This is my fortnightly column which is published first in the Fife Herald, East Fife Mail, and St Andrews Citizen.
It has been another head-spinning week in politics. Yet more turn-over amongst senior ministers is giving new meaning to the phrase ‘government of the day’. The soap opera return of a former prime minister to cabinet raised real concerns over how the foreign secretary can be held to account by MPs. Suella Braverman’s sacking and subsequent tirade against the Rishi Sunak appears to have sparked another round of Tory melodrama.
As ever, the chaos in the Conservative party and Rishi Sunak’s superficial attempts to improve his standing in the polls stand in stark contrast to the deep problems the country faces. Inflation falling to 4.6% is welcome, but even as the prime minister attempts to celebrate the figure which was always out of his control, we can’t forget that prices are still rising, and that they are significantly above what they were two years ago. Food prices have risen a staggering 28% over the last two years.
There is no doubt about the impact of these facts on people’s lives, even before winter brings even greater challenge. Last week figures from the Trussell Trust showed foodbank usage was at record levels during the summer months. In Scotland alone the charity’s network provided a record 128,490 food parcels, including 41,878 food parcels for 21,000 children.
The bare minimum that the UK Government should do when faced with such overwhelming need is to commit to raising benefits in line with inflation. I questioned the government on that point this week, but the minister refused to answer.
I also participated in a debate on the King’s Speech, the formal process in which the government sets out its plans for the year ahead. The document was thin, and showed a party which is out of ideas, simply playing for time before a general election.
In the debate I raised a number of issues which affect North East Fife, including two of the priorities which I hear from my constituents on the doorstep: the NHS and access to care. People ask me about how long it will take to see a GP, whether their children will get support with complex and little-understood conditions such as PANS/PANDAS, whether specialists are available for support when things go wrong, and how they access mental health needs.
Care services are also a vital part of supporting people’s health. My priority for North East Fife is for anyone who needs support to live independently to get it. No one should be left taking up a hospital bed or be on a waiting list because of a lack of carers, which has not been addressed by either the UK or Scottish governments. My party and I want to introduce an elevated statutory minimum wage for social care workers, which would immediately help recruitment and place value in that vital profession.
People in North East Fife and across the country deserve governments which are focused on them. That is why we need a general election. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are ready to fight that campaign and offer change.