KEN LIVINGSTONE writes on why the key political issue of our time is to end to the human catastrophe that is Tory austerity.
As Morning Star readers will no doubt have read, after much consideration I decided with great sadness to resign from the Labour Party this week.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Morning Star readers and thousands of others who have sent supportive messages and shared my social media posts this week to help ensure that hundreds of thousands of people have directly seen my reasons for taking this difficult decision.
The ongoing issues around my suspension from the Labour Party had become a distraction from the key political issue of our time — which is to replace a Tory government overseeing falling living standards and spiralling poverty, while starving our schools and the NHS of the vital resources they need.
I am loyal to the Labour Party and to Jeremy Corbyn. However any further disciplinary action against me may drag on for months or even years, distracting attention from Jeremy’s policies to transform Britain for the many not the few.
We live in dangerous times and there are many issues I wish to speak up on and contribute to, based on my experience from running London, from the need for real action to tackle climate change, to opposing Donald Trump’s warmongering, to the need to end austerity and invest in our future here in Britain.
I will continue to use this column to do just that and both hold the Tories account for their failing policies and to look in detail at how we can popularise Labour’s progressive alternative.
I say that the key issue of our time is to replace this failing government with a Labour government, and I am not being hyperbolic when I say that the living standards and rights of millions of people will face unprecedented attacks in the years ahead if we cannot get the Tories out and Jeremy into Downing Street.
In my opinion, this is the most important moment in British politics since 1979 and before that 1945.
If we can get a Corbyn-led government elected, Labour is for the first time in decades equipped with the transformative programme — based on a credible and coherent alternative economic strategy — that can fundamentally change Britain, and the lives of millions of people, for the better.
I have explained in this column many times before how Tory austerity is failing Britain economically, but it’s also a human catastrophe, with Tory spending cuts nationally and to local authority budgets hitting millions of people hard and there is no end in sight.
Some of the key stats about the state of Tory Britain today are truly shocking and cannot be repeated enough in response who those who still relentlessly cling to ideologically driven austerity.
Today in Britain, 14 million people are now in poverty — over one in five of the population. This figure includes nearly 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners than five years ago.
But the deepening cost-of-living crisis doesn’t just affect the hardest hit. The average weekly pay packet is set to be more than £20 lower in 2022 than when financial crisis started.
Only the richest will get better off under the Tories in the years to come if they stay in office, meaning that inequality will reach new and dangerous levels.
And as I have commented upon in this column before, one in 200 people are now homeless in what is nothing short of a national scandal. Shelter estimates 307,000 people sleep rough or live in inadequate housing.
And our public services are at breaking point. More than two million people are being denied the social care they need with local authority-funded packages having fallen 26 per cent since 2010, and this growing social care crisis alongside the Tory cuts to our beloved National Health Service mean that we have just seen the worst NHS winter crisis on record, including a shocking 10,000 additional deaths in the first seven weeks of 2018.
These few examples are of course just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the state of Tory Britain today after eight years of austerity.
These are not just statistics. They are the lives of millions of people being severely damaged by a callous Tory government that only cares about the 1 per cent.
As John McDonnell so rightly regularly points out, these tragic developments are avoidable — austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity.
But it is not just the extent of the economic and human failures of austerity which is why we desperately need an end to Tory rule, and a Corbyn-led government to transform Britain and end austerity.
It is also because Corbyn’s Labour has the programme as outlined in its manifesto For the Many, Not the Few that can genuinely address Britain’s problem decades of underinvestment which are holding our economy and society back.
We need to make this happen and I look forward to working with the Morning Star and all the movements against the Tories’ agenda of austerity, racism and war in the months and years ahead to help make this happen.
First published by the Morning Star.