The Big Difference is that "Labour Really Do Care About People"
Thursday was (at last!) a dry and sunny day - always good for the spirit . The three Labour candidates for the Plymouth area, Luke Pollard, Philippa Davey and myself, went to a Unite Union lunch. We always need to work with Unions to ensure people at work have the right representation, the right access to training and are kept safe at work. When the negotiation starts for Brexit the unions will have a big responsibility to scrutinise the key legislation to ensure workers' rights are protected . We are having a big Union Campaign day next weekend and hope to see lots of union members out and supporting our campaigns
Thursday evening was the first hustings that I have attended with Johnny Mercer, it was organised by the Herald and you can see the video above.
The questions were sent in from members of the public and covered education, the NHS, mental health, transport, defence, fox hunting, school funding and more. I really enjoyed it, and in the poll afterwards by the Herald online I won with 49% to 22% for the Tory candidate. Now we need to get that message out onto the doorstep.
I made it clear that the cuts that Johnny Mercer had voted for at Westminster were the reason why Derriford Hospital was missing waiting list targets, people were not seen quick enough, A&E keeps going into black alert. Our hospital needs more resources and more staff. Our schools have rising class sizes while teachers and teaching assistants are being made redundant. The money available per pupil is falling. I am a school governor, and I know that this is a very difficult time for our schools. If the Tories get back in, there are more cuts to come.
In the debate I made it clear that pensioners are really going to be under attack by the Tories. No longer is pension income going to be protected, winter fuel allowances will be means-tested like some Victorian idea of charity, and if you need social care at home then you will be made to sell your home to pay for it. The Tories are not solving the problem of social care, just taking money from people's homes to fund a national crisis.
I talked about the rise of poverty in Plymouth. Now it is families who are working who need food banks. The cap on public sector pay means that real wages are falling and families are struggling, so why would the Tories take away a hot school lunch from our children and grandchildren? I asked Johnny Mercer if he would like to have a local vote on this proposal, as he claims to be a fan of what he calls "direct democracy." I think he said no. He has only done one public vote I can remember so far, and that was when he ignored the result of his poll of constituents on Brexit. He now wants to do one on fox-hunting (not sure why. Hunting with dogs is cruel and wrong and I will back keeping the ban on it in place). Direct democracy is all right for something that doesn't actually happen in Plymouth, but for the things that do.
The biggest difference that seemed clear after the debate, in my opinion, is that Labour really do care about people. When I look at our manifesto, I can passionately propose the Labour policies that would keep our public sector funded, those services that matter to real people. We are making different decisions about tax from the ones the Tories are - we won't raise tax or national Insurance for anyone earning under £80,000, where the Tories give tax breaks to millionaires. We will raise tax on Private Medical Care - the Tories tax tampons. It's a clear difference - we are for the many, not the few.