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Why Britain’s Snap Election Is Bad News for Science

Theresa May has a questionable history with science and tech policies, and her leadership might now be extended.

Ben Sullivan

Ben Sullivan

Credit: Jay Allen Copyright: Crown Copyright

With British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to force the UK into a last minute general election scheduled for June 8, the British people are looking down the barrel of a prolonged scientific and technological dark age.

If the Conservative Party wins the 2017 general election, its rule can be extended until at least 2022. Only nine months into her leadership, May's policies on tech and science are a taste of things to come. Where do I start?

Oh yes.

In January, the government was accused of all but burying a significant climate change report. This was after May's lips remained sealed following America's inauguration of a president who once said climate change was a hoax and presides over an environmentally unfriendly White House. There are also worries that Brexit will lead to a lapse of Britain's commitment to European climate change regulations.

May's determination to a Hard Brexit is also hurting European scientists, many of whom are now looking to leave the UK, or debating their decision or ability to even study or research here in the first place.

Shortly before her ascension to leadership, acting as Home Secretary in May 2016, May also introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act, a policy that outlaws drugs known as legal highs, such as Spice, and substances capable of "stimulating or depressing the person's central nervous system" and affecting "the person's mental functioning or emotional state".

Almost a year on, critics claim the legislation, which was accused of initially gravely misunderstanding psychoactive substances, is forcing the UK's drug trade further underground. "The act has succeeded in hiding the problem, but arguably exacerbated it by pushing production and sales of the most dangerous substances underground," writes UK political news website Politics.

What else?

Theresa May is also pivotal in legalizing mass surveillance in the UK, thanks to her Investigatory Powers Act. "Much of the Act gives stronger legal footing to the UK's various bulk powers, including 'bulk interception,' which is, in general terms, the collection of internet and phone communications en masse," wrote Motherboard at the time.

Just a quick glance through May's policy voting record heralds all kinds of dubious scientific missteps, too. May has traditionally voted against smoking bans, against the terminally ill having the right to end their own life, and at hasn't got the best track record for climate change issues.

To finish off, parallels between the Conservative Party and the dismantling of Britain's National Health Service are a fact of life in the UK, and May is no stranger to her own brand of crises-inducing NHS complacency.

Peeping at the latest YouGov polls, Theresa May could be destined for an easy win in this snap election, which is arguably why she called it in the first place. But if you're a young person, or if you're particularly affected by May's policies and want to help shape your future, it's important to remember to register to vote and actually get out and vote this June, because voting is the only way these things can change.

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