The strong message from Jeremy Corbyn that we all need to hear right now

Jeremy Corbyn
Ed Sykes

Jeremy Corbyn has highlighted an uncomfortable truth that Britain must address now more than ever amid the coronavirus emergency.

As the Conservative government is renting private hospital beds at a cost of £2.4m per day, the outgoing Labour leader has stressed the importance of prioritising public welfare over private profit.

A crisis is the worst time to shy away from the truth

Speaking to the BBC, Corbyn first praised the people who are currently “undertaking phenomenal levels of work” to deal with the crisis. But he also emphasised that Britain is “a divided society”. Referring to a decade of elitist Tory-led governments, he said:

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we do have a lot of people who are very poor, we do have a lot of people who are very vulnerable, we have a shortage of hospital beds. Ten years of austerity is now being shown up.

Corbyn and others have recently criticised the government’s highly controversial response to the crisis. Some of his critics, meanwhile, have said people shouldn’t ‘politicise‘ the issue. But when people’s lives are literally at stake, this would be the worst time possible to stop holding the government to account – especially given its recent record in power.

Tory austerity left us vulnerable

Since 2010, the billionairebacked Conservative Party and its allies have inflicted devastating ideological austerity on the country. This intensified both regional and economic divisions. And it starved the NHS while severely reducing public funding for education, social welfare, the justice system, councils, and housing. The devastating austerity policy also sparked a rise in poverty, foodbank usage, and widespread suffering for some of the most vulnerable people in Britain. At least 130,000 people died as a result of just one aspect of the policy. One recent report, meanwhile, revealed what one expert called a “national scandal”, with life expectancy slowing and health inequalities widening between the wealthiest and poorest parts of England.

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of NHS England beds fell by around 17,000. And in this environment of severe underfunding from Tory-led governments, the NHS is clearly struggling to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

People before profit!

While the government announced new measures on 20 March to help workers, pressure has been growing for it to introduce a universal income.

In fact, over 500 international academics and public figures have now joined calls for governments to support people with an “emergency universal basic income” (UBI). This would see governments give all citizens a regular amount of money to cover essential living costs. The academics said UBI “should play a central role in the emergency response to this crisis” alongside healthcare provision to ensure everyone “has enough money to buy the food and other essentials they need to survive”. One Oxford economics fellow stressed that £1,000 per person would cost £66bn a month – “a fraction of the nearly £500bn bailout the UK needed to stay afloat during the 2008 financial crisis”.

More than 170 MPs and peers in the UK have also called for UBI, highlighting that it “would be far more effective than subsidising company payroll” and “would protect self-employed workers and those in precarious employment”. Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has also backed UBI.

Hold the government to account!

For the sake of ordinary people up and down the country, we should all hope that the government does all it can to help people to survive this crisis. But as one Labour MP stressed, hope isn’t enough:

In short, it’s more important than ever right now to hold the government to account. That means highlighting where austerity has left people dangerously vulnerable – and how that needs to be radically reversed. It also means supporting the workers who drive the economy, and prioritising their wellbeing over private profits. That’s why Corbyn’s message is so important. Because we shouldn’t just hope for the best – we need to demand it too.

Featured image via Sophie Brown

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  • Show Comments
    1. An Oxford economics fellow has multiplied £66bn a month and claimed that the cost of UBI would be a fraction of the £500bn banking bailout. Presumably he thinks that the government only needs to consider implementing UBI for a month?!!!! Perhaps that may explain why the majority of economists are held in such contempt. Either that, or this article has been poorly researched and/or edited. Socialist claptrap.

    2. Disgusted by the Canary at the moment, hold the government to account -definitely, show ways we could do more-absolutely, use current event for political point scoring – just shameful

    3. Shameful that a politician should tell the truth at a time like this, you wouldn’t catch a Tory politician doing that ( tell the truth that is).

      1. Making political gain from a crisis and deaths is not the same as telling the truth.
        I’m not saying the torrid could do better -they obviously can, but to try to assign some sort of blame, at this time is unforgivable.
        Can you imagine losing a loved one to this virus, then find politicians point scoring over it? Surely the time for that is when the danger has passed?
        So yes shameful, even your last comment is trying to point score and show some sort of moral high ground that you, Jeremy, the Labour Party and the Canary don’t have.
        I fear if we on the left point fingers and blame the torrid, we will be on the wrong side of this when it is over.

    4. You destroy your own argument at the end. If the main worry is being “on the wrong side of this when it is over”, then you display a lack of concern for those who are suffering NOW.

      1. Not really as this is heckling from the side lines, nothing constructive, time for analysis will come later.
        As to being on the wrong side, ask yourself how does this help? Who does this serve?
        We can remind and prompt the government to act to protect all people without the political biases at this time surely?
        And let’s be realistic, no government can click its fingers and expect immediate action, it takes time. We should be making sure nobody is forgotten by reminding the powers that be about them, not heckling.
        We also need to act now to make sure there is a functioning society to return to.
        Regardless of the past 10 years of Tory rule (and the shambles of new labour previously let’s be honest) I am surprisingly impressed with the speed and action of the government this last week, let’s make sure it continues and expands -this should be our focus in these trying times.
        Stay safe all

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