It would be a lie to suggest that I feel anything but devastated by the election results. A New Labour government are not much more than a millimetre away from their friends in the tory party, but even the smallest of differences save lives. Surveying the wreckage, Jess Bradley examines what might be in store for trans people over the next 5 years of a tory majority government, as well as picking out some silver linings.
The Coalition Government implemented the Immigration Act which restricted migrant access to the NHS and the Health and Social Care Act which removed a lot of responsibility for healthcare from the state as well as allowing for growing privatisation, alongside NHS, welfare, education, and local council cuts. Under a slim Tory majority, we are likely to see proposals for more cuts and privatisations of public services – already they have announced £12 billion in cuts to welfare representing 10% of the entire welfare budget. They also have their eyes on cutting the HIV prevention budget. As trans people are under-employed due to transphobic discrimination, and also represent a high risk group for HIV contractions, these cuts are likely to hurt us particularly. Further cuts to local council budgets are also likely, which will disproportionately impact on women’s and LGBT youth services. On the backdrop of this, it is unlikely that we will see the increase in the trans healthcare budget which we desperately need.
Whilst UKIP only managed to get one seat, the total vote share for UKIP now places them as the third party, above the Lib Dems. This is a massive concern, indicating a rise of racism and xenophobia within the UK public over the past 5 years. This can be partially attributed to right-wing media peddling its bile, but it would be disingenuous not to also address the fact that the Labour, socialists, and the radical left have spectacularly failed at challenging these racist narratives in the media over the last 5 years. This needs to be a central part of our organising over the next 5 years if we are to challenge the rise of the far right and their racism, sexism, transphobia (and other ism’s). UKIPs rise is likely to have consequences for the Tory Party’s plans for a referendum on EU membership – it is likely that the UK will leave the EU, or at least vote to reduce our political involvement within it. A significant proportion of human and worker’s rights legislation comes from the EU, and as such a “no” vote is likely to harm the trans community and other marginalised groups.
Whilst the collapse of the Lib Dems out of the Coalition will mean that the Tory Party will not be “checked” by them, it also means that the Tories will no longer be able to blame all their failings on a rather hapless Nick Clegg. David Cameron is also likely to find it increasingly difficult to control his own rowdy back-benchers. The only outside support in Westminster outside of his own party will be the Northern Irish MPs.
The SNP landslide in Scotland means that there will be a guaranteed anti-austerity block vote acting as a significant thorn in Cameron’s side, which you wouldn’t have been able to say if those seats had gone to the Labour Party. The results in Scotland point to the general populace wanting a viable anti-austerity option which if Labour have any sense they will learn from and move towards the anti-austerity left too. And so it might be harder to implement cuts and privatisations than the tories had bargained for, especially if the Labour Party does lurch leftwards (the Labour leadership election will be a good test of whether they will). The Tory Party’s concessions to increasing powers to the Scottish government might mean health services (including transition related services) might be significantly different above the border than below. We shall see.
The Green Party and Plaid Cymru held onto their seats with a slight increase in majority. Despite the Green Party’s Rupert Read, the Greens had better than most LGBT policy, as did Plaid (who specifically addressed trans healthcare in their manifesto). Some MPs, such as Lib Dem Julian Hubbert, who lost their seats were known for tabling trans friendly motions (presumably in Hubbert’s case at the behest of Sarah Brown). This might mean the trans community will need to find another pet MP who is willing to take these discussions forward – perhaps Caroline Lucas might be good as she seemed supportive when we met her at Brighton Trans Pride last year.
The election results seem bleak, but not all is lost. The 1992 election which similarly shocked the country with a fourth term Tory win heralded a time of creative and effective resistance against austerity. We will need to look out for each-other and other oppressed groups, create networks of solidarity, listen to eachother, and build our own coalitions to fight austerity. Our advice is: join a union. Join Action for Trans Health. Join other radical organisations. Pay membership dues if you can. Get organised: Fight back.