Saturday, 12 November 2016
What We Have Is Each Other
At this time, we need a Leader who has been an anti-racist and anti-Fascist activist for more than 40 years. This was Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to today’s Labour South East Regional Conference in Ashford:
We meet after the global wake-up call of Tuesday’s US presidential election.
Whether in the US or the UK people feel left behind.
Marginalised by an economic system that makes them work harder for less, while hoovering up ever greater rewards for a small elite.
People are right to be angry with our failed economic system, falling living standards and rising inequality.
Young people today find it ever harder to get a home of their own. Harder to find good secure jobs. Landed in lifelong debt simply for trying to get an education.
Older people see their children and grandchildren struggling. Their libraries and community services cut. Their friends’ social care worsen.
They’ve seen politicians privatise what once belonged to everybody and paid the higher bills and higher fares as a result.
And if we don’t step forward and offer real solutions that meet the needs of our time then into the vacuum step the merchants of hate and blame.
They see the problem, but instead of offering solutions to make people’s lives better, they offer someone to blame.
Nigel Farage blames immigrants yet offers not a single practical proposal to put a penny more into the NHS.
He actually wants to privatise our NHS, a service that now relies on hard-working migrants to keep going.
The Tories bandied around terms like ‘scrounger’ and ‘skiver’, whipping up division against the unemployed and people with disabilities.
And in the US we’ve had the shocking spectacle of Donald Trump’s election campaign, which found an unending list of people to blame: women, black people, Mexicans, Muslims, military veterans.
Everyone except the billionaire class of tax dodgers to which he himself belongs.
However, we should remember that Donald Trump tapped into real problems: stagnating or falling wages, underfunded public services, insecure work and housing, years of being left behind and neglected, frustration that your children’s prospects look bleaker and anger at a political elite that doesn’t listen.
But instead of offering real solutions, or the resources to make them work, he offered only someone to blame.
Everyone, that is, apart from those actually responsible for a broken economy and a failed political system.
The Tories do the same.
They have opened the door to UKIP and fanned the flames of fear.
Theresa May, as Home Secretary, fed the idea that immigration was the real problem; made promises she knew they couldn’t deliver about slashing numbers and whipped up hate with ‘Go Home’ vans.
No wonder she didn’t even temper her welcome to Donald Trump. She has used the same strategy herself; if delivered with more refinement.
We have no idea how Donald Trump proposes, as he has said, to “make America great again”, and Theresa May’s Tories offer slogans, but not solutions, for most people in Britain.
We won’t tackle the damage done by elite globalisation just by leaving the EU.
We won’t ‘take back control’ unless we take on the corporate vested interests that control our energy, our transport and have infiltrated our public services.
One thing is for sure, neither billionaire Donald Trump nor the billionaire-backed Tories have any interest in giving people back control or reining in the predatory excess of a globalised free-for-all.
But Labour is in the business of real solutions to the problems and failures that Trump and the Tories are unable to address.
Let me start with housing.
House prices are 40 per cent higher in this region than in the country as a whole, and that has a knock-on effect on rents too.
The housing market has become a play thing of investment opportunities for a few, not about homes for the many.
The Tories have had six years of failure on housing and it has hit working class people in the South East hard:
Home ownership has fallen;
Housebuilding is 50,000 lower;
Homelessness has risen every year that the Tories have been in power;
And families are being forced into overpriced, poor quality and unregulated private sector rents and increasingly forced out of this region because of the cost of living.
Thanet Council house waiting list is 1,433. Thanet has just over 3,000 council properties.
Labour will allow councils to borrow to build council housing again and we will suspend right to buy so that when that housing is built it stays.
We will invest in building genuinely affordable homes to buy, rent or for shared ownership.
We have put forward a plan to invest in building housing and to create skilled jobs in the construction sector, and to meet higher standards of energy efficiency benefiting the occupants and the environment.
We will toughen regulation on the private rented sector to ensure homes are fit for human habitation and rents are controlled.
In this region, there are many areas that have been neglected for too long.
For the year to June 2016, unemployment in Thanet was 6.9 per cent, which is significantly higher than both the South East average of 4.1per cent and the Great Britain average of 5.1 per cent.
This region has been starved of the investment it needs by a Conservative ideology that says the Government’s only job is to step back and let the market take care of it. Well, that has failed.
So through a Regional Investment Bank for the South East, we will put forward £30 billion of investment for this region.
That will be targeted on creating good sustainable jobs – high skilled, well paid and secure.
Especially in this county we need to restore pride and prosperity to many of the coastal towns that have been left behind.
Where the Tories neglect, Labour will invest.
Small businesses in the South East have nearly 20 per cent of the national turnover, yet they receive only 13 per cent of bank lending.
So a Regional Investment Bank must ensure that those businesses who pay their taxes and respect their workers have access to the finance they need to secure their future and to grow.
We’re not going to use public money to subsidise dirty, groundwater-polluting, landscape-scarring industries like fracking.
We will invest in the transition to a low carbon economy, not clinging on to polluting technologies that we can consign to history by harnessing technological advances with public investment.
And that investment delivers a return: a stronger economy, better jobs with higher incomes that produce more tax revenue to better fund public services.
We have huge natural resources in the UK, a world-beating history of scientific research and technological development including in many of our institutions of academic and scientific excellence in this region.
As a country we lag behind the rest of the world’s major economies in generating energy from renewable sources.
We lag behind on the speed of our broadband and we lag behind on our transport infrastructure too.
Nowhere is that more true that on our railways
To those who commute on Southern Rail, I offer you this pledge: Labour will bring the railways into public control and remove the incompetent privateers who have leeched public investment and the highest fares in Europe into directors’ bonuses and shareholder payouts.
That is not how the next Labour Government is going to allow things to be run.
Andy McDonald, our Shadow Transport Secretary, has been campaigning with you across the Southern Rail network, and I know things aren’t much better on South East Trains or South West Trains either.
That’s why the next Labour Government will take back control from the privateers and put control in the hands of passengers, commuters and elected politicians.
We will invest in rail, invest in on-board broadband, and cut fares.
You, here in Ashford, know the benefits of High Speed Rail and good rail connections.
The NHS is Labour’s proudest creation and as someone who once represented NHS workers, I know the dedication of NHS staff.
But, under the Tories, the NHS is in crisis like never before.
We know that flu epidemic or the norovirus can lead to a winter crisis but the Tories have put the NHS in crisis in spring, summer, autumn and winter.
NHS waiting lists have never been longer.
NHS deficits have never been larger and they are growing.
More people are waiting longer in pain for an operation.
More people are waiting longer, often in severe pain, in A&E.
Over £4 billion of cuts to adult social care inflicted under the Tories has left hundreds of thousands of people without a care package.
Thousands more with minimal 15 minute visits and more elderly people turning up at A&E due to neglect and not safe to be discharged home because the support is no longer there.
Faced with this unprecedented crisis in A&Es, this unprecedented pressure on the NHS, what is the Tory solution?
They wasted £3 billion on a top-down reorganisation of the NHS.
They have privatised services, like ambulances in Sussex, and that privatisation has failed.
Our great friend Ken Loach has quite rightly lead the protests against a £700 million privatisation of NHS services in Bath.
Our excellent Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, has already condemned this.
They are threatening a new round of A&E closures and downgrades.
This is why we are determined to bring all NHS Services back into the family of NHS provision.
That’s why we are focusing our National Campaign Day on Saturday 26 November on defending our NHS.
So I want every CLP in the country out in their community campaigning to defend our NHS and to highlight the damage that the Tories have done.
Our National Health Service – free at the point of use – with parity of esteem for mental health services and integrated with social care.
That is at the very core of our vision for the kind of society we should be.
And I want you, the CLP officers, the councillors, trade unionists and other activists, to work together to get as many of our members out on the streets on 26th November.
Because our party doesn’t have the benevolence of the press barons, it doesn’t have the donations of oligarchs.
What we have is each other.
Over half a million of us.
More members than every other political party in Britain, along with the millions in our affiliated trade unions.
Our Labour Party now has over 550,000 individual members.
In the South East alone, we have more members than the either the Lib Dems, the Greens or UKIP have in the whole country.
That membership is our most valuable resource.
If we organise it, then our ability to speak to voters, stand candidates, and lead campaigns in our communities, that ability is second to none.
And working together, we can expose their failures on the economy, their failures on housing, their shambolic Brexit, their failed privatisation of our railways.
By working together, we can get more Labour councillors next year, and a Labour Government to rebuild and transform our country so that no one and no community is left behind.