Only Labour can end this so-called ‘marvellous’ austerity – Ian Lavery

When a Labour government built our National Health Service after the Second World War, it took vision, ambition and a determination to overturn the status quo, writes Labour Party chair Ian Lavery.
It took vision to create the NHS and it will take similar ambition to end austerity, says Ian Lavery (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)It took vision to create the NHS and it will take similar ambition to end austerity, says Ian Lavery (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
It took vision to create the NHS and it will take similar ambition to end austerity, says Ian Lavery (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Seventy years on, we are all rightly proud of our health service. But it is under-resourced and staff are overworked.

I was in Leith and Sauchie in Clackmannanshire on Saturday, joining Labour members in communities across the country to say Labour will end this mismanagement and lack of funding and we will rebuild our NHS.

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Instead of rising vacancies, we will recruit more staff and give them the time to care for you and your loved ones. We will bring our hospitals up to standard, and we will invest in social care so people aren’t left without the help they need or stuck in hospital when they could go home.

I have been a member of the Labour Party for 35 years. It is in my DNA. I couldn’t be more proud to be the party chairman.

And I could not have been more proud of our 2017 general election manifesto, which promised to bring the curtain down on a failed political and economic system.

It was popular because it was common sense. End low pay and the explosion in foodbanks and homelessness, invest in our communities and industries, end the rip-off of privatisation and bring key industries into public ownership, strengthen workers’ rights, and fundamentally redistribute wealth and power across the UK.

This is what we stood for then and still do. Which is why it was disappointing last week to see some of our former Labour colleagues – who enjoyed large increases in their votes on the back of these ideas – walk away and align themselves with former Tories whose policies created the problems we urgently need to fix.

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No one in Labour is ignoring the concerns they raised, particularly the issue of antisemitism, which we remain committed to rooting out of the small pockets of our party where it has surfaced and of wider society.

But as we reflect on the challenges laid down to us, so must this new Independent Group reflect on our challenge to them. Where is their support and funding coming from, why won’t they ask their constituents if they still want them as their MP, what do they actually stand for?

One of their number has already defended austerity as “marvellous” and another has questioned the need for the wealthiest to pay more in tax. So you will forgive me for thinking this looks very much like the failed politics of the past.

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In 2017, Labour’s increase in share of the vote across the UK was the biggest since 1945 and we started the resurgence in Scotland that under the leadership of Richard Leonard is set to continue.

The Tories have inflicted years of pain on our communities and have made a complete mess of Brexit. The one-trick SNP’s only answer is to foster more division, chaos and instability.

So the message we took to the streets at the weekend was that we need to rebuild our NHS and our public services. We need Labour governments in Westminster and Holyrood with the vision and ambition to end austerity and end the business-as-usual status quo that has failed the people of Scotland and the UK.

Ian Lavery is chair of the Labour Party and MP for Wansbeck