The next two weeks’ conferences will illustrate the huge contrast between Labour values and Tory values, writes DIANE ABBOTT
THIS week’s Labour Conference comes on the back of a general election campaign where we defied the critics.
Many pundits said we would be obliterated. Yet Labour made gains and is now starting to get ahead in the polls.
And our party is revitalised — massive membership has registered in record numbers for this week’s conference.
But our work isn’t done. There is more to do. We have to get rid of this reckless government and win a Labour government, for the many not the few.
If we don’t then we face years of growing insecurity, inequality and division under the Tory-DUP coalition of chaos.
Under Theresa May, Britain faces a series of threats, yet the Tory Party’s priority seems to more infighting. But for millions of ordinary people there are many challenges that need to be urgently addressed.
Living standards and real wages are falling. The NHS is in crisis. Foodbanks and homelessness are on the rise.
The Tories’ rigid and reckless approach for a “bargain basement,” tax-haven Britain post-Brexit will make many of these problems worse.
At the same time, millions of people face a squeeze when it comes to the cost of living. We are also becoming less safe, facing the rising threats of terrorism, violent crime and hatebased crime, and the police service is overstretched due to the Tory cuts.
Under the Tories, police officer numbers have been cut to the bone with over 20,000 officers cut since 2010.
They are overworked, stressed and increasingly victims of mental health issues. Police chiefs warn that certain crimes will be deprioritised, even that police responses will be “rationed.” This is unacceptable.
When it comes to how we deal with these problems, Labour values are completely the opposite to those Tory values.
While the Tories have pursued an unfair public-sector pay cap for police officers, firefighters and others, we recognise the dedicated and hugely valuable contribution of our emergency services and all our public-sector workers.
But talk is cheap, and the Tories are good at cheap talk. When it comes to pay, the Tories offer warm words and more cuts in real pay.
Labour will lift the public-sector pay cap. We cannot tolerate a situation where tax cuts for the rich and for big business are paid for by robbing the police, NHS workers, fire-fighters, prison officers, teachers, civil servants and many more.
And only Labour will recruit 10,000 new police officers to focus on crime prevention and detection within our communities and to restore the bonds of trust where they have been broken.
Labour will also recruit 3,000 additional firefighters. We have all seen the terrible effects of shortfalls in the ability to fight fires, whether it’s prevention, inadequate equipment or limited resources.
The Tories have closed fire stations, and response times have slowed as a result. We will not allow this to continue.
Rather than solve our deepening problems, the Tories are leading a permanent campaign against migration and migrants.
To give just one example, against all advice they include international students in the total number of immigrants because the effect is to drive up the total to “frightening” levels.
Yet, as we now know, the argument that international students are overstaying their visas in large numbers simply isn’t true. They contribute to our education system. We would be worse off without them. Labour values them.
Labour will stand up against the Tories’ continuous scapegoating of migrants and other vulnerable sectors of society, which seeks to distract attention from the government’s own failings.
Labour is honest with the public. Whatever our future relations with the rest of the world, our priorities are growth, jobs and prosperity.
We make no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets. As part of our vision for a better Britain, Labour values the social and economic contributions of migrants, including to our public services such as the NHS.
In contrast to Tory scapegoating, Labour will introduce a new fair and transparent immigration system — one that works for all.
We accept the reasonable offer of the EU on rights for EU citizens here and British citizens in Europe. We will build up the skills of workers already here. We will support the economy and will not artificially curb the workers we need to come here. We will treat people fairly and properly recognise the right to a family life for all, whether they are British citizens trying to bring family members here, or from the EU or outside it.
This week myself, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the rest of Labour’s team will outline how we stand for the many not the few.
Join us as we keep building our revitalised movement, both in fighting May’s government and winning real change.