If the Public Order Bill was in place back in October 1936, then the Jarrow Crusade would have been banned and the proud, dignified marchers – including the town’s MP Ellen Wilkinson – would have been arrested.Continue reading
Following the excitement of the last week’s local elections, Parliament returned on Tuesday for the Queen’s Speech – the Government’s legislative agenda for the next parliamentary term.
Prince Charles, standing in for the Queen who was forced to pull out due to mobility problems, announced plans for 38 pieces of legislation including a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, a Brexit Freedoms Bill, a Schools Bill, an Energy Security Bill, the long-promised Online Safety Bill and a Public Order Bill.
However, despite promises to get Britain “back on track” after the Covid pandemic, the Queen’s Speech contained no new support for households struggling with the cost of living.
The cost of living crisis is the main, immediate challenge facing this country. There’s no sign of it abating and so many families are struggling financially.
The Bank of England recently issued a prediction that inflation will surpass 10% later this year.
When the UK is already experiencing the worst deterioration in living standards for decades, many will dread to think what a continued surge in prices will mean for them and their families.
A wasted decade of low growth under the Conservatives has left our economy weakened and the Tories have become the party of high taxes and low pay.
We needed a Queen’s Speech that would tackle the cost of living crisis, with an emergency budget including a windfall tax to get money off people’s bills.
We needed a real plan for growth to get our economy firing on all cylinders, with a Climate Investment Pledge and a commitment to buy, make and sell more in Britain.
Instead, a failure to tackle the cost of living crisis and low growth in the Queen’s Speech marks a major economic failure by the Conservatives.
The Queen’s Speech could have shown a Government in touch with working people. It could have shown a Government taking action to make sure there are no more reports of millions of people struggling to make ends meet.
Unscrupulous bosses will cheer the demise of the promised Employment Bill, but its absence will dismay workers in perilous jobs. For many, fire and rehire on less pay has become a grim reality. No new cash for a much-needed inflating-busting pay rise means the NHS and other essential services will go on losing experienced staff. Waiting lists for treatment will also get longer and services will worsen for everyone.
Earlier this week I tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for the Government to do more to solve the housing crisis, including bringing forward a Bill that will ensure a new generation of good quality social homes, improve private renting conditions and bolster regulation in the social rented sector.
I also tabled an amendment on the Government’s watered-down ban on conversion therapy and called on the inclusion of transgender people who it currently doesn’t include.
We needed legislation to boost workers’ rights and proper plans for social care and ‘levelling-up’.
Instead, we have seen tax rise after tax rise on working people.
What is even worse is that families are paying higher energy bills now because of this Government’s failure to properly regulate the energy market over the past decade, develop renewables and nuclear power, and deliver energy efficiency programmes which could have cut bills.
The Government could have introduced much greater support for working families and pensioners facing rising bills, funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies making near-record profits during this crisis. But they have not.
This is a government that is completely out of touch. These planned laws will make little difference to the millions who are facing soaring living costs.
It is wholly unacceptable that we have a Government who haven’t grasped the seriousness of this crisis. Families are being forced into debt and struggling to make ends meet with many working people left with no choice but to turn to a food bank.
Here we have a Government that has run out of ideas, led by a Prime Minister entirely out of touch. It doesn’t have to be this way. It won’t always be this way. A Labour Government would tackle the cost-of-living crisis head-on and get Britain growing again after 12 years of failure.
May Day alongside Workers Memorial Day on the 28th April is a time where collectively the Working Class can gather and reflect on generations of sacrifice and struggle. Whilst this time gives an opportunity to deepen into a nostalgic outlook, we also take time to reflect on battles that have been fought in the past.
My message to the people of Jarrow for May Day 2022, is that we use this occasion to celebrate our class, as we remember that Jarrow’s history is central to our identity, an identity where we can say to generations gone, we continue to carry the banners as we build for that better tomorrow.
When I reflect on the Industrial history of my constituency I think of Jarrow between the wars. A town, where employment relied on the interests of profit through the shipbuilding firm Palmers. A time where a National Government offset the problems of unemployment onto the backs of the Working Class by introducing the Means Test, and other draconian cuts to the Welfare State. Ninety years ago, in Jarrow at the peak of the Great Depression (1932), unemployment in the town stood at ‘80%’.
In her ground breaking work, ‘The Town that was Murdered’, Ellen Wilkinson described the subsequent poverty-stricken condition of Jarrow as, “not an accident, a temporary difficulty or a personal fault. But the permanent state in which the citizens of any capitalist country have to live”.
This May Day, rather than looking back at this seismic event in the footnotes of working-class history, it is only right to think about the relevance of the Jarrow Marchers fight today.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said it would be, ‘silly to boost support on energy bills’. The lack of political action and economic help from this Government to help people in alleviating the serious Cost of Living Crisis, is a politically driven choice made by this Government.
Whilst today’s statistics don’t match up face value, with the stark figures of the 1930s, we have to remember that Jarrow of 2022 is faced with similar battles where key services are being stripped from our local authorities, where there is a growth in un-unionised insecure work and where there is a significant rise in the last 12 years in the opening of food banks.
Reflecting on what Jarrow faces today, and what the people in the constituency faced in the 1930s, it is vital to echo these words from Tony Benn, “Can you draw inspiration and courage from the people in the past who fought the battle it was their job to fight”.
Take courage and inspiration that it was the generation of the Jarrow Marchers, who took their shared experience of the ‘Hungry Thirties’, to make sure their lasting legacy after the Second World War was to say, never again.
Never again should the Working Class need to march for the lack of work, never again should the Working Class undergo the worry for lack of money, never again should the people suffer as a result of changing economic factors beyond their control.
It was these Working Class demands which became the bedrock of policy in Labour’s 1945 Government, which established the NHS, organised secure employment through the public ownership of industry and, with Ellen Wilkinson, as Secretary of State for Education, introduced compulsory secondary school education.
Even after defeat in the 2019 General Election, shared and collective experience is our most powerful tool, faced with the aftermath of the Pandemic, this May Day it is only right to think of the struggles faced by the people of Jarrow in the past, and what they managed to build from it.
With these lessons in mind, it is our duty through the Labour and Trade Union Movement to carry on the fight.