Andrew Gwynne: Tories have run this country into the ground – now we must put power back in the hands of the people

The Tories have used their seven years in power to run Britain into the ground.

In their first few months, they scrapped Labour’s school building plans; and now it would need £6bn of investment to bring school buildings back up to standard. Three years in, the majority of people in poverty were working – and now in-work poverty has hit further record levels. Five years in, they had failed to meet their deficit reduction targets in spite of cuts causing misery for millions. And by the time this year dawned, two out of five hospitals had to issue emergency warnings due to bed shortages.

This government inherited an economy made fragile by the global recession, and went on to kick it in and raid it to fund handouts for the richest. Corporation tax has been slashed year on year, inequality has soared and billions leaks out in avoided and evaded taxes whilst living standards drop for the many. Home ownership and security in work, and all the things that people used to expect, have become a pipe dream for a generation of young people. The jobs that remain rarely provide a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – in the last year we have seen horrific allegations of poverty pay and abuse at huge employers like Sports Direct and Asos, while the government passes new trade union laws to muzzle workers organising for fair pay.

They have got away with all this by telling us that it’s necessary, and that we have to tighten our belts to pay for the economic crisis. But the wasted potential – of communities in our once-great neglected industrial heartlands, of young people without access to opportunity, of people working multiple minimum wage jobs to get by – is costing our economy dearly.

Their plan for Brexit looks set to make this worse. Far from “taking back control” for working people, they are threatening to turn us into a low-wage tax haven on the shores of Europe, providing pots of gold for their billionaire donors while the rest of us suffer. They’ve dodged their way through being forced back on tax credits and national insurance rises, been slapped down by the Electoral Commission for fraudulent election practice and now called a general election at a moment’s notice in the hope that they can disorient and confuse their way to another few years clinging on to power.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Over the last few weeks Labour was already starting to lay out the dozens of ways in which we can re-balance the economy to serve the people who need it. This includes using the tax breaks private schools currently get to fund free school meals for all, using the inheritances of the richest to fund extra support for hard-working carers, and a £10 minimum wage to end the scandal of poverty pay in the world’s sixth-richest economy once and for all. We have been talking to and listening to people everywhere about the difficulties they face and how a smart state can help solve them.

Now there’s a general election on, we’re moving harder and faster. Only Labour are talking seriously about how to solve the challenges this country faces – the shock of Brexit, low pay, the rapid pace of technological change, and the dependence of our economy on big finance. And only Labour are trusting people and communities to be at the front of solving these challenges. We believe, simply, that investing in and empowering our villages, towns, cities, workplaces, and communities, will unlock the talent and potential needed for a great and prosperous Britain.

The Tories have made clear they don’t have a plan. They have broken promise after promise, been forced into u-turn after u-turn, and now are calling an election they pledged not to call. Theresa May is refusing to even debate her plans on TV. She and her party are not interested in the will of the people and never have been – they’re running off with the purse strings and hoping no-one notices.

It’s time to make sure seven wasted years don’t become 12. It’s time to put power, wealth and opportunity back in the hands of people, not profiteers. It’s time to make a choice that will define our future.

Andrew Gwynne is MP for Denton and Reddish and Labour’s campaigns and elections chair.

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