Jeremy Corbyn: people in Scotland are being held back

Written by Jeremy Corbyn on 26 September 2017 in Comment

EXCLUSIVE: At the general election Labour defied all expectations and changed the political landscape. Now we are on a permanent campaign footing, ready to fight another election whenever it is called – and form a government that works for the many not the few.

Jeremy Corbyn - PA

Across the UK, people are being held back by a Conservative Westminster government that has slashed public sector pay and jobs, cut funding for our NHS and other services, and presided over the worst decade for living standards since the Napoleonic Wars.

Theresa May’s divided and increasingly shambolic government is pursuing a race-to-the-bottom Brexit that threatens jobs and hard-won workers’ rights.

And what was the Tory response to losing their majority at the election? It was to try to grab more powers for ministers in Westminster through their EU bill in a shameful attempt to avoid scrutiny – and bypass democracy in the UK parliament and the devolved nations.

No one voted in the EU referendum for Tory ministers in London to hoard more power for themselves. Labour will instead prioritise our economy with a jobs-first Brexit that protects jobs, rights and environmental standards.

In Scotland, people are not only being held back by the Tories, they are being held back by the SNP, who have failed to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to act as a bulwark against Tory cuts. Indeed, they have seamlessly transposed cuts from Westminster onto Scottish communities.

Labour will do things differently. In what must be a first in UK political history, our manifesto became the star of the show and we have shown we have a clear and costed programme to transform society.

Scotland will be central to what we want to achieve. After my visits in the election campaign, I returned in August as part of the tour of the marginal seats we now have in our sights – almost one third of which are in Scotland – taking in constituencies from the Western Isles to Fife. And I have been buoyed by the public reaction and the positive energy we have seen.

This is a remarkable turnaround since 2015, when Kezia Dugdale took over as leader with our party at one of its lowest ebbs. The Scottish people had sent a very clear message they had lost faith in Labour, and Kezia deserves credit and thanks for everything she has done to get us back on track, helping to regain the trust of many of those who left.

The commentators wrote us off then, and they did earlier this year. But the Labour Party I lead will never accept things as many pundits are prepared to do. We will never accept rising homelessness and foodbanks. We will never accept four million children living in poverty and six million workers being paid less than a living wage. We will never accept cuts to the public services we all rely on, or falling investment in our economy so small businesses go to the wall. We will never accept attacks on the most vulnerable, while big corporations and the very wealthy pay less in tax or avoid paying it at all.

We will never accept it because it is unnecessary and grossly unjust. Austerity is not inevitable, it is a political choice. A choice to put the interests of a wealthy elite few before the needs of the many.

There is an alternative to these levels of inequality and injustice that blight us all. In government, Labour will end the public sector pay cap that has caused misery for millions of families in our country.

We will protect our NHS from cuts and privatisation, and we will invest in our public services and our economy to drive growth and prosperity for the many, not just a select few. We will increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour for all age groups, so workers don’t have to live in poverty.

At the heart of our manifesto is a pledge to end austerity and to use public investment banks to drive up investment across all regions and nations – to transform our society so that it works for the many, not the few, and bring back hope after years of Tory cuts and SNP failure.

As Kezia said when she stepped down, we can be positive and optimistic about our future in Scotland, and that is true across the UK. We defied the odds at the general election, and we got the largest increase in Labour’s share of the vote since 1945. That deprived the Tories of their majority at Westminster. But it was not enough to win the election and we know we have more to do to win the support needed to form a government.

We remain in opposition, but we are not just an opposition. We are a government in waiting, fired up by the challenge of fighting and winning the next election, whenever that is. Politics has changed and Labour has driven that change. We will continue to win back people’s trust and their votes and the government we hope to form will serve the interests of the many, not the few. 

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