The annual black tie back-slapping event of the year for Scotland’s political and media class is over. Kezia Dugdale was awarded the Debater of the Year award for a speech which tore apart the hypocrisy and ethics of Ruth Davidson for her support of the rape clause. Ruth Davidson was then awarded the Scottish Politician of the Year. You couldn’t really make it up.
Colonel Davidson was given the prize the day after a landmark study accused her government of “economic murder” for austerity policies which a new study suggests have caused 120,000 deaths.
The study, published in BMJ Open, focusing on England and Wales found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led austerity than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels.
On this trajectory that could rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020.
The study estimated that to return death rates to their pre-2010 levels spending would need to increase by £25.3bn.
In social care the annual budget increase collapsed from 2.20 per cent annually, to a decrease of 1.57 per cent.
The researchers found this coincided with death rates which had decreased by around 0.77 per cent a year to 2010, beginning to increase again by 0.87 per cent a year.
And the majority of those were people reliant on social care, the paper says: “This is most likely because social care experienced greater relative spending constraints than healthcare.”
Real terms funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-led Coalition Government in 2010, and the study concluded this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths.
The Department of Health said “firm conclusions” cannot be drawn from this work, and independent academics warned the funding figures were “speculative”.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Lawrence King of the Applied Health Research Unit at Cambridge University, said it showed the damage caused by austerity.
“It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics,” he said. “This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.”
The Herald reports from Prestonfield House Hotel that in her acceptance speech the Colonel “brought the house down with a series of quips.”
“I’m very grateful for this award tonight. I’m incredibly proud of the team that I’ve been building in Holyrood and I’m now building in Westminster – this award is very much for them.”
The award highlights the extraordinary emptiness of modern politics, in which a woman can sustain a career on slogans and photo-opportunities surrounded by a placid press corps and managing to continue with complete impunity apparently impervious to connection or culpability with her party’s government and its policies.
This feels like a value-free zone where gongs are handed out for practitioners who know how to play the game.