The relevance of NATO for our national security is being questioned....
The party conferences and the defection of two Conservative MPs to UKIP have thrown up some tough questions.
The first concerns the NHS. How easy have you found getting a GP appointment? At least a million people found it so difficult last year that they went to A&E instead. That is a hot political issue. The NHS budget is £109billion and has been ring fenced since 2010 but is still insufficient to meet increasing demand. An ageing population and immigration are fuelling that demand. Ed Miliband pledged an additional £2.5billion if elected in 2015. Cameron went further, promising access to a GP seven days a week between 8a.m. and 8p.m. by 2020.
To achieve this will require 8000 more GPs according to their Royal College. 5000 are in training but that takes at least five years. To increase the NHS budget whilst continuing to cut the UK deficit will mean cuts in other public services .George Osborne is planning £25billion spending cuts in 2015-17 including £12billion cuts in the welfare budget. Most benefits, including child benefit, tax credits, job seeker’s allowance and housing benefit will be frozen. Ten million households will be affected, many of whom are in low paid jobs.
This challenges each of us as voters next May to ask ourselves who matters most, the sick or the poor? Of course it won’t be that simple but if we are still fighting in Iraq, trying to prevent terrorism at home, reduce global warming and maintain other essential services the need to pray for wisdom as we vote and for those elected is obvious.
The second question is what you think about quitting the EU. The defection to UKIP by Conservative MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless challenges us all to consider this question. They think we should leave the EU and that they are speaking for the majority. David Cameron is pledged to renegotiate the terms of our membership and hold an In/Out referendum in 2017 on the outcome of the negotiations. Reckless and Carswell have joined UKIP because it is the party campaigning to leave. Ironically, if many more Conservatives follow them the most likely outcome is a Labour Government in 2015 and no negotiations or referendum.
Advocates of leaving the EU say membership costs too much, leaches sovereignty from Westminster to the unelected European Commission and opens the UK to excessive immigration. They want Britain to stand alone. Advocates of staying see the UK as belonging in Europe where 50% of our exports go. Leaving would cost up to three million jobs and leave us diplomatically isolated. Such issues as North Sea fishing, climate change, energy security, and international crime require collaboration. Multi-national companies might move to an EU member state to avoid paying tariffs.
Few deny the EU needs reforming. The question is whether we stay and press for change or withdraw. Whatever your answer to these two questions you can pray for God’s guidance both for our leaders and for us all that we know what is best for the nation and His Kingdom.