Sam Tarry MP on threats and challenges facing the Labour movement
The week after the election was an incredibly proud and humbling one for me as I began my work as the Member of Parliament for Ilford South.
Not every Member has the opportunity to represent the constituency they grew up in, had their first job in, went to school in, and first got involved in politics in – I’m determined to repay the trust the electorate has put in me, because it’s my community, my friends, and the people that I’ve grown up with that I’m now representing.
But that elation and pride has been severely tempered by the sadness I felt for many friends and comrades who either lost their seats or fell far short of being elected to Parliament. Their energy and ideas will be a huge loss for our party, but I’m confident they’ll continue the fight in every corner of our country.
The general election result was catastrophic for the Labour movement, and a devastating outcome for millions of people, a vast proportion of whom will now be facing a further five years of deteriorating living standards, whilst our welfare state and public services are further dismantled.
The already downtrodden and hardest up will continue to bear the brunt of ideologically-driven austerity cuts that have slashed billions from the public sector budget, held back private sector investment and R&D, and failed to create well paid and long term jobs on a serious scale, whilst this new Government will likely further demonise refugees and migrants – in particular the Muslim community – and move quickly to extend the privatisation of our National Health Service, dismantle rights at work and to continue to cut taxes for the super rich and large corporations. Neoliberalism will be unshackled, and driven deeper into our economy and culture.
With an unstoppable majority they’ll attempt to rewrite the rules. I expect to see attacks on democracy itself under the guise of reforming the BBC, boundary changes, ID checks on voters – known to suppress working class communities – and even rumoured plans to re-examine the Supreme Court. Make no mistake – they have a plan to re-shape Britain that is every bit as radical as that which Labour put forward from a progressive point of view.
What’s clear in my first few days in office is how aggressively this Tory government plans to cut, privatise and roll back even more of the gains made by previous Labour governments. Whether it be reneging on commitments to EU rights standards, under-investment in the NHS, the outlawing of strikes, or the failure to deliver on many of its promises, such as the planned increase in the national living wage. This Tory government will not stop with its ideological brutality. Many on their benches see this as their opportunity to reignite the fires of Thatcherism for the 21st century.
They won’t be unopposed though. Despite being reduced in number, we must now regroup and learn the lessons of why we lost the general election, being truly honest and leaving no stone unturned as we plan to regain power and rebuild our movement. In Parliament we will challenge and scrutinise the callous legislation the Government has set out in the Queen’s Speech. We will always argue the case for a better alternative for every citizen in this country.