London Young Labour is launching a PPE drive to protect workers

Caoimhe Hale

London Young Labour is proud to have launched a personal protective equipment drive across the capital. We are mobilising young members to encourage schools to donate crucial protective equipment for NHS and social care workers, who so badly need the supplies that the government is unwilling and unable to provide. LYL are looking to use the power of community organising to develop a network of activists across London.

Covid-19 has already killed thousands in Britain, and it is spreading ferociously through hospitals, care homes and other health facilities where staff have been left without PPE. Workers are dangerously exposed. Despite the government’s claims to the contrary, staff on the frontline continue to report dire shortages, with union leaders calling this “a crisis within a crisis”.

Watching the harrowing effects of the virus unfold in the UK, and growing increasingly alarmed by reports of desperate shortages of PPE on the frontline, the LYL committee decided that enough is enough and chose to take action. On Sunday, we launched our PPE drive: we are equipping young members to encourage schools in their area to donate goggles, gloves and other equipment to the frontline. They can then reach out to local NHS trusts, care homes, hospices and local authorities to find out which settings are in need of supplies.

Members will be able to make use of our carefully compiled spreadsheet of schools and colleges in London, as well as template emails, tweets and scripts. We’re also linking up members from different areas so that they can share progress and tips. We hope that through this we can not only supply essential PPE to some of those that need it the most, but also create a network of dedicated activists who can continue to organise in their communities throughout and after the pandemic. The response from members already has been heartening and shows the collective strength of our movement in times of crises.

Clearly, we are in a period of turmoil. Coronavirus has laid bare the inability of a capitalist system to react to a crisis that constrains the forces of labour that our economy depends on and, as socialists, it is our duty to respond with action. LYL is made up of volunteers who are utterly committed to socialism in our lifetimes and know that the vital human bonds required to build this will not be fostered by our cruel government. Whilst this project is first and foremost about materially improving the lives of those who maintain our astonishing NHS, and work in and use social care, it is also about community spirit and the value of collective endeavour within the labour movement.

The recent announcement of Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party is troubling for socialists, specifically in regard to his lukewarm response to Covid-19. He has already displayed a bizarre unwillingness to hold the government to account for its clear failings, instead opting for a congratulatory approach and a rhetoric of unity that is dangerously close to sounding concessionary.

I would urge Starmer to follow Jeremy Corbyn’s lead and avoid falling into the trap of joining a government of national unity. Labour’s official response to this pandemic must not be reconciliatory to the Conservatives, but must continuously and relentlessly hold them to account for endangering lives, wellbeing and livelihoods. Nor should Starmer remain silent on the appalling risks facing disabled people, due to reckless elements within the Coronavirus Act.

The way we will survive Covid-19 as a society is through mass collective action, standing up for our class and opposing the Conservatives’ incompetent response to the general public’s very real health concerns. We can all play our small part by giving material support and solidarity to the health and social care workers who have been so badly treated not just under this government and this pandemic, but since the gradual privatisation of the NHS and large swathes of social care provision.

In order to become active in this initiative and be part of something radical, necessary and in the spirit of the labour movement we wish to continue to nurture, please contact any of the LYL committee via our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, by emailing [email protected] or directly contacting a committee member personally.

LYL are appealing to London’s young membership to get involved in this project. Resources to help contact schools, CCGs, and care settings can be found here. We are so excited to get this project underway and can’t wait to see young members on the frontline of protecting our heroic key workers and being part of a truly radical endeavour.

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