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Leigh-Ann Clarke, from Bristol Labour Students, argues that the Labour Party conference 2017 proved Labour to be the home of real change for students in Bristol and beyond.
Labour conference took place in Brighton this September, as people came from Bristol in great numbers to meet with fellow Labour members from all over the country. The southern seaside town was buzzing with a dynamic mix of attendees, ranging from the seasoned conference professional to plenty of new members full of excitement and anticipation.
A massive draw was Labour’s biggest fringe festival, The World Transformed, which played host to everything from a lively discussion on how the gaming industry can help politicise potential voters, to debates on reforming the education system. The festival culminated with Novara Media’s drunken game show featuring impromptu appearances from well-known MPs such as Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and a break dancing Clive Lewis (don’t ask).
‘A shocking 6,600 mental health nurses have been cut and it’s simply not good enough’
So what have we as a party decided? One pressing concern amongst students, myself included, is the worsening lack of available support from local mental health services, which have declined severely under the Conservative government. Since 2010, departments have been underfunded. A shocking 6,600 mental health nurses have been cut and it’s simply not good enough. Bristol University has quite recently invested £1 million on employing Wellbeing Advisers to work within departments. This is to help support learners needs over the course of their time at university, which is a positive step, but clearly more can and should be put into place by the government.
— Bristol Uni Labour (@BrisUniLabour) October 4, 2017
After being the first British political party to create a designated Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Labour continue to place better mental health care provisions at the top of their agenda, with an emphasis on funding early intervention programmes for children and young people. When you are diagnosed with a mental health condition- which you may have had for some time without support- you want to receive face to face reassurance and support immediately. You don’t want to wait; frankly, it is not in your interests, or those of the people that care about you.
‘Labour continue to place better mental health care provisions at the top of their agenda’
Labour’s strategy will ensure that a far greater number of patients will be able to access talking therapies within 4 weeks. All NHS Staff will receive specialist training on mental health so that those in need are treated with the sensitivity and respect that they are entitled to at every point of contact.
‘The Labour party has now committed itself to introduce rent controls and abolish letting agent fees’
Another big talking point in Bristol is housing. Students are typically left with the choice of paying extortionate rents to inner-city landlords for often substandard accommodation. The Labour party has now committed itself to introduce rent controls and abolish letting agent fees, both of which will be hugely beneficial. The Conservatives have built the lowest number of houses since the 1920s; Labour have pledged to build 1 million homes, half of which will be council houses.
Last, but by no means least, a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister will work towards creating a National Educational Service. Anybody, at any age, can decide to access education and training cost-free. Education is an investment in our people and in our society.
‘Labour will also abolish university tuition fees altogether’
Our grandparents’ generation had access to university for free or the alternative of well-funded apprenticeships and we deserve the same. Apprenticeships should not and will not be regarded as a second-class education; Labour will ensure jobs for apprentices at the end of a training contract. Labour will also abolish university tuition fees altogether. It will reintroduce maintenance grants, which would encourage more working-class individuals and thus increase diversity amongst our student body. As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.’
‘Three million more people voted Labour in 2017 compared to 2015’
The Labour Party has made significant advances over the last two years. The membership has almost tripled and Labour is now the largest political party in Western Europe, with just under six hundred thousand members. In Bristol West alone, one in twenty people are now Labour party members.
A popular and fully costed manifesto ensured that three million more people voted Labour in 2017 compared to 2015. Labour has rediscovered its roots and its purpose.
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