Happy New Year

The year 2023 presents us with both continued threats and – increasingly important – new opportunities.

The threats, both in the UK and internationally, include a continuation of mass impoverishment (where, while everyone else gets poorer, the rich just continue to get richer), an erosion of Human Rights and Democracy (an issue not just in countries like Hungary and Turkey, but also in the UK), and a failure to tackle the climate emergency.

In the UK, we also face a continued threat to the future of the NHS: a core part of our social contract which was, until recent years, the best healthcare system in the world – both effective and free for all to use – but is now in crisis.

Every aspect of our post-war social contract remains under threat.

But there are also increasing grounds for optimism.

Those of us who have been trying to raise public awareness of these dangers, have begun to see welcome signs that our messages are getting through. And this means that we can hope to achieve far more.

On the NHS, the government has made a partial denial of plans to introduce further charging or means testing for services – breaking the promise of a universal service free at the point of use:

“Asked on Monday whether the Prime Minister agreed with calls from [Ken] Clarke to introduce charging for GP appointments, his spokesman replied: ‘I’m not aware of any plans to look at that currently.’”

But a recent poll shows that, the public have become aware that such denials do not reflect the government’s real agenda for the NHS:

“61% of all voters believe the Conservatives would like to introduce new charges for certain NHS services, while 51% believe they wish to entirely privatise the service.

By contrast, just one-in-five voters do not believe that Sunak’s party would like to privatise the NHS, with only 14% saying the party does not want to introduce charges to use it.”

And it is not just the NHS. Polls indicate that an increasing majority of the population have concluded that Johnson’s “oven-ready” Brexit – his most significant legacy – was a mistake.

Most people in the UK are worse-off today than they were in 2010, but this has been happening gradually and so, until recently, many people were unaware of the fact. In 2022, the cost-of-living crisis made it obvious to almost everyone. A poll of Londoners showed that the percentage who felt they were struggling financially nearly doubled in the year from 12% to 20% while the percentage who felt comfortably-off roughly halved from 23% to 12%. The UK population is becoming painfully aware of the dangers of mass impoverishment.

And perhaps most importantly of all, as we wrote before Christmas, the polls suggest that if a general election were held tomorrow, the Conservative Party would lose badly.

This increased awareness is vital to the future of the UK: without it, the government was able to  pursue its market fundamentalist agenda; but as awareness grows, a much-needed change in direction finally becomes possible.

This increased awareness creates three kinds of opportunity:

  1. To prevent this government from inflicting further damage to the UK’s democratic and social contract, its economy and the environment during the last part of its tenure;
  2. To prevent this government’s re-election so that a new government more aligned with the needs of the population – rather than the wishes of donors – can take charge; and
  3. To set out the positive case for rebuilding the UK’s social contract after the next election, and to show how it can be done.

During 2023, the 99% organisation will be active in all three of these areas. If you think you might like to help, take a look and join us.