For a number of years the Tories have claimed a monopoly on aspiration. We are told that they are the party of hard-working people who want to get on in life; they are the people who will open the doors of opportunity and allow dedicated people to soar. This is nothing but empty rhetoric.
The attack on junior doctors and our teachers proves that the Tories do not stand for hard work or hard graft. The cut to inheritance tax shows us that what they really stand for is the protection of privilege.
The Tories have moved to redefine aspiration. While we see it as the common pursuit of improving your lot in life, providing for your family and moving beyond the boundary of your last generation, the Tories use the word almost as a synonym for low tax and privatisation. While that may help their millionaire friends, their cuts at the bottom make it harder for the rest of us to even try to get on.
When it comes to the junior doctor strike the Tories have been happy to let some elements of the British media drag the name of hard working professionals through the dirt. Many claim that this strike is about pay and nothing else. It is greedy doctors who are to blame.
And these myths go on because the Government wants to dodge the issue. In truth they probably want the full-scale strike to go ahead as an attempt to dent support for the NHS.
It is the apparent party of ‘aspiration’ that forces aspirational people onto the picket line. And who could be more aspirational than a junior doctor starting out in work today? Having studied from the age of 18 the average junior doctor undertakes almost ten years of training before even receiving a pay cheque. And what’s in the cheque? £22,000 a year.
These are Britain’s best and brightest. While they could potentially earn five times that in other related areas they choose to invest their talent in our National Health Service rather than lining their own pockets. As they plead with the Government to listen the Health Secretary is in hiding. The Tories should hang their heads in shame for allowing this disgraceful saga to continue.
Unfortunately we are heading the same way in terms of education. Teachers will soon be balloted on strike action over Tory plans to force all schools to become academies. While it is rumoured that a U-turn is but days ahead, the change of plan will only come from political pressure rather than the Education Secretary listening to teaching staff.
Why do the Tories think that they know more about our NHS than the doctors who work in it and more about our schools than the teachers who staff them?
I am proud of Labour’s response to this Tory assault on aspiration. It has been encouraging to see the Labour leadership make statements in support of professional doctors and teachers. It has been heartening to see the party standing side-by-side on the picket line with people literally begging to get back to work. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn continues to offer hope not just to the vulnerable but also to the professionals forced into this situation by a Tory government fixated on privatisation and privilege.
We must never allow them to call themselves the party of aspiration again.