'The health service isn't working, transport isn't working, education isn't working – that's why I'm voting Labour'

Yahoo's election: your voice series hears from people around the country on the issues that will be swaying their vote.

As part of its election coverage, Yahoo News is speaking to voters around the country on the issues that will sway their vote. Read more from our election 'Your voice' series here as we get closer to polling day on 4 July.

Your voice
Your voice

Bringing up her son Andrew has been a lifelong labour of maternal love for 74-year-old Christine Bowditch. Now aged 35, Andrew has severe learning disabilities but lives in his own home near his parents in Carlisle. His care - and the lack of government support for it - has always guided her politics.

Christine Bowditch says  she is
Christine Bowditch says she is "very impressed" with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. (image supplied)

“Emotionally, socially and financially it’s always been very hard bringing up Andrew,” Christine says. “He has employment support allowance and disability allowance but hasn’t been through the process for a personal independence payment yet. He doesn’t have enough to live on so we are subsidising him to quite a substantial extent. Andrew is now living independently just around the corner from us, but we still have to give him a lot of support. He can make decisions for himself but it’s a very slow process.”

Of course Christine and her husband worry about the future. “I don’t know what will happen to him. Mental health problems are always there for people with learning difficulties because they live such limited lives with so little power.”

A school governor, food bank volunteer and former Labour local councillor, as well as trustee for the charity Mencap Carlisle, Christine is very engaged with her local community. Always a Labour voter, she is more concerned than ever about the prospect of a fourth Conservative term, fearing that another five years of shrunk local government budgets will further hit the physical health and mental wellbeing of children and adults with learning disabilities, as well as their families and carers.

And her ire isn’t just reserved for the treatment of the disabled: “The health service isn’t working, education isn’t working, the transport systems aren’t working – try and get a train to Edinburgh! Water isn’t working. Nothing’s working, and yet there are people making huge profits from industries that used to belong to everyone.”

She gave a decade of her life to party politics as a councillor, but quit the role after the Cumbria became a unitary authority, a decision she disagreed with for drawing power further away from local towns to elsewhere in the region. The move left remaining councillors overloaded and underpaid, with huge workloads. She suspects other resignations will follow, leaving only those who don’t have full time jobs or caring responsibilities able to step in. “Carlisle doesn’t even have a city council anymore which is an absolute disgrace,” she says.

Despite rifts among grassroots voters about the direction of policy after the Corbyn years, Christine feels upbeat about Keir Starmer’s management of the party and the prospect of his predicted arrival at Number 10 Downing Street later this year. She met the Labour leader when he visited Carlisle and says she was “very impressed”.

Photo by: zz/KGC-254/STAR MAX/IPx 2023 11/29/23 Sir Keir Starmer - Leader of The Labour Party and Leader of The Opposition - is seen leaving his home on November 29, 2023 to attend the weekly session of The Prime Minister's Questions at The Houses of Parliament. (London, England, UK)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is polling well, and has impressed Christine Bowditch. (PA)

“He came across personally as a very genuine, caring person. He’s reasonable and doesn’t make outlandish promises that he can’t keep,” she says.

But she’s worried about the growing problem of political disinformation online and the way media “manipulation” is affecting the information that voters are provided with when they decide how to cast their vote. She reports seeing particularly troubling falsehoods circulating on social media sites such as Facebook. “You see a lot of these ridiculous people who believe all kinds of things and post about them,” she says.

The cost of living crisis is causing distress for families in Carlisle, and putting extra pressure on public services, according to Christine. “Schools are having to provide breakfast for children now. That’s ludicrous,” she says. As a governor, she has also witnessed a rising number of children with special educational needs and disabilities, leaving schools without enough funding to support them to their best ability.

“They have to find it out of their own budget and it’s just crippling,” she says. “There’s huge pressure on teachers with children in reception classes still in nappies and uncontrolled behaviour and there’s no special school places because they’re full to the brim.”

Back in 2016, Christine voted to remain in the European Union and believes the years since Brexit has cost the country far too much money with little in return. In Cumbria, local businesses are struggling to recruit enough staff with European citizens choosing to return to their home countries in the EU or migrate elsewhere. The NHS and charities including Carlisle Mencap are also unable to find enough skilled medical and social care staff, with the UK now a less attractive destination for workers.

Christine Bowditch is a lifelong Labour voter and is worried about the country if the Conservatives win another general election. (image supplied)
Christine Bowditch is a lifelong Labour voter and is worried about the country if the Conservatives win another general election. (image supplied)

For Christine the most important issues for a future government to invest in would be the NHS, including cutting prescription charges, and education. The former would improve the lives of every single citizen - “everybody cares about their health” - but the latter would have a much wider impact, and over decades.

“My biggest priority would be to tackle ignorance,” she says. “Where I’d put the most money – apart from social care and the NHS and transport – would be into education. If state schools had classes of 10 to 15 pupils then education would improve, knowledge would improve, and the country would become more socially amenable generation by generation.”

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