After a difficult start to 2021, it is wonderful to see Southwark slowly returning to the lively, vibrant community we all love and lovely to know families are beginning to be able to see one another again after such a long time apart, writes Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle…
I only saw my dad once in 2020 but was able to spend a week with him before he passed away this month. I have been amazed and grateful for the kind words from friends and strangers alike following his sudden death.
The current reopening has only been possible through people’s collective determination, following everyone’s sacrifice, and requires us all to get the full vaccination from the NHS. Our frontline healthcare workers have saved thousands of lives and we owe them a special, additional thanks for their heroism. Clapping them is not enough and Labour will continue to fight for a fairer pay settlement than the real terms cut being imposed by Johnson’s Tories.
Shop workers also deserve our thanks and praise for their efforts in the last year. As we locked down, they have literally opened-up and ensured we remained fed and stocked up on essentials. We cannot ‘level up’ London or the country without tackling the dodgy employment practices in many large shop chains; frontline workers deserve better. Our schools have ensured Southwark children were still able to receive their education but the Government is implementing backdoor cuts to their budgets totalling £1.2 million in our borough alone, as the News covered recently
All the personal sacrifices and frontline efforts risk being set back if the Government does not get a grip on our borders and new variants. Ministers told us Brexit would ‘take back control’ of our borders but they have been left wide open when the US had the worst covid rates globally and more recently as India has been gripped by a new variant affecting over 100,000 people a day.
In Parliament, we had the Queen’s Speech following the sad passing of Prince Philip. The Government’s plans should have been an ambitious programme to begin the rebuilding post-covid. The post-war Labour administration prioritised creating the NHS, building more homes than any Government ever, and establishing our crucial social security system. The Labour 1945 legacy is one we can all be proud of, especially following a national crisis and in a period of genuine austerity.
The 2021 Tory equivalent is truly pathetic given their massive majority. They even neglected their manifesto promise to overhaul social care. Labour is calling for a ten-year investment plan in a new National Care Service whilst Johnson ignores older people, carers and disabled people urgently requiring reform.
The Tories also failed to tackle immediate pressures like that, covered by the News last week, of people in homes deemed dangerous but who are unable to move. Southwark has the fifth highest number of applications to the Building Safety Fund following Grenfell, but help still is not reaching leaseholders in desperate straits. The Queen’s Speech could have addressed the cladding issue facing thousands of people in Southwark and across the country, but Ministers instead put politics first: announcing plans to alter how people vote in order to favour the Tories. This crude politicisation and distorted prioritisation does nothing but exacerbate the problems we face in Southwark and nationally as we emerge from covid and represents an ignoble, grubby motivation at a time the public expect far better.