STEPHEN HEPBURN: Why I’m still an angry man 30 years on

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn
Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

It’s almost 30 years to the day since I attended my very first Labour Party Conference when I spoke in Blackpool as an angry young man.

I was disgusted at the pure evil unleashed by Thatcher’s Tories.

Her divisive policies destroyed communities and the destruction of British industry, public services, social housing and the concept of society had a profound effect on me.

I was angry about high unemployment and the callousness that saw working people flung on the scrapheap.

Those of us around at that time will know well the horrors the Tories inflicted on our area.

That’s what inspired me to get involved in politics and fight against them. If the Tories could use politics to change things for the worse then why couldn’t we use politics to change things for the better?

Fast forward 30 years and I’m an older, but still angry man.

I’m angry because after all of the advances made by the last Labour government in health, schools, and boosting the wages of low-paid workers, we’ve gone into decline under a Tory Government rivalling Thatcher’s for heartlessness.

Today’s Tory leader has a sharp suit instead of a handbag and perm but the Tories are still cutting living standards, destroying good jobs, axing public services and squeezing opportunities.

David Cameron’s Government, whatever the Prime Minister did or did not do with a pig’s head when a posh student, is proof the Conservatives are a conspiracy of the rich for the rich.

This Government’s attitude is even more annoying when you encounter people who are working hard to do the right things.

For instance I was privileged to speak at Heworth Grange Comprehensive’s prize-giving and celebration of pupils’ achievements.

The Jarrow Parliamentary constituency is home to two Gateshead wards – as well as Jarrow, Hebburn, Cleadon and the Boldons – and it was therefore my pleasure to be in Heworth for what was a top drawer, immensely professional evening.

It’s a terrific school with a great Headteacher in Chris Richardson, who leads a team of inspirational staff who deserve huge praise for their hard work.

I only wish this Government would understand and appreciate the amount of hard work that is carried out by teachers outside of curriculum hours.

Schools like Heworth Grange are guiding the hopes and aspirations of our next generation.

This despite privately-educated Tories knocking our state schools to score cheap political points. But this Government has no problem sinking low.

If you want evidence of this look no further than the closure of our popular NHS Walk in Centre in Jarrow. Today this much-valued local facility closed its doors for the final time, putting dedicated staff out of work and dumping 27,000 patients onto already full to bursting GP surgeries.

My heart goes out to those public sector workers who should be valued far more.

I recall David Cameron’s hollow words, telling us the NHS was safe in his hands.

Really?

Yet I remain optimistic despite all this. Hopefully you’ll have read and seen on TV the speech by the fantastic Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s new leader, promising a much better deal from Labour whether on a decent wage or low pay or benefits or a pension.

Over the past five years we have seen the Tories launch an assault on the low-paid, the unemployed, the disabled and the vulnerable, and we are sick of it.

We’re sick of the permanent insecurity, poverty wages, soaring living costs and mounting debt – as Cameron and Osborne have amassed more debt over the past five years than during the whole 13 years Labour were in power.

This country needs an effective opposition and a united Labour Party is essential to fight against the Tory attacks on working class people.

Labour is the only political party that will give people a fair crack of the whip, restoring faith in our public services and in health and education.

Because we owe it to our children to build a better Britain for them.

None of us can do it on our own. I can’t, you can’t, but together we can.

Today I’m fighting for a better deal for everybody – in or out of work, self-employed or running a small business.

I’m hopeful for our region and country’s future if we can boot the Tories out and get Jeremy Corbyn – with his passion, commitment and great ideas – into Downing Street. Jez he can!