Model motion: Covid 19: Keir Starmer must pressure the government to bring about safe conditions in schools and universities

Drafted by our comrades in the Labour Left Alliance.

This branch/CLP notes:

  1. That Keir Starmer has repeatedly appealed for Boris Johnson to call him up into a government of ‘national unity’ – but what we need is an effective opposition to the government’s shambolic response to one of the greatest health and economic crises we have ever witnessed.
  2. Concretely, in terms of school re-openings, Starmer has been asking for students to go back to school since May, against the advice and opinion of the teachers’ unions. He has made no demands on the government as to how this could be done safely, except to mention the need for an effective test and trace system in August.
  3. Alongside the ongoing infections closing down local schools across the UK, University students are being abandoned to fend for themselves against predatory landlords and inhuman ‘quarantines’, all while paying the full price of their University courses as they struggle to learn through online videos.
  4. Students were guaranteed face to face lessons and continued campus activities by various universities as a way to encourage students to sign on to year long rental contracts, only for the universities to bring all their courses online and lock students into rental properties at the risk of being removed from the university course. If this wasn’t enough, the government is prepared to prohibit students from being with their loved ones over Christmas as a way to balance their inability to manage the ongoing crisis.
  5. We further note that the government has also pushed through censorship within its latest school guidelines. Banning the discussion of ‘anti-capitalism’ and ‘victimhood narratives’, new directives could see many feminist, climate change, Marxist and religious scholars be removed from educational platforms.
  6. All of these issues have gone on without the slightest criticism by Keir Starmer.
  7. We therefore call on Keir Starmer to pressure the government to provide the conditions needed for the safe running of educational institutions. As a minimum:
  • Schools must have extra staff and extra space to ensure smaller classes and smaller bubbles.
  • This can be done by organising rotas, teaching in shifts and providing temporary classrooms or using empty community spaces, Nightingale schools.
  • Schools must have testing available on campus. This will make tracing much quicker and more effective.
  • An effective test and trace system must be implemented using the wealth of expertise in the NHS, Public Health to effectively trace contacts of those infected.
  • Extra toilet facilities must be provided. Along with extra cleaning staff and stricter cleaning regimes.
  • Effective, live, online teaching must be implemented in the case of school closures and pupils must be provided with the technology to allow this to happen.
  • Students must be refunded their residence fees and have their university fees reduced substantially to take into account the lack of face to face teaching and use of facilities. Lectures and tutorials can be done by means of Zoom webinars and meetings, therefore giving students the chance to ask questions.
  1. Furthermore, we call on the Labour Party to urgently develop its own media outlets. We need articles, videos and podcasts that can counter the daily government briefings. These would also help us to organise an effective opposition, on the ground and in the communities.
  2. The Labour Party and union movement must now also demand extensive measures to combat millions of people from experiencing real and long lasting hardship:
  • Universal income of at least £300/week for everybody over 16 living in Britain. Now is the time to provide everybody with a basic income, independent of means testing.
  • Special, paid leave for those who have to self-isolate or are put in quarantine, on full wages and without any triggers of the sickness policy. Free and full healthcare and no prescription charges for everybody living in Britain, including asylum seekers.
  • All utility bills should be cancelled for the foreseeable future. Ditto mortgage and rental payments. If the utility companies and banks refuse, they should be put under emergency public ownership. The Labour Party and its members should organise and support rent and mortgage strikes and organise to stop evictions.
  • We need production based on need, for example when it comes to the production of test equipment, vaccine and respirators. If capitalism cannot deliver, we need measures like the emergency nationalisation of relevant pharmaceutical and other companies. Banks must be ordered to give extended credit on zero interest for small and medium-sized businesses. Make lay-offs and redundancies illegal.
  • Massively extend Corona testing facilities. Massively expand NHS staff – attract nurses and health workers with decent wages and offer good working conditions. Bring all private hospitals and health facilities under emergency public ownership. Free and safe 24/7 childcare facilities for healthcare workers. Children should be looked after in much smaller groups.
  • All empty properties, holiday homes and hotels should be requisitioned for accommodation for the homeless and those living in over-crowded housing. If necessary, the Labour Party and the TUC should forcibly requisition empty properties that are required for these needs. Close down detention centres. Release all but the most serious offenders from prison.
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