After ten years of austerity and falling living standards, the pandemic has highlighted the real weaknesses in our country’s economy. It couldn’t be clearer that the Tory obsession with stripping back our health and public services left us in a bad position to weather a global crisis of this magnitude, and at least 65,000 people have died as a result of it.
It seems increasingly likely that we are on the cusp of a second spike in infections, and an unprecedentedly deep recession is a certainty. On top of this, the climate emergency looms, with the timeframe for averting or limiting outright catastrophe becoming smaller every day.
The Tory response to these crises has been to put profit first, ignoring advice from health experts and trade unions to rush a return to work and the easing of lockdown measures. The government has handed out public money to corporations as a lifeline, only for those same corporations to pocket the cash for shareholders and to restructure businesses.
Throughout the pandemic, many bosses propped up by the taxpayer undermined the working conditions of their employees or sacked them entirely. It is nothing short of taking advantage of the crisis to reshape the economy in their own interests.
I’m standing as one of six Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) candidates in the CLP section of Labour’s upcoming National Executive Committee elections because I believe that to beat the Tories in 2024, we can’t allow them to define the political narrative for the next four years.
As the government fails to contain the virus and new local lockdowns are imposed, it is clear from the comments of Tory MPs like Craig Whittaker that the establishment will blame BAME people for rising infection rates. When the full force of the recession hits, be sure to expect intensified efforts to scapegoat black and disabled people and wage a culture war against the rights of women and LGBT people.
In this political context, it is crucial for Labour to join with movements such as Black Lives Matter to resist attempts to divide us. We need to be a real opposition to the Tories, and we do that by setting out a real political agenda: a vision of society that puts people before profit, which can adequately take the fight to the government on its handling of the crisis, the poor state of public services, and the incoming climate emergency.
Our strategy to tackle the pandemic should prioritise saving lives and standing in solidarity with trade unionists raising the alarm over the return to work. We should be emphasising how Covid-19 has highlighted the underfunding of our NHS and social care services in the most tragic possible way, and we should be arguing in favour of our 2019 manifesto commitment of universal free personal care — as well as for pay increases for NHS staff and dignity in the care sector.
When it comes to the economy, we should be defending living standards and demanding better funding for public services. Austerity saw an increase in zero-hours, low pay employment, as well as a rash of outsourcing in practically every industry.
Rather than use the pandemic to shape the economy in the interests of the bosses, bailouts must be used for protecting jobs and should come with obligations on tackling climate chaos and advancing workers’ rights. Rather than relying on Rishi Sunak’s tiny commitments in his summer statement, we need public ownership of key utilities and investment in public services, housing, and education to get the economy moving again.
And at the heart of those measures must be a serious commitment to tackle the climate emergency. We need a socialist Green New Deal to invest in renewable energy, green infrastructure, and to provide a just transition to a net-zero economy by the 2030s, taking on the big polluters and calling for international climate justice. Workers must be at the centre of this process, which also means calling for the repeal of anti-union laws and advancing trade union rights.
Covid-19 has shown how interconnected the world is. It’s right that Labour is an internationalist party. But internationalism doesn’t mean bombs, war planes, and joining uncritically in a chorus of condemnations conducted by the US. Labour should have an independent, socialist foreign policy, one that prioritises conflict resolution and practically applies solidarity with people resisting oppression all over the world.
Implementing these policies means fighting for the voice of grassroots members on our NEC. Our members are our greatest asset. We are the trade unionists organising our workplaces, the campaigners in our communities, and the party activists, knocking on doors and talking to the people in our neighbourhoods. On the economy, public services, immigration, foreign policy, and the climate emergency, history has repeatedly proven Labour members to be right. And no wonder: we are the most connected to the people who will form our winning coalition.
That’s why we should be given more of a say over policy, campaigning and the direction of the party. Key decisions shouldn’t be made by a few individuals in a committee room, a Zoom meeting or in childish, bullying WhatsApp groups, but by conference — the sovereign body of our party. In this decisive moment where thousands are unhappy at the party’s current direction, we need to create more opportunities for members to feed into the policymaking process, not less.
I’m standing in this election because Labour can only win if it’s a party of its members. It is our members who graft and build our great working-class movement and make Labour worthy of its name. It is our members who will fight the hardest for the vision of society we wish to see — and that we must see if we want an end to austerity, unemployment. and the destruction of our planet. Our members must have a strong voice on our NEC — so please vote for the CLGA Grassroots Voice team.