When Bob Blizzard addressed Waveney TUC he started with the party’s pledges. These include reversing the Tory cut to the top rate of income tax and introducing a mansion tax; raising the minimum wage to £8 per hour by 2020; more apprenticeships; more free childcare and curbs on employment agencies.
Also promised are freezing energy bills until 2017; introducing a 10p lower rate of income tax; cutting tuition fees from £9000 to £6000pa; building 200,000 homes a year; banning “exploitative” zero hours contracts; repealing the Health and Social Care Act; employing 20,000 more nurses and more doctors, midwives and home care workers; and a higher priority for mental health services.
LCAC would not disagree with any of these promises or intentions although the Labour Party seems to be flirting with anti-immigrant policies rather than challenging the scapegoating involved. But is it too “timid” as one in the audience put it? It pledges to cut the deficit every year – but without tapping into the wealth being accumulated at the top that means continuing with cuts. The mansion tax and so on are fleas bites. Repealing the Health and Social Care Act is fine but what about the services already privatised and the built in “efficiency savings” which are taking the NHS into crisis? Why isn’t renationalising the railways down there? Or taking back the utilities which are just a licence to print money?
Bob was in an upbeat mood and thought that Labour’s programme was the most radical he had ever campaigned on – he was Waveney MP between 1997 and 2010. He has been a active campaigner on issues which have badly affected local services, often initiating campaigns against cuts and closures. LCAC worked with Bob in opposing the closure of Lowestoft Town Hall, the setting up of Beccles “Free School”, the ending of adult mental health services in Waveney, the closure of Lowestoft Hospital and the mass housing building programme on the south side of Lake Lothing to the detriment of local jobs. An ex-Labour Party whip in Parliament Bob now intends to sit on the back benches. He will vote against Trident and opposes HS2. It was surpris- ing how many Labour Party members have reservations about the Party’s policies. The success of the SNP in Scotland, which threatens to reduce the Labour Party there to a rump, shows what a more radical and determined approach can do. Labour doesn’t have to support austerity.