In recent years, the Tories have launched a distinct and painful ideological war on the poor, the working class, those who are disabled and those who rely on welfare.
Now, Theresa May has appointed arguably the most right-wing Cabinet in history, which is committed to continuing disastrous austerity policies.
Despite this being 2016, we now know that people are working in Victorian type conditions, subjected to zero hour contracts; unscrupulous bosses and insecure work conditions. Our students have ever higher levels of debt and many young people are working for poverty wages. More and more benefit claimants are being unjustly sanctioned or being declared fit for work when they are terminally ill.
For families at the heart of our neighbourhoods and communities, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet with rents, energy, food, travel and childcare continuing to rise, resulting in unacceptable and cruel choices between heating and eating. At a time of extreme inequality, the Tories’ promise more tax cuts for the wealthy, and more spending cuts on our schools and on the vulnerable
Following Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election this summer, Labour members have again chosen overwhelmingly for Labour to be a party that is dedicated to improving the lives of the many and not just the few. In Jeremy we have a leader, Shadow Chancellor in John McDonnell MP and a Shadow Cabinet as a whole that is standing up to austerity, standing up for our public services and articulating a credible economic alternative to the Tories’ failing and ideologically-driven austerity.
As a black woman and life-long anti-racist campaigner,I joined the Labour Party several decades ago because of my desire to see an end to inequality, discrimination and injustice. I am pleased that Labour’s anti-austerity stance is coupled with opposing the demonisation and scapegoating of migrants, which sadly has increased since the EU referendum result. With the excellent Diane Abbott MP as Shadow Home Secretary, this is exactly the approach we need to have now if we are both to defend our diverse communities and take on the myths that seek to scapegoat migrants, Muslims and others for the disastrous effects of Tory cuts and years of neo-liberalism on much of Britain.
With a clear anti-austerity agenda, as a Labour party, we have achieved much in the past year with Jeremy Corbyn as Leader, including:
- Government U-turns on cuts to tax credits, disability benefits and academy schools in England.
- Win after win in by-elections starting with Oldham West and Royton, then Ogmore and the seat of Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, and, most recently of all, Tooting, with an increased majority.
- Labour elected Mayors in London, Bristol, Salford and Liverpool
- A massive boost and explosion in party membership to over 600,000, meaning we are becoming a real movement for change that can mobilise for victory.
Now we need to move forward on this agenda – because austerity isn’t over, and with Teresa May’s Government announcing vicious policies such as an extension of the bedroom tax and an increase in grammar schools leading to greater segregation, now more than ever, at all levels, Labour needs to be absolutely determined in our challenge against the unfairness and damage being caused by this Tory government.
In demanding economic and social justice and an end to austerity, we have started to clearly demand the real change the country needs to see, based on investing in our future and challenging a rigged system that works only for the few not the many. We are right to be outraged by a government that caters to the demands of the super-wealthy, while failing to meet the needs of the many, and to counter this we also need to offer real change, and that is what our Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn can offer an electorate that has become increasingly disillusioned in recent years.
To win again, Labour must make it clear that never again will we allow an economy to be dominated by the casino gambling of the big banks. Instead, we must break down the power system that protects inequality, creates injustice and the widening gap between rich and poor.
We need investment, growth and opportunities all in equal measure. We need government intervention to a failing market, which is doing nothing else but distributing inequality. We need real action to tackle such things as climate change and air pollution.
We cannot let the Tories get away with the pain they are inflicting and need to get on with building a strong opposition, ready to win the next general election, based on a credible alternative economic strategy of investment not cuts – join us for a discussion on our next steps this weekend.
Claudia Webbe is a member of the Labour NEC and will be speaking at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity conference on Winning with Jeremy — Labour’s Alternative to Tory austerity on this Saturday October 22 at Student Central, Malet Street, London WC1E. Other speakers include MPs John McDonnell, Cat Smith, Diane Abbott, Jon Trickett and Richard Burgon. For information and tickets see here or register on the door from 9.30am.