Rebecca Long-Bailey: This year has seen too much despair in politics. We need Jeremy Corbyn’s hope

5th August, 2016 4:03 pm

Jeremy Corbyn

A little over a year ago, Labour committing to decent homes and decent jobs for all would have been unthinkable. We had fallen for the idea that a bonfire of schools, hospitals and public services was the only way to med the economy and win votes. Now even Theresa May is talking about workers’ influence and national investment – even if those words ring hollow in the face of her record.

The launch of Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges to rebuild and transform Britain shows how far we have moved the goalposts.

I hear very little from our critics about what programme, vision and political culture we need to develop in order to win, beyond wanting to take us back to the 1990s. We need to think bigger in order to win: the old way of doing things is as unelectable as it is undesirable.

The Edelman Trust Barometer confirmed some months ago that trust in politics and public institutions is the lowest it has been since we started measuring. Only radical action can change that. Even in polls that reflect poorly on Labour, Jeremy’s ratings for trust and honesty remain high – a quality vital in anyone hoping to turn the crisis around.

To answer the crisis we have listened to people, and assembled small pictures into a big one.

1200 teachers have signed a letter calling for more support as classroom sizes skyrocket, working conditions get worse and corruption scandals at the Tories’ academies continue. So we’ve pledged an education service that will reverse cuts to schools and universities and ensure people at all ages who want to learn can access education.

Nearly a million English children live in overcrowded housing, waiting lists pile up, prices continue to soar while homes lie empty, and the government’s “affordable” homes scheme is only affordable to those on the national living wage in 2% of localities. So we’ve developed a plan for a million new homes, half a million of which will be (decent, modern) council housing.

Where gender inequality persists, we’re promising pay equality audits and universal childcare. Where there’s exploitation and poverty pay at work, we will introduce new protections, guaranteed hours, and remove the Tories’ bans on your ability to organise in unions for better pay and conditions. And we’ll grow the economy without destroying our environment, by investing in green jobs and industries.

We can’t afford business as usual. The Rowntree Foundation’s latest research shows that poverty is costing the public purse £78bn a year. Public service cuts and privatisation have left the state shelling out to cover for the mistakes of rip-off companies like Southern Rail, whose parent company made £52m profit while running Britain’s worst service. Our failure to invest in people and industries is leaving us behind on the world stage.

Jeremy has been charged with being slow on policy; as if it were easy to lead the opposition in a period of national crisis while dealing with sabotage attempts from day one. The caution has been there for a reason; we wanted a plan that is both serious and far-reaching.

We’ve taken the time to fully cost and evidence our ideas, and create a decisive programme rather than a shopping list of policies. Our ideas will be paid for with fair, proportionate tax rises and returns on our investments, and by spending better than this wasteful government. We will take more time to allow Labour members and the public to refine our work: the ten pledges are just the beginning.

These plans involve people at every step – nationalising something alone doesn’t make it public. Our National Investment Bank would unlock £500bn to be used by and for people in regions that have been left behind. We will increase democracy in public services. People voted to ‘take back control’ in June and were given nothing; we will provide real empowerment.

What the pledges set out is a vision that can bring people together and transform our society and economy into one that serves us all.

Radical and credible. Our opponents are saying it; we’re the ones doing it.

Being able to use the national stage propose decent jobs and homes for all, and a plan to restore pride and dignity among people that have been left behind, is worth every bit of the storm of abuse and smears Jeremy’s leadership has endured.

With hundreds of thousands of new members, Labour is now able make the argument for our new kind of politics in every corner of our country.

This year has seen too much negativity, suffering and despair in our politics. It’s time we brought back hope. 

Rebecca Long-Bailey is Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

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