The Conservative government is blighting a whole generation of children, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.
ONE of the most depressing things about our so-called “mainstream media” is how little they cover the devastating impact of Tory austerity on our communities and people from all across Britain.
One such thing that deserves much more attention is how the Tories are failing a whole generation of children, including through rising homelessness and poverty. This was shown by a recent report from the Children’s Commissioner for England which estimated that there could be more than 210,000 children without a permanent home in England, with thousands living in dangerous converted shipping containers.
Shockingly, child homelessness has surged by 80 per cent since the onset of austerity in 2010. In addition to this, the government’s own figures show that 30 per cent of children (over 4.1 million) across England are living in poverty.
Furthermore, the education charity Teach First has recently warned that poorer pupils are significantly more likely to score low grades in their GCSEs than their richer peers, as teenagers from the most disadvantaged areas are nearly twice as likely not to pass their maths GCSE as the richest students.
Britain’s disgusting levels of inequality effect our children so much, and as Jeremy Corbyn has said, “A child growing up in a shipping container or a B&B, or going to school hungry, cannot be expected to reach their full potential.”
Much of the corporate media are more interested in Boris Johnson’s new pet dog than policy solutions to our growing economic and social problems, but in this area as so many others, it is only Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour that is even seeking to offer a better way forward.
And when much of the media won’t expose the truth about austerity’s devastating impacts, and certainly won’t even entertain the idea that there is an alternative and a better way is possible, then it is up to us to make sure people know the truth about Tory Britain today.
Labour’s policies to enable all children to fully unlock their potential include: providing free school meals for all primary school children, to end the stigma, and ensure no child goes hungry at school; rolling out 30 hours of free childcare a week for all 2-4 year olds; halting the closures of Sure Start and increasing investment in centres which have made such a difference to so many lives; and providing the funding to reduce class sizes to less than 30 for all five, six and seven year-olds, so children get the attention they deserve.
Alongside this, by building a million genuinely affordable homes — including through what is undoubtedly most needed to tackle the housing crisis, the biggest council housing programme in a generation — the scandal of children living in containers and on the streets can be tackled.
With an astounding record level of 2.9 million children from working families in Britain living in poverty, Labour’s plans to introduce a “Real Living Wage” of at least £10 an hour to boost household income and scrapping the public sector pay cap can start to pull so many of the next generation out from the nightmare that is child poverty — as will ending the benefi t freeze and stopping the roll-out of universal credit.
These aren’t just good policies, they are absolutely essential policies and literally a matter of life and death.
According to a 2017 report in the British Medical Journal, austerity (at that point) had been linked to 120,000 extra deaths since 2010, and it suggested further that austerity could lead to 100 early deaths every single day in the coming years.
If we don’t break from austerity then under Boris Johnson’s hard-right administration these problems will continue to get much, much worse. In contrast to the lack of care from the Tories, Labour’s policies to improve living standards can only be achieved by an alternative economic strategy based on investment not cuts.
This has been outlined by Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell in recent years, and has seen more and more people start to realise that austerity has always been a political choice and not an economic necessity.
I have backed Jeremy Corbyn ever since he ran for Labour leader in 2015 because I believe not only can he win a general election, but because my kids need a Labour government if they are to have the opportunities that my generation took for granted. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to change the direction of Britain — in the weeks and months ahead let’s make it happen and have our own “1945 moment.”
First published by the Morning Star.