Labour is standing up for communities across the country. The elections on 5th May give everyone in Britain a vote; in England, Wales and Scotland.
I am the first Labour leader for 80 years to have been a local councillor standing up for my community before becoming an MP.
It is great to be in Harlow today launching Labour’s election campaign. Harlow was built following the vision of the post-war Labour government. They had a vision and they delivered on it. And that legacy that is still with us today: the NHS, the welfare state, council housing and new towns like Harlow. And they did all that in the aftermath of total war, with the country truly bankrupt.
Now this Conservative government tells us it can no longer afford nurses bursaries can no longer afford student grants and has no option but to impose the bedroom tax.
This Conservative government is making the wrong choices and has the wrong priorities. In the last Parliament they cut over £4 billion from adult social care the budget to look after elderly people in their homes yet found billions to give huge tax breaks to big corporations and the highest earners.
Just last month, in the Budget, they tried to take away up to £150 per week from disabled people to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest.
The publication of the Panama Papers this week drives home what more and more people feel that there is one rule for the rich and another for everyone else. It is time to get tough on tax havens. Britain has a huge responsibility. Many of those tax havens are British overseas territories or crown dependencies.
As the leaked documents show, tax havens have become honey pots of international corruption, tax avoidance and evasion. They are sucking tax revenues out of our own country and many others… fuelling inequality and short-changing our public services and our people.
The Government needs to move beyond warms words on tax dodging. There cannot be one set of tax rules for the wealthy elite and another for the rest of us…this unfairness and abuse must stop. No more lip service. The richest must pay their way.
And instead of cutting Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, the government must provide extra resources to the tax authorities to go after those who think they are above the law.
It is unacceptable that while councils’ budgets are cut and the services on which people rely are being cut back the super-rich elite dodge their taxes and flout the rules.
They cut flood defence funding and left people unprotected in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria last Winter.
They failed to take action in Europe against the dumping of Chinese steel when other European countries were pushing for it and when the US did. This government stood by as the steel crisis loomed. Communities in south Wales, Yorkshire are now paying the price for that failure.
Even though 150,000 signed a petition to recall Parliament to discuss the steel crisis, David Cameron refused. The Labour government in Wales recalled the Assembly this week and is standing up for those communities.
Today, finally, the government is meeting with the trade unions representing the thousands of workers whose jobs are in the balance. The Government must ensure that their representatives are part of any negotiation and assessment of bids for Tata steel. The government must ensure Tata’s customers that existing contracts and supply will continue whether in the private or public sector.
And finally, I make this offer to David Cameron, once a rescue plan has been developed for UK steel Labour will help the government in approaching the Commission to ensure there are no obstacles
This industry is too important to our manufacturing economy and our security to fail. This government’s ideological allergy to public ownership must not be allowed to prevent it taking the steps needed to save UK steel
Being in opposition is never easy, but Labour in Westminster has proved you can still have influence and make a difference.
It was by speaking out and standing up with disabled people that we shamed the government into abandoning their disgraceful cuts to Personal Independence Payments and we continue to campaign to stop the cuts to disabled people’s ESA benefits.
This week around 3 million families – including thousands here in Harlow – would have lost over £1,000 a year in tax credit cuts. But by campaigning around the country and by our votes in Parliament, Labour forced the Tories to scrap those cuts and we continue to campaign to stop their cuts in Universal Credit.
The cuts being inflicted on working families, on disabled people and the failure to stand up for communities across Britain are a political choice, not an economic necessity. And by standing up, we can force this government back Labour is standing up and we are defending your community.
And there is an urgent need for us to do so the government is damaging the fabric of this country our industries and our public services.
Labour opposition to police cuts forced the government to backtrack last year. We had to stand up to prevent any more police officers being lost because there are now 18,000 fewer police than in 2010.
There is a housing crisis a crisis of supply and of affordability housebuilding is at its lowest level since the 1920s and homelessness has risen in every year that David Cameron has been Prime Minister. Yet Harlow Council, a Labour council, is building council housing for its community
I was in Bristol last week and many people I spoke to, like many I meet in cities across the country, felt they were being socially cleansed. But they saw hope in the vision of the Labour Mayoral candidate.
The schools budget is being cut for the first time since the 1990s; class sizes are up, the teacher shortage is getting worse and there is a crisis in school places
Yet the Conservatives want to spend hundreds of millions on forcing all schools to become academies, that won’t benefit a single child or train a single extra teacher and it won’t ease the anguish for parents worried about school places.
This Conservative government is prepared to spend over £1 billion on the forced academisation of every school; shutting parents out of a say in the running out of their children’s schools when even their own Conservative councillors don’t want it, teachers don’t want it and parents don’t want it.
Our NHS, Labour’s proudest creation, is under threat like never before. The government is failing to train enough nurses and is now cutting bursaries to train more nurses. They have picked an unnecessary fight with junior doctors. They have cut mental health budgets. The NHS has a record deficit and waiting times are rising. The Princess Alexandra Hospital here in Harlow is facing a huge deficit due to Conservative failure on the NHS.
And cuts to the arts, to local museums, to regional theatre are creating cultural deserts in parts of Britain.
Together as a country we need to stand up against the Conservative six year record of mismanagement of the economy and stand up for the vital services on which we all depend. David Cameron and George Osborne’s economic policies aren’t just deeply unfair they have failed: on the deficit, debt, investment, productivity, exports, growth and earnings.
Across the country it is Labour councils that are standing up. Like here in Harlow where over £1 million has been invested in town centre regeneration.
Electing a Labour council is the best protection for your community, against the onslaught from this Conservative government even in the toughest of times, it is Labour councils that are making better choices:
Introducing a genuine living wage to tackle low pay. Dozens of Labour councils across the country are boosting wages for thousands of people locally by insisting that all council contractors pay the real living wage to their staff.
Low pay and job insecurity are holding people back meaning too many families are struggling just to make ends meet every month.
Labour councils, like here in Harlow, are building council housing for families that need a home but all councils must be allowed to so on a much greater scale
And what is the Tory response? To force councils to sell off council housing at a time when it has never been more vital. And when Labour’s Teresa Pearce put an amendment to the Housing Bill to ensure that homes for rent must be fit for human habitation – the Tories voted against it.
Labour in Harlow has invested money to get the street lights turned back on overnight after they were turned off by Conservative-led Essex County Council.
Labour is standing up for your community.
Every vote for Labour is a vote for a better way, a vote for dignity for disabled people, a vote against rising child poverty, a vote to protect British industry, a vote against standing by while the super-rich dodge their taxes, a vote for a party that believes the economy should work for everyone – in every part of the country.
Every vote for Labour this May is a vote to say it doesn’t have to be like this, there is a better way, Labour is standing up. Let’s take that positive message onto every doorstep.