ‘academisation’, while there has been little to no provision being made to compensate for the higher demand in tertiary education, a problem intensified by the albeit well-meaning introduction of compulsory education up to age eighteen. As education and public transport services contract further and further away from rural areas, nothing has been introduced to replace their essential roles.
Unsurprisingly, under a Conservative government, access to education is already becoming yet another elusive necessity for any country-dwellers not meeting the augmenting financial prerequisites surreptitiously imposed by our leaders. What is surprising is that this was a course begun while UK policies were still made very much within the limitations of EU legislation.
On a trajectory disturbingly reminiscent of Thatcher’s systematic removal of the political power of the trade unions, Cameron & May’s Conservatives now appear hell-bent on depriving today’s working class of its intellectual power. In this soon to be very solitary country, run by a government still intoxicated by its Thatcherite notion of ‘aspiration’, working class access to the critical later stages of compulsory education will cost more and more. The same government committing to ‘improve’ national education by introducing academic testing for six year olds.
As the reality behind the intentionally perverted ‘Truth’ disseminated by the Leave campaign filters through to a population disastrously mislead, the question remaining is what else don’t the government want us to know?