You don’t have to look far to find evidence of the abject failures of the current Tory government, they are plastered over every media outlet – the Windrush scandal, Brexit and intervention in Syria are just three misguided policies that have cost the UK dearly, both in terms of integrity and cash.
It’s been barely two weeks since Britain joined France and the US in launching missiles at Syria, a contradictory decision for a country that has resisted calls to take more Syrian refugees. In 2016 the prime minister scrapped the role of Minister of Syrian Refugees, a move that shows her utter contempt for the suffering of Syrians.
Theresa May refused to consult the parliament on the decision to launch the strikes, and ignored warnings that they would not help – as the dust settled, pro-regime forces celebrated in Damascus because the strikes didn’t really do anything at all. But they did cost the UK taxpayer £6.32 million, which could have been spent on rehousing 269 Syrian refugees, or been put towards our crumbling NHS.
In the lead up to David Cameron’s 2015 debate on whether to authorise RAF planes to bomb Daesh targets in Syria, ILM Feed calculated that one six-hour strike mission on Syria would cost the UK £508,000 which could pay the average salary of 20 paramedics, 20 police officers, 20 teachers, 19 nurses, 18 firefighters or 18 junior doctors.
We certainly need them. Earlier this year a former investigating officer in the Metropolitan police said that May had “blood on her hands” for ignoring warnings on police cuts after four young men were stabbed in one night on New Year’s Eve. Since 2010 the Tories have cut some 20,000 police officers and in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to answer questions about how police cuts had affected the response time to the attack.
This was an issue also brought to the fore by the devastating Grenfell Tower after fire crews complained that back up wasn’t sent fast enough. Members of the public called for the impact of the closure of local fire stations and the axing of fire engines to be examined as part of the public inquiry into the tragedy.
One firefighter, David Badillo, wrote on Facebook about how he was forced to take up a second job after eight years of a public sector freeze and had this message for the prime minister: “When you’re giving out your meaningless praise for our emergency services remember I hold you in complete contempt.”
It’s not just Syria in which the government is spending money on destructive wars that could be used on vital services at home. The Iraq War cost the UK taxpayer £10.3 billion yet as a consequence Iraqis are living through an urgent humanitarian crisis and their cultural heritage has been destroyed due to the coalition’s failure to protect it. Thousands have died and been forced from their homes – Iraqis are the third largest nationality to arrive in Europe by boat.
Meanwhile, the eight-month military operation in Libya cost £320 million, then a further £25 million to stabilise the country following Gaddafi’s death. And what was it even for? Three rival governments vie for control of the country whilst on its shores refugees are bought and sold into slavery.
The fallout from the UK’s “war on terror” – one of the broad slogans used to justify missions in the Middle East – is also costly. In 2010 the British government paid compensation to 16 men detained by US forces in Guantanamo Bay for damages and claims that London knew or was complicit in their torture. The settlement was confidential but was estimated to be up to £50 million.
So, whilst the UK government wastes billions of pounds making life hell for civilians in or from the Middle East, disabled people at home are struggling to afford food and heating. There are at least 2,000 food banks across the county and the NHS is chronically underfunded.
Last year a committee of MPs said that homelessness is a “national crisis” after a report found that there were more than 9,000 rough sleepers and cuts to the education budget have seen thousands of teachers lose their jobs. Imagine what the UK would look like if the government funnelled the billions of pounds it spent bombing the Middle East to democracy to the people at home who really need it.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.