A shocked centrist and left of centre electorate woke on Friday morning to the eye-opening news that the Tories were on for a majority – confirming the calculations of the Exit Poll and flying in the face of public opinion that we would end up with another coalition.
The Lib-Dems were reduced to just 8MPs, a catastrophic drop from 57 at the start of the last Parliament. It led to the resignation of previous Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – but he was just one of a handful of Lib-Dem MPs to keep his seat. The party is in turmoil and will at the ery least take five years to win back the trust of their core vote and be in a position to provide the balance of power.
We can talk about why for years.- Was it tuition fees? Was it the failed referendum on AV? Was it simply that they chose to enter into a coalition with their mortal enemy? Was it the leader debates? (not for me, I think Clegg came off strongest in most of them with the exception of Nicola Sturgeon).Was it that the Greens took so many votes from core Lib-Dem voters?
The poll though leaves the Lib-Dems unable to pursue a policy to invest in the mental health services for which they pledged billions of pounds if they were to play a part in government – either in a coalition or as a trade deal. Few people trust the Tories on the NHS. They tried to kill it off in the 1980s and 1990s. David Cameron claims to be a great believer in the NHS, citing the fantastic work in the months leading up to the death of his critically ill son. Some feel this is a cynical ploy to appeal to emotion.
Despite Cameron’s reassurances, in the last Parliament, not only did they fail to reverse the semi-privatisation of the previous Labour government, they extended the outsourcing – repeatedly ignoring calls not to carry on the mistakes of the privatisation of utilities and the railways of the Thatcherite years. Several private contracts were cancelled but only for poor service and not to stop the slippery slope to a full private system that nobody in this country actually wants.
So where does this leave mental health? Personally, I am now scared for people who use this service – vastly underfunded for decades, I really cannot see that the Tory insistence on the continuation of the failed austerity plan will lead to more money for the NHS in general and Mental Health Services in particular. It’s unlikely the NHS will much more money with billions of pounds of cuts due to come and once again, mental health services will suffer the most. It is already working to the bare bones.
We are now entering a critical time – the most vulnerable of our society deserve our help. We do not need more victims of heartless Tory policy or the suicide rate will continue to rise.