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Editorial: Labour must get behind the teaching unions

IT is becoming clear that the government and its advisers, who include not only the well-publicised eccentrics closest to the premier but a wider cabal of big-business people, media moguls, bankers and Treasury types, inhabit a different moral universe from the rest of us.

The TUC has come out with a set of policies that puts rebuilding the economy post-pandemic with an emphasis on safeguarding jobs and ensuring that millions of workers are spared the “despair of unemployment.”

Contrast this approach to the mercenary instincts of our rulers and the people they represent.

As a professional and political consensus grows that the problems of an overstretched NHS cannot be tackled without an integrated health and social-care strategy, the government has refused to exempt the many thousands of overseas care workers – on whom the system depends – from punitive NHS charges.

This mean-spirited approach combines national chauvinism with a feral instinct that stands in direct contrast to the universal principles on which our NHS is founded. The health of care workers is as important as the well-being of those they care for.

There is a striking parallel between the failure of the capitalist state to provide adequate personal protective equipment for vulnerable front-line workers and the failure of the privatised care sector to tool up for an infection crisis.

The arguments for the entire care sector to be safely integrated into a health-and-care service that progressively squeezes out profit-seeking is becoming unanswerable to all but those made collectively callous by corporate greed.

Not a single member of the cabinet sends their children to the kind of schools to which the greater majority of us normal people do.

But the select group of private fee-paying schools which have the responsibility of raising what their parents anticipate to be our ruling class of the future will not be going back until September at the earliest.

In the face of an exemplary stand by the teacher trade unions, in an impressive display of united action which augurs well for the future, the government has, to an extent, backed off from its original plan to insist on full-school attendance in June.

Already teachers are coping – in trying circumstances – with teaching the children of front-line workers, as well as running online learning programmes.

A raft of local authorities have said they have no intention of restarting schools before it is safe to do so, and in this they have the support of many parents who have no wish to turn their children into silent bearers of coronavirus who might bring the infection into their or their grandparents’ homes .

That the Labour Party leadership has decided to cancel the autumn party conference makes it all the more inexplicable that it does not wholeheartedly and unanimously support the stance of the education unions on this question, or of other unions for that matter, when the interests of trade unionists and workers come into conflict with the government.

If it is too risky for adults to assemble by the seaside in September, then it is too risky for our children to be crammed in June into classes that, on average, are twice the size of those the children of the wealthy attend.

Labour in parliament must not posture as impartial arbiters in conflicts between trade unions and bosses or the government but should fulfil the founding objectives of the party to provide representation for working people.

And the ludicrous ban on campaigning which the party centrally seems to be imposing gives the appearance of passivity which its parliamentary performance does little to dispel.


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