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Editorial: 4.1 million children are living in poverty in Britain - but we have the solution

TWO stories today form a sharp indictment of the creeping crisis which is engulfing our National Health Service and the deeply upsetting situation in which half of children in single-parent households live in poverty.

This latter statistic sits alongside the news that experts and MPs have concluded that the Tories’ two-child benefit cap will lead to “significant increases in the number of children living in poverty and will push hundreds of thousands of children into even deeper poverty.”

There are 4.1 million children living in poverty in Britain. The Child Poverty Action Group makes the telling point that this is nine children in a class of 30. Strip out the proportion of children at the most privileged and mostly private schools and the real poverty level for our kids in schools serving working-class families is substantially higher.

The story of the NHS after nearly a decade of Tory and Liberal Democrat rule is one of cancelled operations, staff shortages, overworked healthcare professionals, equipment failure and a steady drain of resources as the system becomes more and more like the US, with the profit-hungry private sector being ushered in through the back door.

It is absolutely correct for Labour to warn that a Tory government would be the optimum situation for Britain’s health service to be offered up to US “healthcare” corporations seeking to export capital to economic zones where high profits can be leveraged from services and amenities that are presently in public ownership.

But the threat to the beneficial heritage that is our NHS comes not only from across the Atlantic. Rulings by the European Court of Justice and European Commission policies have redesignated national health systems — nominally in the sphere of national competencies — to be considered an “economic activity.”

The direction of travel is towards health services being treated as subject to the EU’s rules on the internal market, essentially the “free movement” of goods, labour, services and capital.

It is the counsel of despair for those on the right wing of Labour (and some on the left) to argue that we live in a system integrated in Europe and located in a globalised economy and that we cannot change this at the level of the individual state.

Yes we can. Not simply because Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world with a highly educated labour force (still), a long tradition of high professional competencies in health and an industrial base and one that retains still an enormous potential for productive growth.

Not simply because we have in waiting a government that must depend for its stability and survival on the mobilisation of the people for the success in implementing its policies.

And we must. Because if in this election campaign the idea gets across that the people cannot take the initiative against Britain’s bosses, bankers and bureaucrats then the Tories, and their semi-detached outriders in the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, will get their way.

The case for a radical transformation of Britain rests on our country’s enormous human potential but we have a living model — not one that compares at all with the level of investment and resources that the British people can unlock — but one that serves as an inspiration nevertheless.

The weekend’s Trade Unions for Cuba conference heard how this small nation of nine million has the best sustainability outcomes in the world, one of the best and most comprehensive health service’s and an education system that excites envy and admiration in equal measures.

If Cubans can do this amid blockade and enforced poverty we can do it too.

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