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WHILE most of the press fixates on why an aide has resigned or on Tom Watson’s divisive bid to deprive Labour of the votes of 17.4 million Leave voters by flouting its agreed Brexit policy, the party conference continues to put forward policies that will change lives for the better.
Free prescription charges will bring England’s healthcare system into line with those of Scotland and Wales and is in accord with the founding principle of the NHS that people should not have to pay for necessary medical treatment.
Closing the scandal-ridden detention centres at Yarl’s Wood and Brook House and reviewing the whole cruel immigration detention system are commitments that a Labour government will put humanity first.
The new network of people’s law centres promised by shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon will start to address the inaccessibility of justice for those too poor to seek legal advice, a problem compounded by Tory governments slashing legal aid and trying to force workers to cough up hefty fees to take their employers to tribunal when unfairly treated or sacked — a policy so manifestly unjust it was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court following a dogged campaign by Britain’s biggest public-sector union Unison.
And conference’s endorsement of a bold plan to abolish private schools shows the party no longer runs scared of challenging privilege where it sees it.
We can expect reams of outraged comment from newspaper editors and columnists who themselves went to private schools and who send their children to them: but this is not about removing a “choice” — one that after all is not available to the vast majority of parents — but ensuring a level playing field for all children and a national education service that assures proper funding of locally accountable schools for everyone.
These proposals are followed tomorrow by a vision for fully funded care for the elderly that will transform the fortunes of millions of families.
In Tory eyes, an ageing population is nothing more than an excuse to cut pensions as “unaffordable” and float plans to raise the retirement age to 75.
The problem of families paying through the nose to assure their loved ones a dignified retirement with access to the care they require does not trouble them.
Nor does the party whose “right-to-buy” housing swindle was sold on the idea of building a “property-owning democracy” worry that many elderly people are forced to burn through a lifetime’s savings or sell their homes to meet the exorbitant cost of care.
Labour’s focus on funding personal care for the aged will end the scandal of care workers being forced to restrict visits to 10-minute slots, racing to wash, feed and help patients to the toilet in impossible timescales and providing no time for conversation or companionship.
And the promise that this service will not be outsourced to private firms with a vested interest in cutting corners and pay to boost profits, but will be publicly owned and delivered by councils, demonstrates how serious the party is about replacing ending a “bargain basement” economic model and putting people’s needs ahead of markets.
Labour’s policy programme is its greatest strength: in 2017 YouGov found that the party’s manifesto was the most common reason voters gave for backing it. Neither the Tories nor any other major party in Britain has anything to match it.
But as an overflowing Morning Star fringe meeting heard on Saturday evening, it will be up to us to promote it.
The monopoly media are not simply hostile to Labour, but inclined by training, prejudice and Westminster myopia to see infighting and gossip as better stories than policies that will transform our lives.
Our whole movement must come together to amplify and deliver Labour’s message to the country.
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