THIS AUTUMN will see what are likely to be the last party conferences before a general election expected some time in 2024. After 13 years of Tory rule, the balance sheet makes for grim reading on every front.
Taking the return to schools as only the most obvious example of the way in which metaphor stands disarmed, more than 150 schools have been forced to close partially or entirely because buildings are at risk of collapse. Thousands more hospitals, courts, and other public buildings are also affected. A decade of austerity and the abandonment of refurbishment and maintenance programmes is the immediate cause of the crisis. But the use of sub-standard materials, the prioritising of profit over long term sustainability through decades of private-public contracts under previous Labour and Tory governments is at the root of decaying public infrastructure.
After a summer of nurses’ strikes, junior doctors and consultants with strike together for the first time in the history of the NHS. With waiting lists at an all time high, millions of people are transferring to private health care, speeding up the tendency towards a two-tier health system, which is the more or less open objective of all three main parties.
The Labour Party, which currently stands as the only alternative to the Tories, is waiting in the wings, rehearsing the lines from a script dictated by big business. This year’s conference in Blackpool is heavily over-subscribed by corporate lobbyists, and the results are clear.
The so-called New Deal for Working People has been gutted: full rights from day one—gone; single category of worker to abolish bogus self-employment—gone; right to workplace access for trade unions—gone. All the reforms to health, education and social care have been slashed by Rachel Reeve’s ‘non-negotiable’ fiscal rules, including the 28bn green investment fund.
Despite the claims that pay is catching up with inflation, the truth is that living standards are falling at their fastest rate in modern history. The pay strikes delivered mixed results thanks to the conservatism of the trade union leaders, who would rather wait for a Labour government. But our watchword has to be—no holding back for Labour.
The Workers Summit and other grassroots trade union conferences are an important opportunity to found a new militant minority movement dedicated to root and branch reform of our trade unions, giving them an industrial and political strategy able to step up the fight against the Tories, and demand a Labour government pass measures in the interests of the working class—or make one for one that will.