When and how we leave the EU is the most pressing issue of our time. Apparently.
I cannot recall a news bulletin since the result on June 24 when the B-word hasn’t been discussed. Pretty much every BBC Question Time in the past six months has involved bugged-eyed folk in bad sweaters demanding we pull up the drawbridge and cut ties with Brussels in the time it takes for David Dimbleby to tell us that the debate will be coming from Nuneaton the following week.
For our national newspapers it is the only show in town and the issue is never far from the front pages. And why not? The decision to leave will rank as the most momentous democratic act in British history. Its ramifications will be felt for decades. What happens next is crucial and our future fortunes will be shaped entirely by the comings and goings of the next 18 months or so. Historians of the future will rake over the actions of Mrs May and Brexit cabinet, analysing every single one of their moves. It is make or break time but the only show in town? Most certainly not.
On picking up the keys to Number 10 Theresa May talked about how she would ensure Britain would become a fairer society and how she would champion those are ‘just about managing’. But since then all that those people have heard is the inane refrain that Brexit means Brexit.
In the Autumn Statement the ticking time bomb that is social care was completely overlooked despite the fact that is affecting millions of us and will continue to weigh heavily on the public and the private purse. Another 21st Century crisis which is in danger of becoming lost in the post-Brexit fog is the fact that one in eight of our workforce – an incredible 3.8 million people – are classed as living in poverty.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, this figure has increased by 1.1 million since 2010 and it is expected to get worse as the cost of rents, especially in the private sector, will increase faster than the value of property.Although the total number officially classed as poor has fallen in the past six years, the fact that so many working people continue to slip below the breadline on a daily basis is something the Government must work harder on. Our politicians will point towards the introduction of a living wage next year but it is the housing crisis that they need to tackle because as long as landlords continue to exploit the lack of suitable rental properties then the poor’s plight will get worse.
The issue of poverty is a perennial for any Government and will sadly never go away but there are 2.5 million children living with this scourge and it is incumbent on all politicians to fight for their less fortunate constituents. My fear is that these issues, as well as others such as the turmoil on our railways and in our prisons, will be not get the full attention they deserve while our leaders put all of their focus on extricating our nation from the EU.
We get the point that Brexit is vitally important, whether we agree with it or not, but the be all and end all? I think not.