Dear Labour Leadership,
Give us back our party, or go away.
You might think from the headlines and the memes, that the reason many of us are no longer voting for you is down to Ed’s funny looking face, or nasal monotone. But Leadership, you have much bigger problems than Ed’s style of eating a bacon sandwich.
Many of us from working class families absented ourselves in 2010. Although 1997-2010 brought us the minimum wage, Sure Start and massive infrastructure investment that turned many post-industrial cities (including my own) into 21st century places-to-be – there were unforgivable betrayals of trust.
The warning shot came with the Ecclestone fiasco and Blair’s “I’m a pretty straight sort of guy” apologism – but little did we know how far astray Blair’s megolamania would lead us. Neoliberalism engulfed the party.
You let us down.
Labour managed to pull off a strange feat in their 13 years of government. Be in no doubt, in 1997 Labour saved the NHS from the destruction wrought upon it by 18 years of Tory rule.
But they also sowed the seeds of the destruction we see today.
The latest major reorganisation of the NHS, under the Health and Social Care Act, will suck another £4bn out of the health service. This comes on the back of £780m blown by New Labour on 70 reorganisations in just four years between 2005 and 2009.
At the same time, 22 of the 103 NHS trusts to enter Private Finance Initiatives (PFI – borrowing privately at twice the price of state borrowing to keep debt off the books) are facing financial difficulty due to the exorbitant PFI repayments. Some hospitals are having to handover a fifth of their annual budget on paying for the PFI deal.
This meant that much of the short term improvements we experienced, laid the groundwork for much greater problems of fragmentisation, commercialisation and overwhelming debt down the line.
Back in 2008, before Gove or Austerity, UK teachers were already working longer hours, for lower pay and retiring with a smaller pension than teachers in many countries in Europe.
Academy Schools are publicly funded independent state schools (limited companies) – this means they receive their funding from central government and are accountable directly to central government, rather than their Local Authority.
During thirteen years of New Labour government, 203 state schools were turned into Academies. In just three years of the Coalition – this has risen more than twelve fold, to more than 2,600 (with a further 500 in the pipeline). This might suggest the programme was so successful it called for rapid national roll out. But it doesn’t.
A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee, the parliamentary select committee responsible for ensuring value for money for the tax payer, condemned the programme as ‘complex and inefficient’, leading to more than £1bn over spending. This £1bn had to be met by the budgets for other non-academy schools.
In 2009, the former head of MI5 Stella Rimmington accused the British government of exploiting the fear of terrorism to pass laws intended to restrict our civil liberties. She was right. In recent years, an astonishing amount of legislation has been passed curtailing civil liberties, the right to protest and the right to fair and open justice in Britain. The Labour government passed 25 Acts of Parliament and 50 individual measures to restrict civil liberties for UK citizens in the name of ‘national security’ in its thirteen year term.
Prior to 1984, a person could not be held by police for longer than 24 hours without a criminal charge being made against them. The Thatcher government extended this to four days. New Labour extended this first to seven days, then to 14 days, and finally sought the power to detain citizens without charge for up to 90 days, at the request of the police. Whilst the Blair government was defeated on 90 days, the period was doubled nevertheless to 28 day. The Coalition allowed this legislation to expire in 2011, returning the period to 14 days, only to apply for permission to extend to 28 days in the same year.
Meanwhile, the Anti Terrorism and Security Act 2001 allowed for indefinite detention of non British citizens suspected of committing terrorist acts, where there was not enough evidence to proceed to a court of law.
The Control Orders passed in the Terrorism Act 2006 meant anybody suspected of terrorist related activities by the Home Secretary, but without any kind of trial, can be electronically tagged, monitored, be restricted from making phone calls, using the internet, be banned from certain kinds of work, can be restricted from going certain places, have one’s passport revoked and be under a duty to report to the police.
The Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 granted a number of powers to police and restrictions on protesters.
In response to the protest of Brian Haw who spoke to parliament from Parliament Square for several years as a protest against the crimes of the Iraq War, the Act applied special restrictions on protest within a designated area of 1km of any point of Parliament Square. Basically, it is now almost impossible to protest outside our parliament without being arrested.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allowed the government full surveillance powers over all kinds of communications. These powers have been extensively overused by police, councils and other enforcement agencies. It has rightly been deemed as a ‘snooper’s charter’. The current rate is 30 warrants being issued a week. In the 15 months from July 2005 to October 2006, 2407 warrants were issued.
Betrayal of Trust
Then we had the cronyism:
After opening up much of the nation’s law, policing and justice services to private security companies such as G4S while Home Secretary – former Labour MP John Reid became a Group Consultant for…G4S.
But the biggest betrayal, above all this, was the failure to regulate the Financial Services industry, and the choice to bailout the banks with public money – paving the way for austerity, by transferring trillions of pounds of private debt, into our public purse. All with zero conditions on the Financial Services industry to change its ways.
We Need an End to Austerity
So now we flash forward a mere four years from the end of the Blair/Brown era, and the British public have been subjected to post-bailout wealth transfer from the public to private sector under the guise of ‘austerity’.
There is no austerity – austerity implies frugality, solidarity, and recovery. Instead, this government borrowed more in 3 years than you did in 13, and they haven’t used it to rebuild the country, but to flog its assets to their mates….and I mean this literally.
Instead of promising the end of austerity, and the abandonment of the neoliberal policies that underpin it – the Labour Leadership is doubling down.
Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Rachel Reeves is facing off against the most unpopular DWP chief since Norman Tebbit, and she chooses to emulate him! She vows to be tougher than the tories. We don’t want anymore mean-spiritedness in our welfare system thanks, we want some damn compassion.
Anyone who votes for Labour, with its current leadership and policies in 2015, whatever their intentions or hopes, is voting for more of the same. Fact. You’ve said it yourselves. This time, you are not even pretending to be our Labour Party anymore.
This means that you have put us all in a terrible predicament. We vote outside the Lib Lab Con and face splitting the vote and gifting another five years to the Coalition – or we vote you in to carry on their project regardless.
Seeing Cameron booted out of No.10 just to wake up the next day to more austerity is not a result, it’s a disaster.
Worse, it sends the message to Cameron and the Tories that however badly they’ve betrayed the country, they can get back in power just one election later without changing their platform at all!
So, I’m out. I’ll take the risk and split the vote – because the worst outcome of voting for my new chosen party is only the reality that awaits if I vote for you.
This breaks my heart.
You had the chance to shed the New Labour shell forever, a Britain battered by austerity is leaning leftward for the first time in 30 years – and you blew it.
Labour leadership, there is no point in you. Give us back our party, or go away.
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