This May’s general election is set to be the most important in my lifetime. Not because it looks likely to be the closest, but because there has rarely been such stark differences between the two main parties.
On the one hand, we have a Tory party that has abandoned its ‘modernisation’ project and lurched violently to the right. On the other hand we have a Labour party that has rediscovered its radicalism and under Ed Miliband has made a clear, bold commitment to put tackling inequality at the heart of our agenda. The next 200 days – 100 before the election and the first 100 days of the new government genuinely could change the future of Britain for generations to come.
Ed Miliband’s offer to Britain is truly radical. We will tackle inequality by significantly increasing the minimum wage, cutting the 10p tax rate for low earners, bringing back the bankers bonus tax and introducing a mansion tax on the very wealthiest. We will save and transform our NHS by recruiting thousands more doctors and nurses and integrating health, social care and mental health into a single service. And we will devolve more power to Britain’s nations, regions and cities than ever before. The first 100 days of a Labour government would see more steps taken towards us becoming a progressive country than at any other time in my life.
However, if the Tories win, Britain will look very different. More tax cuts for the wealthiest people in Britain and a longer squeeze for ordinary working people. The continued privatisation and disintegration of the NHS. Britain lurching out of the European Union, damaging to our economy and to jobs. It’s a truly frightening vision, and not just as a politician, but as husband and father to two daughters, I genuinely worry what kind of country my family will inherit if David Cameron wins in May.
At the Fabian conference on Saturday, Ed Miliband outlined how tough our task is over the next 100 days. The Tories will massively outspend us, funded by shady hedge fund backers. If we win, it will be because we beat them in the ground war. That means recuiting more volunteers, speaking to more voters on the doorstep, delivering more leaflets and working harder. That is the kind of party that I am proud to belong to – one powered by party and trade union members, community activists and volunteers, and dependent on the good will of our friends and neighbours who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to help change the future of our country.
Post May 7th, we should be under no doubt that vested interests will do everything they can to stop us bringing around the radical change we aspire to create. They won’t want the mansion tax, or the bankers’ bonus tax, or a ‘use it or lose it’ law to stop land banking. They’ll want to see the continued privatisation of the NHS and public services – after all they’re the ones that benefit from it. But I’m confident that in Ed, we have a leader who is brave and strong enough to stand up to the vested interests, in the same way we have seen him stand up to Rupert Murdoch over the hacking scandal, and to the US over their rush to war in Syria.
200 days sounds like a long time. And it will feel like it! Alongside many Labour party and Fabian members, I will be working every minute of every hour of every day, right up until 10pm on May 7th to get Ed into Downing Street. And then the real hard work begins! These next 200 days will really matter for Britain.