It feels like we can’t escape the word ‘Brexit’. It has dominated public interest and the political sphere for the last four years. It has seen off two Prime Ministers, two Secretaries of State for Exiting the European Union, and several other Cabinet ministers. Political careers have been made and destroyed by Brexit and yet we seem no closer to the finish line – indeed, we seem further from it than ever before. But for all the attention sucked up by Brexit, there are other issues that have been left by the wayside which deserve more coverage.
The criminal justice system is outdated and crumbling; quite literally in the case of HMP Winchester. The magistrate system alone is overloaded, underfunded, and inefficient, yet recent proposals suggest it is destined to receive even more cases. The crown jewel of the UK’s welfare state, the NHS, is close to collapse under its own weight and is in desperate need of greater support from Parliament. The emergency services lack funding and resources, leaving an evidence backlog, unacceptable ambulance waiting times, and unsafe buildings.
The media focuses on things like The Great British Break Off while it leaves our politicians unquestioned and the public uninformed. It certainly seemed as if 90% of the articles on the Conservative leadership focused on the candidates’ plans and comments on Brexit above anything else. The Independent’s post-debate report reduced Boris Johnson’s past gaffes, such as his incompetent handling of the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case and his infamous ‘letterbox’ comment on Muslim women who wear burkas, to mere paragraphs. Debates in the media focus too heavily on developments in the Brexit sphere.
Every question comes back to the UK leaving the EU. This is understandable to an extent as this change will fundamentally affect the way in which the country runs and funds its most vital services. But there needs to be in-depth, well-developed discussions about policy and reform which look at issues without the Brexit lens. Once the tie with the EU is cut we must be ready to take care of these problems.
How will our latest Prime Minister ensure courts continue to run smoothly, and how will he optimise the way the criminal justice system works? Will the recruitment drive ordered for our police be repeated for our healthcare system and fire departments? How does Mr Johnson plan to approach the growing mental health crisis emerging across a country with too few resources to deal with such a problem? We need these questions answered not only so that we can trust our leader through a turbulent time, but also so that we can trust him after the deed is done.
We must hope that Mr Johnson can deliver Brexit, but once he does that he will need to deliver a country that works for everyone; and that is much harder.