The first was widely criticised even by many of her own natural supporters. It is clear to anyone who encounters it that the care system in the UK isn't functioning well and that both a lack of money in local authority care budgets is the biggest single reason for this. My mother recently went into hospital after breaking her hip. She is 92. It took the hospital only a couple of days to deal with the medical issues. Then she sat in a hospital bed waiting for a care home facility to be available so that she could come out. My father, who is 93, had to drive 30 miles every day to visit her. After over two weeks of waiting in a hospital bed it became clear that there never would be a care home place in her locality as they were all full of people in similar circumstances. It was decided to send her home with a 6 weeks package of care support. Every penny of this package and the entire cost of an extra 2 weeks in a valuable hospital bed was carried by the NHS. Because there was no money for care even more money was spent from the hard pressed NHS budget that we all value so much.
May's solution to this obvious and widely recognised problem was simple. She told the local authorities that she wasn't going to reverse a single one of the budget cuts that had been imposed on them. If they wanted to try and deal with the very real problem of an ageing population many of whom, like my mother, live hundreds of miles away from their children then they could jolly well do so without any new money. Provided they were prepared to take the blame for it they would be allowed to raise council tax by 2% a year for a couple of years to try to bridge the gap.
This means that councils in areas with nice large homes where there are plenty of well off people may be able to raise enough money to look after their elderly. Those in inner city areas won't. The system might therefore just about work in affluent areas where most of May's voters live. In the inner cities you'll get looked after by minimum wage people running to their next 15 minute appointment if you or your relatives are fit and clever enough to fight your way through the system to get your needs recognised at all.
One system for the rich and another for the poor. That is now government policy on care.
It is also government policy on education. The education funding system has just been changed with much spin about how it addresses unfairness in the system. What the changes actually do is to increase unfairness. The reforms take money away from inner city areas and give that money to the Shire counties. In case you are in any doubt about the difficulties of teaching kids in the inner city compared with the leafy suburbs I suggest you ask anyone who teaches in either and ask them which is easiest. Or ask a headteacher the same question. There are still quite a lot of brave dedicated professionals who choose to work in inner cities because of their commitment to working class education. Many of them are close to burn out and under intense pressure from an inspection regime which is great at marking down schools in inner city areas and telling them they must improve but usually useless at identifying problems in schools that achieve good results because they recruit talented students.
Inner city schools now face a funding cut. They also face losing their brightest and best kids to religious schools or to grammar schools. The impact of this will be very straightforward. The education of children from the middle and upper classes may improve slightly. The education of children who live in working class areas will get dramatically worse.
Almost every decision about money that May has made has had one of the following characteristics:
1. She has given money to high earners e.g. via the tax breaks in the mini budget
2. She has further cut the already stretched incomes of public services. Every single one has lost money on a per client basis when you take account of inflation. Almost all have lost income in real terms.
3. She has transferred the limited resources that are available from the poor to the rich
4. She has taken resources out of mainstream programmes to finance ideologically driven projects e.g. religious schools, free schools, grammar schools, elite children schools
The government has therefore set out its stall. From the first moment that May announced that she intended to govern for all and in particular to help those just about managing she has proceeded to do the exact opposite. It is not unknown for politicians to do this. After all Thatcher was going to bring harmony. And Blair was going to give us ethical foreign policy.
It is rare for a politician to betray her stated aims quite so quickly or quite so brazenly as Theresa May has done. Let us hope that she also stands out from the crowd in how quickly she moves from being praised as a safe pair of hands by the media to being deeply disliked by her victims for her divisive and unworkable policies.