James Carville’s famous campaigning slogans for Bill Clinton should remind us that the centre-left must focus on the basic but important things that the Government has done to make people’s lives better. Equally, we must pull the Government’s energy and attention away from foreign policy and back onto promoting more programmes like SureStart.
The recent birth of my daughter has really opened my eyes to just what a great programme SureStart is. One centre in a relatively deprived area, like the one I live in, runs a whole host of services to make sure that children get the best start in life.
The services at my local centre go from antenatal classes and a centre-based midwife, to nurseries, breastfeeding programmes to advisers to make sure that people are getting all the benefits and services they are entitled to. In an area where English is a second language for many people that makes a real difference in the Government’s goal of reducing child poverty.
Equally, becoming a father can help a person see the NHS at its very best. My local hospital has a low-risk birth unit that is midwife-lead, is comfortable, has great equipment like birthing pools and promotes drug-free births for mothers who want that. The unit helped make my daughter’s birth a better experience for all three of us. The support we’ve had from NHS midwives before, during and after the birth has been exemplary.
The tragedy is that hospital is now in danger as one of the deficit-running trusts. There has clearly been poor management at the hospital, but it faces possible closure, leaving a whole community displaced into other boroughs for their healthcare.
This really encapsulates what’s going wrong in the last days of Blair and how we need to change to win. How about the Government just shelves the ideologically driven market schemes in health? How about they just leave the structure of the education system alone for a bit and concentrate on giving teachers the resources they need to teach?
How about we not only expand SureStart, but look for the 05-09 Government’s SureStart? Perhaps a new system of intensive youth centres modelled on SureStart to give support to urban and poor children. It could promise a better future and make an impact on anti-social behaviour by rebuilding the bonds of society among young people.
Whatever the Government and the Labour Party do, we will have to go into the next election able to show how we made a difference to millions of people’s lives. Every day we are not concentrating on basic social democratic goals, the Tories get stronger. We got the economy right, we got the basic welfare right, we started to take real steps against climate change, voting Labour means progress, voting Tory means a step backwards.
Here’s my contribution to the 09/10 campaign.
Progress, not taking us back
The Economy stupid
We’re working to save our planet
Don’t forget SureStart and the NHS