That’s why it’s called a ‘struggle!’

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By Theresa Byrne, previously published here
Ok I’ll start in the traditional style, and confess: I pinched the headline from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to Scottish Labour. But it summed up my feelings and emotions over the last few days. Yes politics is a struggle, yes it is a constant push for progressiveness. And that is why most of us are in it.Change is not easy, whether it is changing a habit or changing a mind set. That is a psychological and emotional given. The Labour party is about change. Change in society, change in economics, change in politics. Many within the party forgot that after 1997, because the changes in society that were introduced were easily done. And were in many ways relatively superficial.

Take an example. The National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1999. It was profound in many ways, as the government said via the Low Pay Commission ‘this is the minimum people can be paid’. Many people on very low wages received a significant increase in their wages, the threatened job losses never materialised in the numbers forecast, the amount of the NMW slowly crept up, and the Tories accepted it as inevitable. But the amount of the NMW was not a significant amount of money, not really enough to live on and still required additional benefits from both government and local councils in order for families and people to survive. The concept was excellent but the execution left much to be desired. The underlying philosophy of poorly paid jobs with poor prospects was not directly challenged by the government, it was accepted. A superficial change to the pay structure was introduced but the two or three tier job market remained. Where was the necessary investment in manufacturing that could have created better jobs? Where was the governmental challenge to repeated outsourcing of work by business which encouraged the minimum level jobs and eventually to zero hours work?

Opportunities to challenge and significantly change the way society operated at an economic level were missed by the Labour Government between 1997 and 2010. We missed the chance to have the arguments and discussions about the links between taxation and public services, preferring to allow PFIs to pay for new hospitals and schools, and to allow the financial services bubble to pay for other investments. We did not regulate the financial markets so the crash that happened in 2008 caused horrendous problems to the economy and to people, as the Government scrambled to save the banking industry. We also then allowed the Tories to set the myth that we overspent, even when they had agreed with our spending plans back in 2007.

If we had made the case for taxation paying for public services, people would have understood that Labour was not overspending. We were providing those services such as the Health Service, social care, education etc in common, as common goods where we share the responsibility and the cost of provision together because we share the goods. We pay for the services, they are not ‘provided’ for us through a vague government spending concept but through taxation paid by everyone and a progressive taxation system where the more income you have the more you pay is the balanced and fair way to tax. But this argument was not made. And by the time we needed to challenge the myth it was too late, our opportunity has passed by. We have to remember that in 1997 the schools, hospitals and local services were in such a dire situation that the people understood that (i) a new government was needed and (ii) that serious investment was demanded. That was our opportunity to make the case for taxation to pay for the services and people were open to us, to our new ideas. We failed to make that case. Again we superficially changed by investing through PFIs but the underlying philosophy of linking taxation to public services as a part of a civilised society to challenge the economic view of taxation as a necessary evil that should be reduced for a small state was not made.

Our struggle now must be to understand, explain and argue for fundamental change in society, in economics and in politics which is what Jeremy Corbyn is about. The policies he has put forward, with John McDonnell, about investment in housing, in education, in the Health Service and local government, in secure jobs are all direct challenges to the neo-liberal free market knows best economics that have been in existence for over 30 years. The struggle is about asking questions about people’s perceptions, talking with them about why we believe that investment in housing is not just good for providing a home but for jobs, for increasing taxation in the economy, allowing people to establish themselves and build a community. Talk with them about the importance of security in work, how it builds community, allows children to feel secure, allows more people to become active and involved in their local community at a volunteer level because they can relax and not worry so much about still having a job tomorrow or next week. Talk with them about a good quality Health Service where having a serious illness is not a cause for money worries but an opportunity to focus on the importance of getting better, or dealing with the psychological consequences of illness. Talk to people are having a good social care system integrated with health, housing, community links so that elderly people, those with disabilities can be part of the community and know that their needs are being dealt with not just adequately but well and with respect.

We are facing a challenge, the challenge to change and more importantly to struggle to get our voices heard. We are being challenged but we must rise to the struggle together. We have a leader who wants us to be with him, to stand alongside him in the fight. If we are to be true to our comradeship, then we stand shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn ready for the struggle, for the fight. We are doing it with and for the people, lending our strength and voice to their struggle as all in solidarity. We must not be found wanting, and I am sure we will not be. We will change the world, to a world of peace and justice where no one and no community is left behind step by step by step.

From Cradle to Grave – Jeremy Corbyn’s N.E.S. will transform and rebuild Education in Britain

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 From Cradle to Grave – Jeremy Corbyn’s National Education Service

The Labour Party achieved a landslide victory after the war. It must have been so exciting looking forward to peace, to the promise of a better world for ordinary people. Homes for all, and a National Health Service, a Welfare state. One thing was missing, and that was a National Education Service which is now planned by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Daily-Herald-27-July-1945Daily Herald “Labour in Power” 27th July 1945

Those days were remembered, in Think Left’s blog Academisation and the Demolition of our Education Service

 

After the war, the hope was that the Labour Party would introduce policies which would change the lives of working class people, leading to a fairer society, and a fair education system was on their list.

It was not just the working class who knew things needed to change. It had been clear that there was a shortage of skills during the war, and this led to the 1944 Education Act  which led to the provision of free state education for all children from 5 -15.

The incoming socialist Labour government, led by Attlee, and inspired by Bevan, brought in popular policies, especially the introduction of a universal National Health Service, and an extensive social housing building programme. To the disappointment of many, a universal National Education Service was not an outcome, and this omission led to decades of disruption to an education service which, as I write, is now at a point of re-privatisation, via academisation.

attlee mug

Attlee’s government did not go far enough to eradicate the class-ridden divisiveness caused the by privileges from private education and public schools. The state-funded education system introduced was a tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern and rarer technical schools. Selection at eleven would determine the course of a child’s life before even reaching puberty. Meanwhile, the rich and privileged continued to send their children to private and public schools, which opened the doors to an elitist society and via Oxbridge right into the heart of our political system, maintaining class divisions.

Had Attlee’s government made the brave decision to solve the problem of private and Church schools, and introduced a free universal education system for all, and eradicated private education, I believe it would have led to a fairer, and much more settled system which would have benefited all as the NHS has done. Everyone benefits from an educated population. We share the technological advances, healthcare, scientific research, and can enjoy the Arts.

But that dream is still alive. Jeremy Corbyn wants to see a National Education Service

. Corbyn wants to see investment in education system from cradle to grave. Education is not about training for a job, about ticking boxes and league tables. Education is about enriching our lives – and life long learning. It is fifty years since Harold Wilson’s inspirational Open University which opened doors for so many.

Tory cuts and fees have taken the “Open” away and closed doors to this university without walls. Education should not end with a school certificate. There is so much knowledge and skills to share.

In July 2016, 100 Tory MPs call for return to grammar schools. Grammar schools select pupils, and are not open to all children. It is impossible to have selection without exclusion. The  politics of superiority – a selfish, divisive attitude of “I want something you can’t have” is not unknown to the Conservative Party. But perhaps they have short memories, because it was Tory voters themselves, those who could not afford private schooling which decried the divisive grammar schools.  Further development of the new comprehensive schools was due to disgruntled middle class conservative voters who could not get places for their children in what they perceived as their very own grammar schools, so resulting in the Tories losing power in 1964. This is something which Margaret Thatcher, while an advocate of the grammar schools, was well aware of. The Newsome report  entitled “Half our Future”, published in 1963, recognised the eleven-plus failure and a drive towards a more comprehensive system was subsequently planned.

NFER on grammars

Comprehensive education was intended to be more inclusive. Indeed it is. But where there is an education system where privileges are bought – fast track entrance to university, schools with small class sizes, it cannot be fully comprehensive. Evidence shows that the comprehensive system has not failed  yet the private system, which excludes those by wealth skews results.

Tuition fees are leaving a generation in debt, and as a result our society is wasting potential talent. The gap in university access between students from state and independent schools is widening. This is expected to widen further by the recent abolition of maintenance grants will hurt those most in need. John McDonnell  rightly said to students  protesting against hike in tuition fees

“Education is a gift from one generation to another, not a commodity to be bought and sold.

For generations now one generation has handed the baton onto the next, and it’s our job to ensure that the next generation has a better quality of life than the last.”

Education benefits us all. Corbyn’s Education policy will put an end to tuition fees, and restore grants.  Building on that, his plan for an NES and a life-long learning service will open up  education for everyone and enrich our lives and our society.  The thirst for knowledge and skills does not stop and the school gates. Education is about life-long learning, and that is what Labour wants to see. We can start this dream at the very beginning of an incoming Labour government. This is exciting, positive politics and the spirit of ’45 is alive again.

Jeremy Corbyn writes  for Labour List

“The case for investing in early years education towards universal free childcare is overwhelming. A study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers a decade ago told us that in the long-term universal childcare would more than pay for itself – due to extra tax revenues from those in work and productivity gains. Politicians like to dress up in hard hats and hi-vis jackets on their pet construction projects, but lack the same enthusiasm for investment in social infrastructure.

In 2020 we should start by reversing the cuts to the adult skills budget and expand it into a lifelong learning service by adding 2% to corporation tax (still comfortably the lowest in the G7). This funding would be hypothecated to expand adult learning into a lifelong learning education resource. The extra tax revenues brought by a high skill, high productivity and high pay economy will fund further expansion.

A National Education Service will give working age people access throughout their lives to learn new skills or to re-train. It should also work with Jobcentre Plus to offer claimants opportunities to improve their skills, rather than face the carousel of workfare placements, sanctions and despair. We need a return to ambitious joined-up government.

While slashing college funding, Tories  boasts of increasing apprenticeships. Yet too many are low quality, failing to give young people the transferable skills they need to get on.

It is clear that some employers are using apprenticeships and traineeships as a means of circumventing minimum wage legislation. This has to end.

“We will build a new National Education Service, open to all from throughout their lives. We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life, allowing greater sharing of caring responsibilities and removing barriers to women participating in the labour market. We will bring about the progressive restoration of free education for all; and guarantee quality apprenticeships and adult skills training.”

jeremyforlabour.com

How refreshing to hear positive , sensible policies from Labour. Jeremy Corbyn speaks, honestly, pragmatic, socially desirable policies. He challenges the Tory myth of austerity, and these are the policies people have been calling for. All Labour supporters should sign up and vote for Jeremy Corbyn, who is just what the Labour Party and the people of Britain need. He certainly has my vote, my best wishes, and hopes.

Labour Legend Dennis Skinner has a message for the PLP

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Labour legend, Dennis Skinner MP (Bolsover) speaks to Richard Burgon MP about the current Leadership contest. He urges that everyone to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, giving him an even stronger mandate.  Dennis predits that Jeremy Corbyn will win with an even  greater majority, and will be ready to lead Labour into government.

The PLP must listen to the membership, which  now stands at over half a million people, with more members than all other parties put together. And it is growing.

Clearly the message for the PLP is to return in the autumn , and get back to work, fighting the Tory Party.

Dennis Edward Skinner is a British Labour politician who has been Member of Parliament for Bolsover since 1970. He was Chairman of the Labour Party from 1988–1989 and served as a member of its National Executive Committee. Wikipedia 
Richard Burgon   is currently Labour MP for Leeds East, elected in 2015.