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This government is attacking all of us — it’s time to fight back

We have had enough of normalising foodbank use, normalising school holiday hunger in our kids and accepting the rich getting richer while we suffer, says MARY KELLY FOY MP

EARLIER this week we saw Liz Truss announce her new flagstream policy — to cut the wages of anyone in the public sector that doesn’t live and work in south-east England.

Rishi Sunak of course is no better than Truss — while they tear chunks out of each other, neither of them has an actual plan to help our communities.

Just last week we saw evidence that despite their levelling-up promises and empty rhetoric, the reality is that the gap in public spending between northern England and London doubled between 2019-21 — growing from a difference of £1,513 to £3,008 per person, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

This cost-of-living crisis is a cost-of-voting-Tory crisis — and nowhere is that starker than in the north-east where our kids are being failed — we have seen the biggest group of children pulled into poverty than anywhere else in Britain — 38 per cent of children in the north-east are now growing up in poverty.

For all the grand promises, our children are being left behind. In an average classroom of 30, 11 pupils will be below the poverty line, perhaps too hungry to concentrate. Too cold to be comfortable while at home. Deprived of the security and opportunity necessary to succeed like their classmates. Their parents working just to exist.

We are still seeing companies leeching billions in profits from our public services. 

Our NHS struggling under the weight of the pandemic and the decades of under resourcing before then — now faced with the private sector taking chunks of the NHS for itself — cherry-picking lucrative and easy operations and leaving the NHS under-resourced and understaffed while private companies put profit over our health. 

Our NHS going the way of dentistry — people being priced out of healthcare. 

Tooth decay is currently the most common reason for hospital admissions among young children. 

Thousands of children are currently in pain, distracted as they learn, in pain as they eat and struggling to sleep because they cannot access vital treatment. For many, the fees for private treatment are simply unaffordable.

BP this week reported record profits — £14.6 billion in half a year alone, Shell reported record profits; Centrica, which owns British Gas, reported a fivefold increase in profits.

Yet people can’t afford to put fuel in cars, can’t afford the annual energy bill increase, food price increases and they generally struggle to cope — in-work poverty is at an all-time high, people are holding down two or more jobs — swallowing wage cuts year on year for decades — working to exist, yet not even being able to afford food.

Of course the Tories and their friends continue to get richer, continue to waste billions in contracts for their mates and are more interested in who can out-Thatcher the other in their race for leader.

So what is the Tory solution to the cost-of-living crisis? To attack workers’ rights — ramping up the attacks on public-sector workers who have already faced decades of pay cuts.

We know it will never be enough for them — until the welfare state is destroyed they will keep attacking the working class and our unions until every safety net is gone.

That is why it is up to us to fight back. To demand more for society and to protect the vulnerable in our communities.

It is up to us to make clear demands for public ownership of our utilities and to support workers taking action over pay and conditions.

It is the public-sector workers who our suffering communities turn to when they are ill, when they are homeless and when they are hungry. 

Public-sector workers who put their lives on the line to protect us throughout the pandemic — and now they are under attack. It is time for us to protect them.

In recent days we have seen strike action from RMT, Aslef, TSSA and the CWU — not just fighting for pay rises in the face of record inflation, but fighting for jobs and public services — and for the safety of all of us.

What we have had over the last few years is a government that has used the Covid pandemic to maximise profits for their cronies and to undermine workers’ rights — their latest attack changing the law to make it legal to use agency workers to break strikes.

It is no wonder unions and communities are fighting back. We have had enough of normalising foodbank use, normalising school holiday hunger in our kids and accepting the rich getting richer while we suffer.

Mick Lynch and Dave Ward’s recent media appearances have done more for political education over the last few weeks than the labour movement has managed in years — we must build on this public support for the strikes and public support to take action over energy costs.

Recent picket lines, as well as having huge turnouts, have been collecting for foodbanks — showing how we unite communities around supporting each other throughout their struggles.

People need to be given hope that things can and must change — let’s make this a summer of solidarity and support, uniting our communities, fighting back together, for as the saying goes, unity is strength.

Mary Kelly Foy is member of Parliament for the City of Durham.

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