In the USA, as soon as the election is won or lost the campaigning starts for the next bid to be nominee for the President…in 4 years time. We have approximately 2.5 years until our next general election and I’m seeing very little meaningful campaigning being done by Labour. The work needs to start now. And you know why? Because policy, legislation and ideology are no longer all that makes or breaks government-they’re simply not enough on their own; you have to use the media, public affairs and hype.
In 2010 the Conservative party spent £16.6 million whilst Labour spent £8 million respectively on the election and as they say…if you can’t beat them? You go back to your drawing board and damn well find another way how to. Because if it’s just about what money you have to buy votes via advertising and spin-doctoring you have no choice but to find another way. You HAVE to set the agenda and the pace.
In 1997 when “Labour” won their landslide victory of 418 seats, c13.5 million people voted Labour and overall 71.4% of the voting public turned out, in 2010 Labour took just 8.6 million votes and the overall turnout was down to 65.1%. More horrifically still we sleep walked into a coalition government which gave the unelected Tories their seats and the Demi-puppet Liberal Democrats are making absolutely no impact on the decisions being taken or laws being passed. To be absolutely clear – the following is now a reality for the people of the UK, the following is a snapshot, a small proportion of that which has been implemented since the last election-all in the name of reducing the deficit, a smokescreen of gargantuan proportions;
• More academies and free schools, creating a genuine segregation between top end and failing local sector education
• A steady decline in hospital beds
• A fragmented and virtually destroyed NHS where in real terms there are fewer nurses, ambulance staff and health care professionals
• Introduction of the Welfare Reform Act which sees Significant benefit cuts and disabled benefits overhauled with horrendous impacts on the vulnerable
• Blocking of the so called “mansion tax” for the very wealthy
• More out of town supermarkets agreed to in the name of job creation (but will actually destroy livelihoods by taking the footfall away from small towns and villages and small businesses). Says Mary Portas’s Review into the future of high streets “which was commissioned by David Cameron in May, found that the number of shops in market towns and town centres has fallen by 25,000 since 2000. Up to 9,000 more are expected to close in the next three years. At the same time, the number of shops and supermarkets in out-of-town retail parks has increased by 1,800”.
c9.5 million people watched the Xfactor final in 2012, we have a population at voting age who are engaged by reality TV – they tune in with regularity yet it’s unlikely they could name their local councilor. There is a feeling of such apathy and such a lack of belief in our politicians that so many don’t even feel their vote will make a difference even if they were to turn up on polling day.
We have to find a way to connect with the lapsed voters and those who have never entered the polling booth at all, to convince them that the Labour party elected in 1997 is not the Labour party of today, that genuine values will be put at the fore, that their opinion matters and that although tough decisions must be made on the economy – those decisions will not be at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society. It does not have to be a division between “tough economics” on the right v “bleeding heart liberals” on the left. It IS possible to effect change whilst not neglecting the weakest in our society, those most in need of support-and indeed those working their hardest to support their families and themselves.
It has been a tough 2 years for most, cuts in public sector spending have been catastrophic for many, whilst the reality is that tax for the very rich has not increased in real terms, but those on middle incomes are struggling to keep up with rising costs of fuel, food, transport vs cuts in public sector spending and many private sector companies implementing pay freezes.
When the cost of rents are not regulated, when big business avoids significant corporation tax, when schools have their spending thresholds lowered and when the NHS is being stripped back to its component parts and sold for scrap it is time to say STOP. When public sector jobs are replaced with private sector ones, just with lower salaries and reduced skills requirements it is time to say STOP. Stop the systematic erosion of an already critically damaged structure. Work needs to start from the bottom up and the only way this is possible is to have a government in power who recognises the need to invest in education, to make cuts where it has to-mainly in inefficient operations and bad management structures within central and local government. To invest in out of town rural and non-industrial areas, to stimulate jobs. To re-nationalise our public transport system and to make commitments to repeal the changes made to the health service so detrimental to its growth and sustainability.
In Austria they have almost universally free childcare-and one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Europe. My childcare costs are more or less a third of my net income-and I’m on a pretty good salary-above the national average. It is a disgrace that in today’s society you should have to compromise on the quality of your child’s care due to cost. But you do. Investment in childcare and early years education is the fundamental building block to a better society and one that then creates more jobs, the need for more skilled workers and a workforce able to go back to work should they choose to rather than stay at home. And what is this government’s answer? Higher child to staff ratios-it’s chilling in its lack of thorough thinking
You cannot fix a broken system in 4 years, but I have seen the last 2 years ravage our public sector, I’ve seen a government intent on vilifying and demonizing the most vulnerable in our society and now is the time to start building a credible opposition who instill faith and belief. But we have to start telling them what we need. We must lobby our local MPs, we must challenge the negative right wing propaganda and we must start doing it TODAY. Tomorrow will probably be too late.