Every election presents a choice. With around 100 days until the General Election in May, it’s clear that the choice in 2015 will define the East End for a generation.
Times remain incredibly tough for people in East London. Families are £1600 a year worse off since 2010. Child poverty is spiralling. People’s pay has fallen 9% on George Osborne and David Cameron’s watch. If anywhere is feeling the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s here.
Yet the stakes got even higher just before Christmas. In my role on the Treasury Select Committee, I challenged the Chancellor. Independent experts had labelled his planned cuts ‘extreme’ and ‘colossal’ – sending some Tories scurrying for cover. Did the Chancellor stand by his plans to slash public spending back to levels since the 1930s? Yes, he said.
So what does that mean in human terms? First, Tory plans would threaten the very future of our NHS, with local A&E departments already at breaking point. It will also intensify the strain on local housing and other vital services. It means less devoted to combating anti-social behaviour. Simply put, these plans threaten the social fabric which we have worked so hard to in the East End to sustain.
Let no-one claim that this is purely about cutting the deficit. All parties accept the urgency of doing just this. We should be crystal clear: if elected, a Labour Government would not shirk tough choices over the next few years. Balancing the books by 2020 would be amongst our top priorities.
Yet Tory plans make deeper, more wounding cuts – and make them quicker than has been shown necessary. This isn’t about public finances. Neither is the £7 billion worth of unfunded tax cuts the Tories will dangle before the election. For that matter, neither is their £3 billion tax cut for the top 1% of earners. It just doesn’t add up. Undeterred by the rapid rise of foodbanks across our country, the Tories want to shrink the state further still.
Looking to May 2015, it’s become clear Labour is the only party capable of standing between the East End and the Tory scalpel. It’s ‘slash and burn’ from the Tories against a tough but manageable plan from Labour. Labour’s plan will enshrine fairness. Fairness is finding savings across all departments, but reversing the millionaires’ tax cut. It’s scrapping fuel allowances for the wealthiest pensioners, but abolishing the hated bedroom tax. It’s reviewing every pound we spend as a country in order to raise an extra £2.5 billion for our NHS.
A choice for Labour makes the difference. Saving our NHS. Raising the minimum wage. Building a million news houses over the next Parliament.
The choice is ours to make.