“Jeremy Corbyn was recently asked about his first day as Prime Minister had he won the 2017 or 2019 general election & what he would’ve said on his first address to the nation. His answer was ‘rough sleeping ends now’.”
By Samuel Sweek, Peace & Justice Project
The national picture is bleak.
Record numbers of people are relying on foodbanks to feed their families, energy bills are soaring to unsustainable levels and our hospitals are at breaking point – both figuratively and literally – due to years of chronic underfunding and mismanagement by the Conservative government. For millions of people things have never been worse, but for a handful of corporate elites things have never been so good.
This week, RMT revealed the Department for Transport allowed two private rail contractors to pocket £82m in dividends last year, despite ongoing disputes over workers’ pay. Bosses across numerous sectors of the British economy, including at companies like Royal Mail, take home obscene pay whilst workers’ wages stagnate.
It’s the same sinister story for the chief executives of Royal Mail and global giants like Amazon and Starbucks – boasts of record profits coinciding with workers taking on second jobs and debt due to the real terms pay cut they’ve been dealt since 2010.
We need an urgent alternative to the misery faced by millions. That is why the Peace & Justice Project has launched 5 Demands setting out a vision for the future where people come before profit and hope triumphs over misery.
We are demanding a real pay rise for all, £15 per hour as a minimum wage to end working poverty in Britain and provide a much-needed boost to our towns and cities through a greater purchasing power for millions of people. From our schools and higher education settings to our Amazon warehouses, Starbucks Coffee shops and factories, like Samworth Brothers in Leicester and Cornwall, every worker deserves to be paid fairly and the unconditional right to join a trade union.
We must also abolish zero hours contracts and end cruel benefit sanctions.
Alongside a pay rise, energy, water, mail and rail must be taken into public ownership in order to enforce price caps and reduce the spiralling costs squeezing the finances of working class people across the country. Democratic public ownership will empower our communities and will give us a real opportunity to kickstart a Green New Deal to overcome the climate crisis and secure the future of our planet.
It is also vital that we take immediate action to tackle the housing crisis. Everyone deserves decent, safe, warm and affordable housing as a human right, not as a commodity for exploitative landlords. We need a rent freeze and an end to no-fault evictions now, alongside the start of the largest council housing building programme in generations.
Jeremy Corbyn was recently asked about his first day as Prime Minister had he won the 2017 or 2019 general election and what he would’ve said on his first address to the nation on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street. His answer was “rough sleeping ends now”, commencing his Labour government’s plan to equip local authorities to bring the thousands of rough sleepers on our streets out of the cold and into a warm and safe space. A policy that proved both realistic and achievable at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That is the humanity and governmental duty of care that forms the basis of our demands.
We must tax the rich to save the NHS. Years of privatisation, austerity and cuts has put our NHS on its knees. We must end the disgraceful culture of outsourcing, bring all healthcare services back in-house and secure a fair pay rise for all hospital workers by taxing the wealthiest 5% of earners, fossil fuel giants and greedy corporations their fair share.
Our final demand is that we welcome refugees and build a humane immigration system based on dignity, respect, empathy and care that enables those desperate people seeking asylum the right to work, healthcare and housing.
The politics of hate and division must be replaced by a truly achievable vision of peace, social justice and unity in order to create a society that works for us all. The most vulnerable people in our society are not served by political spin or mud-slinging, nor are they helped by the Westminster bubble one-upmanship about who can be tougher on petty criminals or generate the most reactionary headlines about the rights of trans people.
Those in desperate need of political intervention to support them through the most abject and unimaginable difficulty deserve real help, support and, importantly, hope that things can actually get better and things really can change.