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Labour can transform the lives of millions for the better

Developments at conference show it’s time for the left to unite and focus on our positive policy alternatives, writes MATT WILLGRESS

IN A sign of Labour’s clear commitment to expand universalism in public services, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth announced at the weekend that the next Labour government will abolish prescription charges in England.

Richard Burgon meanwhile used his speech to pledge that within the first 100 days of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government, Labour will reverse all the Conservative cuts to legal aid-funded Early Legal Help. 

Additionally, Labour will launch a brand new £20 million fund to create a golden era of law centres, Burgon said. 

He also promised that the next Labour government will reverse the Tory cuts to prison officer numbers and restore them to 2010 levels. 

As shadow home secretary Diane Abbott explained in her earlier speech to conference, “Labour in government will address the ravages of austerity at every level,” and this means real investment in universal and publicly owned public services. 

As part of this, it was also revealed that fellow shadow minister Cat Smith will soon announce details of an entirely new youth service to address the issues of educational exclusion, a lack of role models and inequality and deprivation among young people.

Making sure as many people as possible know about these policies, which will improve living standards and public services for the overwhelming majority of the population, must be the left’s focus in the coming period, as must standing up to the increasingly “Trumpite” and divisive agenda of Boris Johnson’s Tory government.

On the latter issue, Abbott also made the key point that in “election after election, [the] Tories weaponise immigration, they weaponise anti-foreigner sentiment and they use coded and uncoded racism to distract from their attacks on the livelihoods and living standards of ordinary working people, whatever their colour.”  

But, she added: “Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn will not play the Tories’ game. We want to bring communities together.”

These pledges and speeches were a reflection of how far we have come as a clearly anti-austerity and anti-racist party in recent years since Corbyn was elected Labour leader. 

But they must also act as a timely reminder of what we can achieve in so many areas if we unite behind the goal of a transformative government, don’t let the left’s enemies divide us and keep our eyes on the prize, namely putting Corbyn into No 10 and improving millions of lives for the better.

The well-attended Labour Assembly Against Austerity-hosted #JC4PM rally, entitled “Investment Not Cuts — Time to end Tory Austerity,” saw this point emphasised from a number of different perspectives, including by shadow cabinet members, trade union representatives and others. 

As chair Steve Turner of Unite the Union put it: “We need to be convincing people of our alternative to the Tories continuing, and continuingly failing, austerity and cuts agenda.”

Today will see a number of important events, debates and interventions at conference, including the chance to again firmly speak up for Palestinian rights. 

Fringe highlights include a rum reception in solidarity with Latin America against Donald Trump’s attacks at 5.30pm at the Brighthelm Centre, a brilliant line-up at Stand up to Racism at the Gallery at 12.45pm and at 12.30pm at the Grand Hotel an Institute of Employment Rights event with Laura Pidcock MP looking at Labour’s plans to transform the workplace.

If you like this column, please follow @labouroutlook on Facebook and Twitter — a new site with positive news and views, and the best of Labour’s left ideas.

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