Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Free School Meals: Universality when it suits them

by Campsie SSP member Neil Scott

Nice to see the Tories taking on a SSP policy we faught for for years. Free School meals, albeit only for infant children, is a decent start in making life better for our kids.  Its  pity they want to take other universal benefits away. Universality, as they seem to be admitting here, is the fairest, most effective way to deliver equality.

On the announcement, opportunist Nick Clegg was ironically shown on TV eating fruit with Glaswegian children.  What the news isn't saying is that coalition cuts led to free school meals & free fruit ending in Glasgow two years ago.  A few years ago, the LibDems  after taking control of free school meal pioneering Hull City Council, took away this benefit from families during "boom times". 

So why the change of heart?

Easy- the Tories and yellow Tories want to ensure their privatisation of the NHS and further destruction of workers rights and working class community, education and solidarity continues.

The Labour Party are reneging on a committment to universality- and it seems in doing so they have fallen in to a trap. A Labour Party casting off principle for power is empty, meaningless, useless. The coalition partners know this.

The Labour Party by accepting neo-liberalist/Thatcherite vicious economics have been wrong footed. This policy was off their national radar (even though some Labour councils have already enacted it). Their fear of the tory propaganda machine calling them looney lefties at any hint of support for universalism has paralized them. The right wing of the one time party of the working class have dragged them down a blind alley. 
The Labour Party should be replaced by the class they have let down.  The Scottish working class can do that with a Yes in next years independence referendum and then by voting for the SSP in 2016.

The Libdems and Tories, it is obvious, have a pact to help each other gain another term as a coalition. The Libdem media briefing paper to MPs during their conference blatently said 'talk down Labour, talk up the positivity of a Tory party that has been tamed by us...'  Tories and Libdems can cast aside 'principles' if those principles are sacrificeable for their selfish class interests. A wee concession to make people feel they have gained something, even though we have been robbed blind since 2010. Universality in this can be justified by Tories in order to hide their most vicious attacks on working class people. The cuddly LibDems can announce policies such as this to hide their support for selling off the NHS; charging students £9000 per year for an education Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson had free of charge and the impoverishing Welfare Bill, including the Bedroom Tax.

These free school meals are to be welcomed, but the robbery of the working poor and those without work to give tax breaks and bonuses to the well off, that drives them to despair, food banks, hunger and suicide need to be resisted. The disgusting bedroom tax and attacks on disability allowances, for example, will add worry beyond the benefit of a meal for their child.

Take up of free school meals in primary schools I have worked in has been as much as 100% when tried out in Glasgow schools. The benefits to learning were immediately tangible and the negative effects felt almost immediately when they were taken away again. Free School meals, free fruit and water fountains were casualties of the LibDem and Tory Westminster Government and  Glasgow Labour Council whose Scottish leaders are saying universality must be "rethought."

Free meals needs to be rolled out across all schools and ages.

Free school meals for all children is and always has been, the aim of the SSP- but as part of a raft of policies supporting universal health care, pensions, child benefts and other policies that will ensure no-one is driven from their homes or to starvation, Wonga or exploitative zero hour contracts.

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