Party of John Smith ‘back in business’ says Murphy

Jim Murphy unveils Scottish Labour's election manifesto in Glasgow. Picture: Getty
Jim Murphy unveils Scottish Labour's election manifesto in Glasgow. Picture: Getty
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JIM Murphy said the party of Donald Dewar and John Smith was “back in business“ as he launched the Scottish Labour manifesto, with pledges for free breakfast clubs for poor children and 500 more GPs funded by a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2 million.

Mr Murphy launched a scathing attack on Nationalism, which he said did not “create the NHS or a welfare state”, but would instead help deliver a Conservative government on 7 May by depriving Labour of a Commons majority.

The party of John Smith and Donald Dewar is back in business.

Jim Murphy

Launching the manifesto, which contained 160 pledges, Mr Murphy said Scotland had 20 days to save the Barnett Formula, which is used to distribute cash across the UK and which he said Labour would keep “forever”.

Mr Murphy, speaking in Glasgow’s East End, said the Scottish Labour manifesto was its most radical since that of 1945, after which the party in government created a free health service.

He said: “We set out a plan that represents the biggest assault since 1945 on the injustices that hold back too many people in the community and in working-class Scotland.”

Mr Murphy also evoked the spirit of the late Labour leader John Smith and first First Minister of Scotland, Donald Dewar, as he launched the manifesto, which included the pledge to set up breakfast clubs in primary schools that act as feeders to the 20 secondary schools serving the poorest children.

He said Labour’s manifesto plan to tackle low pay and erode poverty would have been an “idea that Donald Dewar and John Smith would have been proud of”. He added: “The party of John Smith and Donald Dewar is back in business.”

He also compared Scottish Labour’s manifesto to the ideas championed by Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS. He said: “Nye Bevan, Labour’s creator of the NHS, speaks to us through history to tell us the NHS will survive as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.”

He hit out at the SNP, saying: “Nationalism did not create the NHS or a welfare state. Nationalism did not establish the rights of working people. Nationalism did not transform the housing conditions of Scotland’s cities.

“All of that was done by Lab­our governments and, more often than not, it was opposed by the Scottish Nationalists who now seek to steal these clothes.”

He unveiled a pledge to tackle poor nutrition among children in the most poverty-stricken parts of Scotland, which he said was limiting their life chances.

He said: “I may already have said it 220 times but just 220 pupils from the most disadvantaged households across the country get the grades to go to our best universities in the most recent years we have figures for.

“A poor diet is linked to poor health, poor educational attainment, and poor life chances.

“Today we announce that we will start to tackle this by establishing breakfast clubs in the primary schools feeding the 20 secondary schools serving the poorest children.

“Because no child should start the school day on an empty stomach.”

He said also set out the party’s manifesto pledges to increase the national minimum wage from £6.50 to £8 by 2020 and to fight for a “living wage”.

Commitments to abolish zero hour contracts, guarantee a job and training for the long-term unemployed and to invest £1 billion in Scotland’s NHS to pay for 1,000 more nurses and 500 extra GPs were also in the manifesto.

A £200 million cancer fund would further “make sure cancer patients in Scotland get the treatment they need and deserve”, he told supporters at the launch held in the key SNP target seat of Glasgow East – a constituency represented by shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran in the last parliament.

Mr Murphy said the Barnett Formula was “great for Scotland”, but that the SNP’s demand for full fiscal autonomy would mean the end of an arrangement worth “hundreds of pounds more for every Scot” in key areas of public spending.

He warned that handing full tax and welfare power to Holyrood would “cut off” Scotland from tax revenues from the rest of the UK to fund public services and lead to “a growing black hole that could only be filled by cuts”. He said: “I want to be clear that Labour will defend Barnett today, tomorrow and forever. Throughout our manifesto and in my speech, the value of Barnett is clear. It is already well established that the Nationalist plans to end Barnett mean an extra £7.6 billion of cuts.”

Speaking in Edinburgh, Dr Miles Mack, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland, welcomed the move on GP numbers: “I am delighted to see that a Scottish political party has taken the lead and finally promised substantial action to deal with the current crisis in GP workforce in Scotland.”

However, reacting to Mr Murphy’s speech, SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie said: “At this election the SNP presents an opportunity for real change.

“Our modest 0.5 per cent real- terms rise in public spending will end Westminster’s cuts and invest in jobs and public services.

“We can do this while reducing the deficit and bringing down the debt.”

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