Why I’m Labour

by Greg Lovell (@greglovelluk) on Tuesday, 4th May 2010

After thirteen years of government, British political history would suggest change is inevitable this week. However, David Cameron’s Conservatives have fundamentally failed to present any kind of vision for real change. In fact, by consistently repeating a substance-free mantra of “change”, they have leant credence to the Liberal Democrats, who have genuinely changed the face of elections, if not necessarily their results. So, look again at Labour in government and, faced with the possibility of Cameron standing outside Number 10 on Friday, consider Labour’s achievements. These are the reasons why I am proud to be standing for Labour on Thursday.

I spent a large proportion of my school days in the 1980s shivering in portacabins and dodging falling plaster in the gym. Since 1997, 3,700 schools have been rebuilt or refurbished so children have a safe and settled environment in which to learn. Total funding per pupil has doubled from 1997 levels, leading to better books, IT facilities and most importantly, more teachers. When I was injured playing rugby in 1994, I was left for 8 hours with my shoulder out of its socket in a crumbling A&E waiting room. When I did it again in 2003, I was treated quickly in a well-staffed new hospital. Over 100 new hospitals have been built by Labour and there are 44,000 more doctors and 89,000 more nurses than in 1997.

These are changes I have seen. I was lucky to avoid the impact of spiralling interest rates in the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, when home repossessions were commonplace and lost jobs considered a price worth paying. In the most recent recession, despite its unprecedented global nature, government support for jobs and action to keep interest rates low has protected the homes and livelihoods of millions of people. It has been a tough time, but without the actions of the government, it could have been so much worse.

Some changes won’t impact on everyone, but they do make our society better. Equality legislation repealed the Conservatives’ hateful Section 28 and equalised the age of consent. Civil partnerships have been introduced to provide legal validity for gay couples. Paternity and maternity leave has been extended, national museums have been made free, the outmoded and cruel sport of fox hunting has been banned, and a massive increase in our overseas aid budget helps to lift three million people out of poverty each year. These are real changes, real improvements to people’s lives.

Change now is no help if the change is for the worse. In the week we discover that one Conservative would-be MP runs prayer groups to “cure” gay people and another two members are found circulating racist emails, then the questions over Cameron’s “change” grow louder. Labour’s priorities are clear – protect the NHS, ensure Sure Start is for everyone, tackle the deficit in a way that doesn’t hurt the poorest, maintain police levels, support jobs and training for young people. The Tories continue to defend tax cuts for the most wealthy individuals and businesses and cannot explain the billions of pounds they must find to do so. The DIY Big Society is simply a cover for removing vital support where it is needed most – in our regenerated communities.

So, as you consider who to endorse for the next five years, think of your personal experiences of the NHS, schools and Sure Start. Think of the fairer, more tolerant society we live in and ask yourself whether Tory change is real and equitable, or a reversion to a harsher time where selfishness pays and barriers are built up, not broken down. Given this choice, I choose tangible, fairer and continued change with Labour.