THIS country faces its most challenging time since the financial crisis of 2008. People are really beginning to feel the hardship of frozen wages, uncertain employment contracts and now rapidly rising inflation.
In recent years, the UK. Economy has been buoyed by consumption-driven growth – hardly ideal and not the long-term bedrock on which to build a sustainable recovery. It is now clear that the economy is faltering once again through a lack of Government and business investment and retail sales are falling, all this despite the longest period of super-low interest rates in history. In this respect, the Conservative Government and before it the Coalition are culpable in failing to ‘reset’ our economy in the obvious way that was needed.
But the issues are not simply economic: clearly Brexit is a huge issue for all (note the massive depreciation in sterling that followed and impact on prices here) and the public are rightly concerned by the Conservative Government’s real-term cuts to both education and health.
Brexit – I will be honest – as you would expect me to be – and say that I both voted for and campaigned hard over many months early last year for the UK to remain in Europe. The outcome was divided and the vote to Leave edged those wishing to remain. But that is the brutal and blunt way that Referendums work, hardly ideal for something so complex. What we now need is to have a strong team negotiating a deal with the EU and for that to be put to Parliament (I really don’t think a further referendum will do anything other than harden the resolve of both sides). Better to have someone of the calibre of Keir Starmer QC and his team than Boris Johnson to negotiate this critical and complicated set of agreements. But we must have access to the Single Market for the security of our economic prosperity, to agencies and authorities that will protect our homeland security, social needs and environment.
Education – the Conservatives are claiming once more to be raising funding for schools but the reality is that the changes will see real-term cuts to school budgets overall. Worse still, they are even taxing our schools through an inappropriate apprenticeship levy. So the truth is that Warwick and Leamington schools are losing £4.3million in funding, will see teaching staffs cut (by up to a quarter in several cases), class sizes rising to levels not seen for decades, the withdrawal of Free School Meals and the subject offer at GCSE and A-level almost being halved in some secondary schools. What future for our young people?
Labour is proposing a new National Education Service and promising Free School Meals for all to ensure every child has the guarantee of one meal a day. We are also promising to restore the Sure Start/Children’s Centres that have been savagely cut by the two last Governments. We will give teachers a long overdue pay increase in line with inflation. And we will invest in our schools to make them fir for the 21st century. And we will abolish tuition fees and re-introduce the Education Support Allowance for FE. We are right to be investing in education.
Health – it was a Labour Government that established the NHS in 1948. We should be proud of this much-cherished institution, not for historical reasons but because it has delivered the most cost-effective health care anywhere in the world for decades. But it is not just threatened by the Conservatives, they are actively taking a wrecking ball to it and privatising it service by service. If you value your own health, you should value the NHS. Labour will restore the public ownership of the health service and make it the envy of the world once more. We need to review the pro ion of Social Care which is in crisis, again due to a lack of funding, and urgently review the dram to rise in need for Mental Health services across all age groups.
Elsewhere, Labour will cancel the Bedroom Tax and reverse the savage reductions to Personal Independence Payments and give more support to working tax credits. And we will introduce a true Living Wage and address the insecurity of employment contracts evidenced by the Gig economy and zero-hour contracts.
Labour has policies for all, to reduce inequality in our society and build a wider, more prosperous future. Labour is for the many and I hope you will place your trust in me on June 8.
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