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It'll be a bleak Christmas on the Tories' watch – and the north will suffer the most

Jon Trickett looks at the devastation brought about by a decade of Tory rule

AS Christmas approaches, many will be looking forward to spending time with family and exchanging gifts, even in this most difficult of years. 

But not everybody will get this opportunity. 

Many family members have tragically lost their lives due to Covid. Jobs have been lost. Wages have been cut. Even the most basic of Christmas gifts are now unaffordable for many parents.

A report this week from the Resolution Foundation has found that 1 in 3 working households will struggle just to heat their homes this Christmas. 

However, the situation I describe here is not one shared equally throughout our nation. 

Instead, it is a level of suffering felt disproportionately in areas of high deprivation – areas that are overwhelmingly in the North of England. 

I represent one of these areas in West Yorkshire. The austerity cuts have fallen hard on our local services, particularly our NHS. 

There are now 2,000 fewer beds in the health and care sector of West Yorkshire than there were when Labour left office in 2010. 

Now, with the added pressures of Covid, hospitals are increasingly stretched. Our local hospital Trust here in West Yorkshire is closing operating theatres, putting off operations and not allowing relatives of patients to visit. 

The Tories like to say how Covid was completely unexpected. That is true. But it is also true to say that the NHS has been left without adequate resources to cope even in a normal year, never mind in the face of a pandemic. The truth is that the cuts went too deep. 

Cuts to local health services forms just one part of the Tories’ ideological assault on northern communities. 

First came Thatcher’s attacks on our industry. Then decades of neglect followed by austerity. The poorest parts of the north have been left brutally exposed to this virus. 

Covid attacks deprivation - that is what it does.

Consider for a moment the character of society that the Tories have built over the last 10 years. The cuts, the austerity, the hunger, the poverty, the polluted air that we breathe and the poor housing. 

Then consider the Covid mortality rates per 100,000 of the population. Among the most deprived communities the rate is 128 per 100,000 people infected. In the least deprived communities, it is 58. This is a scandal and the evidence is undeniable. This disease is attacking poverty. Poverty that the Tories created, in a system subjected to the cuts that they imposed. 

The writing has been on the wall. The Tories cannot say they did not see this coming. They have created deprivation in a way that is geographically organised. 

Do they care? Their behaviour suggests not. The Tories knew what they were doing. They knew that poverty, ill health and early death were connected. People living in areas of high deprivation knew this too, to their great detriment. Covid has revealed the devastating consequences of living in poverty to terrifying effect. 

People are dying of this dreadful disease because of where they live. It was Sir Michael Marmot, a leading physiologist, who said in his report earlier this year that the more deprived an area, the shorter the life expectancy. This is an outrage. What a scandal that that should be the case in Britain in 2020.

As if that is not enough, Conservative members then voted to deny children food during the school holidays. Kids relying on food vouchers live overwhelmingly in those areas of deprivation that have been hit hardest by Covid-19. It is quite apparent that a hungry child is more likely to be susceptible to infection than a child who has been well fed. 

But the Tories did not listen. 

Communities listened. Across every town and village in this land people came together - coming together the most in the poorest places - and looked after each other because the government had abandoned those children. What a disgrace.

Our society has shown great ingenuity to find a solution to a vaccine in such a short period. To find a way of tracking this disease. Society has mobilised the resources to distribute PPE and sourced the ventilators we need. Surely then, we have the capacity to tackle the underlying problems of our society that the Conservatives, to their shame, have created.

Jon Trickett is Labour MP for Hemsworth.

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