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Labour: ready to fight back

Submitted by on 27 Sep 2010 – 09:22

By the Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

Five months of the new government and our worst fears are more than justified.

People are starting to feel the impact of the changes the Government is making to the NHS, schools, policing and the economy, and its approval ratings have dipped into negative territory. But though we are angry and dismayed about the effects of Tory and Liberal Democrat policies, and are deeply disappointed to be in opposition, the Labour Party is far from downhearted.

Some predicted that election defeat would see us turn inward and ignore the country while we fought among ourselves.  That is the opposite of what is happening.  The Parliamentary Labour Party has seen an unprecedented influx of new MPs, with a quarter of them being elected for the first time. These able and enthusiastic men and women from Scotland, England and Wales are a breath of fresh air. The “experienced hands” in Parliament have welcomed the new ones with pride.

A third of Labour MPs are women, which is the highest proportion ever for a British Parliamentary party. We have 81 Labour women MPs – more than all the other parties combined.  Even in the short time since the election, Labour has shown that as well as being the only progressive party in British politics, it is the only party in Parliament speaking up for women in this country.
Labour will also continue to stand up for the public sector and public servants. Unlike the Tories and Liberal Democrats, we do not believe that government and the public sector are to blame or to be punished for what was a global economic recession – we believe they are an important part of the solution.

We believe that Government – central and local – has a key role in fostering the success of the country and the wellbeing of its communities; in regulating parts of the private sector such as financial services at the same time as supporting their growth; and in providing the public services which are vital to society.

Everyone recognises that the deficit must be reduced, but the cuts as proposed are unfair, ill-advised and dangerous.

The Tory and Lib-Dem Government is cutting vital police funding which has already led to fewer police officers on our streets. The decision by schools secretary Michael Gove to cancel more than 700 rebuilding projects has stunned parents, pupils, teachers and communities across the country and is a blow to the construction sector at what is still a difficult time. The NHS is being broken up with the biggest reorganisation in its history. Not only will this waste money, it puts at risk the world class care that dedicated NHS staff worked so hard to achieve and removes important guarantees on treatment waiting times.

We believe the role of government and the public sector does matter and we’ll be fighting hard to challenge the unfair and dangerous cuts that are putting the recovery at risk and harming vital services.  As we feared, the Tory and Lib-Dem ‘Big Society’ is revealing itself to be a thinly disguised excuse to pursue the Conservatives’ determination to hack away at the public sector.  What an irony that this is only possible because of Liberal Democrat support.

Labour is challenging the Government vigorously in Parliament with our new and experienced MPs working together, and our unity cemented by our anger and dismay about what the Government is doing.

At local level, by-elections since May 6th show Labour gaining ground, winning seats from the other parties and with our share of votes cast now level with the Tories, compared with the seven per cent lead they had at the General Election.

With newly-energised MPs, the fastest growing party membership on record, progress in by-elections and the election of our new leader, Labour has dusted itself down, is renewing itself and  – as an effective and responsible opposition – is ready to fight back in the coming session of Parliament.