Theresa May’s government is in dire straits. As depressing as it is to watch the Tories stumble from crisis to catastrophe, Jeremy Corbyn’s revival of the Labour Party continues apace. And his government in waiting offers Britain the chance to transform into a progressive, cooperative, prosperous nation fit for the demands of the 21st century.
Each year, the Conservative Party is told that, if it does not increase investment and reverse privatisation in the NHS, there will be a crisis. And each winter there is a crisis. Then, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt makes the same apology, and repeats ad infinitum.
In the first seven years of Conservative-led government from 2010, the NHS lost 6,700 mental health nurses and doctors. Despite consistently promising greater investment than ever, 44% of NHS trusts are in deficit, and by 2022 there is likely to be a funding hole of between £20bn and £30bn. This is not news. The government has been warned that its policies are creating catastrophe by the Chief of NHS England, health service unions, junior doctors, the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund, and others. Repeatedly. Both privately and publicly.
Jeremy Hunt has ignored these warnings and continued his ideological assault on the NHS regardless. And the result has been disastrous for patient care and staff morale alike.
Meanwhile, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth appears to be listening hard, and learning. Speaking in the wake of yet another winter crisis for the NHS last year, he laid out the issues and his solutions to parliament.
This winter crisis was preventable & predictable – we’ve had years of underfunding & cuts, loss of beds, 100,000 vacancies, fragmentation& privatisation and savage cuts to social care. We don’t want perfection just a fully funded, properly staffed NHS. pic.twitter.com/p1hcYYTiRD
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— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) January 8, 2018
The Department for Education has suffered a similar decline under the Conservatives. Teachers are leaving the profession faster than ever, with a record 50,000 quitting in a single year in 2014. According to a 2016 survey by The Guardian, nearly half of all state school teachers in England were planning to quit by 2021. Out of 4,450 responses, the survey found 98% of teachers were under increasing stress, 82% said their workload was unmanageable, and 43% of England’s state teachers planned to leave.
This crisis of recruitment and retention has seen a sharp rise in classroom sizes.
Just as in health, the contributing factors to this exodus of staff are all about piss-poor political choices in Westminster. By 2019, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) states that the education system will have undergone a real terms budget cut of 5%. And while 88% of state schools face further cuts, the government is ploughing money into free schools and academies. These virtually independent schools pay teachers less and executives more.
Universities aren’t faring any better either. UK universities have tumbled down the world rankings thanks to funding cuts since 2010. And the decision to treble tuition fees means students now face an average debt burden of over £50,000.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, meanwhile, has put forward a series of smart, fully-funded proposals to turn things around. She plans to create a National Education Service, which would include:
- Reversing Conservative cuts and introducing a fairer funding formula.
- Reducing classroom sizes to below 30.
- Ending the recruitment and retention crisis by ending the public sector pay cap, giving teachers more direct control over the curriculum, and reducing over-monitoring and testing in schools.
- Extending school-based counselling by £90m per year, to support the mental health of pupils and teachers alike.
- Creating life-long education and retraining to support the new, faster-paced economy of the 21st century.
- Scrapping university tuition fees.
You can see more in the video below.
And despite Theresa May’s promises in the 2017 general election, it’s Labour’s government in waiting that’s offering strong and stable leadership. Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have faced down a universally hostile media and a coup from the Labour right. Both of these forces were said to be insurmountable just a short while ago. Yet come election 2017, this shadow cabinet delivered Labour’s biggest vote share increase since 1945.
While May managed to scrape together a dirty deal with the DUP to stay in power, her government is out of control. If she had a shred of integrity left, she’d leave of her own volition. Instead, her zombie government limps on, clinging to power with its cold dead hands. And the public have noticed. The latest opinion polls give Labour an eight-point lead over the Conservatives. And while membership of the Conservative Party may have dropped to just 70,000, Labour’s has risen to more than half a million.
UK voters are keenly aware that a government in waiting exists with the Labour Party. A powerful alternative government, the likes of which Britain hasn’t seen since 1945. And one day – hopefully sooner rather than later – they will get the chance to put it in power.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 6.25pm to remove an inaccurate statistic about nurse numbers.
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