In the UK, strikes, inflation, hospitals… the crises are piling up and getting worse

2022 was the first year of political crisis in the United Kingdom. After the antics of Boris Johnson, who was sacked by his ministers in July, and the incompetence of Liz Truss, who left in October after less than two months in power, the British found a stable government led by Rishi Sunak.

United Kingdom: Sunak, financier in Downing Street to calm markets

But this is really the only reason for their satisfaction. Because the economic recession and its terrible social consequences did not disappear with the new year. According to Goldman Sachs, the country is headed for a -1.4% recession in 2023, the worst among the G7 countries. Things may get worse before they get better. Decryption.

The value of life

Inflation in the UK broke a 40-year record, peaking at 10.7% year-on-year, close to 10.2% in the Eurozone. But with no social protection equal to that of the Old Continent, the price hike immediately cut the budgets of millions of households, some into poverty – half of households throw away food. Because the food inflation, which is stronger than the general inflation, is accelerating up to +16.5% within a year.

Britons, with 14 million already living below the poverty line before the twin Covid crisis and inflation, are rushing to food banks. Some employers, such as hospitals, create their own essential supplies for contingent workers.

Similarly, rising electricity and gas prices are forcing 3 million households to stop heating their homes. The phenomenon is so big that 4,300 “heat banks” have been opened this winter, meaning churches, town halls, community halls and other heated public places open to the public.

Holidays and demonstrations

Rarely enough to emphasize, the United Kingdom has been rocked by a growing social movement for six months. From postal workers to railway workers, nurses and telecommunications operators, the strikes are such that the country is almost as paralyzed as the London Underground in June and November.

Sectors with staff shortages suffer a little more. The government had to call in 1,200 soldiers to replace border police and medical workers who went on strike at Christmas.

Discontent does not fall at the beginning of the year. Strike notices have been issued for the month of January in railways, among nurses and medical staff. In the midst of a housing crisis, there are demands for higher wages to support the rising cost of living.

A brutal return to austerity

Rishi Sunak and his ministers do not want to satisfy them. The Prime Minister promised not to give in to the strikers and their wage demands “stupid” in the interview Daily Mail in December.

“The government does not want to hear about salary increases. It doesn’t offer anything new, concrete, to respond to attackers. It even does the opposite and suggests tightening the right to strike.”Aurelien Antoine, UK expert and president of the Brexit Observatory, reports.

If wages rise, Downing Street has said it fears a wage-price spiral that will fuel inflation. Rishi Sunak is also set to make tough budget promises after his predecessor Liz Truss’s anti-inflation plan – an unfunded program that led to market attacks on British debt and sent interest rates soaring.

To make people forget this disastrous episode, the new prime minister brutally returned to austerity regime after taking office. His first budget was dedicated to 55 billion euros in savings, split between tax increases and public spending cuts. The energy fee limit has been reduced to six months instead of two years. The financially strapped state does not seem prepared to absorb the energy and inflationary shocks that France and Germany have done for their populations and businesses.

A strained healthcare system

NHS (National Health Service) It provides the most vivid picture of the difficulties that the United Kingdom is going through. According to British emergency doctors, between 300 and 500 people die every week because of delays and overcrowding in their services. Behind these statistics are shocking stories of patients who have to wait days for treatment.

The doctors’ union condemns the results of past political elections. They are calling on the government to increase its capacity, especially to address the shortage of nursing staff, which has been crying out since the pandemic, which has deeply shaken the hospital system. The strike by the nurses’ union, which began in December and was renewed in January, won the first 20% pay rise in a century and was refused by the government, winning the support of the majority of Britons. But it is not the government that judges these desires “inconvenient” Her Majesty is listening to the Minister of Health.

Liz Truss, economic shipwreck in 44 days

Under pressure, Rishi Sunak has committed to reducing emergency queues this Wednesday, specifically without reducing the funds he intends to allocate. The successive austerity measures of Conservative governments in power for twelve years have been characterized by the degradation of the NHS and public services more widely.

“2023 will correspond to 2022. Like other European democracies, but more so, the UK is going through a systemic crisis. This is the result of the British continuing to bet on nuclear power and ahead of many other countries, refusing to raise wages except for possible energy, and under-investing in public services and infrastructure. It is the pre-Brexit crisis that only acts as an aggravating factor.Raises Aurélien Antoine from Brexit Observatory.