Momentum begins “emergency mobilisation” in response to Covid-19

Elliot Chappell

Momentum has said that it is beginning an “emergency mobilisation” of its support base to help the vulnerable and pressure the government to provide more support in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement released today, the group said it would repurpose its 100,000 supporters to join and create community aid groups to help make sure that people get the prescriptions, food and other essentials that they need.

It also labelled the pandemic a “political crisis”, and highlighted that millions of people are currently at risk of losing their jobs and being off sick with no way of paying their rent, mortgage or bills.

Momentum said: “While the super rich jet off to their disaster bunkers, it’s clear the pandemic will hit NHS workers, the elderly, those in precarious employment, migrants and other marginalised groups the hardest.”

The group has called for a range of measures – from suspending mortgage, rent and bill payments, to ending the “immoral practice” of NHS charges for migrants.

It also said it wants to push the government to “tell the truth” and be “fully transparent” with the public about their approach to tackling the virus.

The group warned that the right will “exploit the pandemic to stoke racism and division” and cited President Trump’s reference to Covid-19 as a “foreign virus”.

The call from the group follows a letter from Jeremy Corbyn to the Prime Minister over the weekend, in which he argues for rent deferrals and mortgage holidays, increased statutory sick pay and further protections for workers.

The full text of the statement from Momentum is below.

From the 2008 financial crash to climate breakdown, the story is always the same. Poor and working class people bear the brunt of the crisis while the banks, energy companies and super rich get bailed out.

We’ve had more than a decade of politically motivated cuts to our NHS. Millions have been forced into insecure, precarious work. While the super rich jet off to their disaster bunkers, it’s clear the coronavirus pandemic will hit NHS workers, the elderly, those in precarious employment, migrants and other marginalised groups the hardest.

The government response so far has been completely inadequate. They have no plan to support workers who get sick or laid off. They refuse to take private hospitals into public ownership while the NHS remains understaffed and ill-equipped. They ignore the advice of the World Health Organisation and leave the public in the dark.

In times of national crisis, the establishment asks us to leave our politics at the door. We must be clear: this crisis is political and there must be a political response. In the coming weeks huge numbers of people will be laid off, get their hours cut and have no way to pay their rent, mortgage or bills. Even for those in work, many will end up on statutory sick pay which is just £94.25 – one of the lowest rates of any developed nation. And those on benefits are still being made to wait nearly five weeks for payments and threatened with sanctions if they don’t attend job centre appointments. Millions more people could join those fourteen million already in poverty, and the government must act.

We call on the government to suspend to mortgage, rent and bill payments, guarantee full sick pay for all workers, including those on zero hours contracts, and an end all benefit sanctions, delays and requirements to attend job centre appointments.

For our NHS, the government says it will spend ‘whatever it takes’. But no amount of money can solve a shortage of 100,000 NHS staff in a matter of weeks. This pandemic lays bare what a decade of unnecessary, politically motivated cuts has done to our health service. And with the NHS increasingly reliant on private providers, health companies and big pharma will see this pandemic through the lens of profit. The NHS needs more than money. We need the government to put our health before profit.

The government must bring all private hospitals and health facilities into emergency public ownership and force pharmaceutical companies to research and produce whatever the NHS needs at cost price. Paying £2.4 million a day to private hospitals to use their beds isn’t good enough. Other countries have brought them into public ownership – and so should we.

NHS workers will be heroes of this crisis, and the government must provide masks and protective equipment for all hospitals and GP practices. And we must make sure the NHS knows no borders and is truly universal by ending the immoral practise of charging migrants to access the NHS.

Finally, we want the truth. So far the government has ignored the advice of the World Health Organisation. If the government is going to follow a different approach the public deserve to know why, and we join healthcare professionals in calling for full transparency with the public at all times.

As well as demanding the government meet the scale of the crisis – we also need community response. Already almost 600 community support groups have been set up across the country where people are working together in a safe and responsible way to make sure the vulnerable can get their prescriptions, food and other essentials. We encourage every Momentum member to join their local group or if it doesn’t yet exist, set one up.

Over the coming weeks and months Momentum will dedicate significant resources and staff time to campaign for these demands and strengthen community support initiatives across the country. In the short term Momentum will repurpose My Campaign Map for community support groups, promote the best grassroots initiatives and work across the movement to build a set of demands we can win.

With the local elections postponed, we call on the Labour Party and other trade unions to make fighting Covid-19 their top priority. This means dedicating resources and infrastructure to supporting solidarity initiatives while being unafraid to make big, political demands of the government.

This crisis is our biggest priority. Already the right are exploiting the pandemic to stoke racism and division, with Trump calling Covid-19 a ‘foreign virus’ and attempting to buy up vaccine research for US-use only. Other governments may well be tempted to make restrictive containment measures permanent and erode democracy over the long term. Crises have the potential to change the way we live. We must face this fact with our eyes open, lead from the front and take every opportunity we can to shape things for the better.

The next few months will test our strength and resolve like nothing else. But together, we can show our communities will not be divided, no matter how bad the crisis gets.

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