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Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was welcomed to Lancaster on Thursday 5th November as part of a public speech which took place at the Priory Church in the town centre.
500 Lancaster residents also heard emotive speeches from newly-elected MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Cat Smith, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, Clive Grunshaw, and Lancaster University Economics student, Cat Finnerty.
Tickets for the event were sold out within 24 hours of their release.
Throughout the night the speakers drew on many Labour policies including those regarding less austerity, the NHS, the economy and student participation, along with many others.
Corbyn himself had a strong focus on how the registration for voting system change would affect the public and the Labour Party in particular.
His fear is, he told the audience, that a large proportion of people in poorer areas will not register to vote which will lead to the poorer in society being under-represented. He then went on to suggest that this could also lead to the labour party being “handicapped” in comparison to the Conservative Party when the new boundary lines are drawn in December of this year.
Corbyn also spoke passionately about the “mental health crisis”. He said that there is a stigma around mental health conditions which we, as a society, particularly allow to continue in the student population.
In an interview with SCAN Corbyn went on to give more information about his plans for the future for tackling the problems faced by the mental health services and how he hopes to remove what he calls a “deeply unpleasant stigma” around talking about mental health conditions.
As part of the new Labour Shadow Cabinet Corbyn appointed Luciana Berger as the first ever Shadow Cabinet member for Mental Health. He said that this allowed there to be “parity in mental health services compared to the rest of the NHS”. He also noted that “just by talking about it” Berger and himself are able to reach a lot of people and give people more confidence when talking about mental health issues.
Lancaster University, according to Corbyn, has a very good mental health service comparatively to some other universities. He said that he “absolutely compliment[s] the University of Lancaster on that, for recognising the stress that students go through” but that sadly this is not always the case for every university.
In order to address the issues faced by mental health patients and the services provided Corbyn suggested that the government needs “to ensure realistic levels of funding for mental health services, including support for the voluntary sector”.
The best way to tackle the mental health crisis, Corbyn believes, is in the same way as the previous Labour government tackled Cancer treatments. When it is identified that someone is suffering from a mental health issue, Corbyn said that “they have got to get talking therapies very quickly”, possibly within two weeks.
During the interview Corbyn also told SCAN of his concerns regarding fee hikes for students in the upcoming years while the Conservative government are in power. Corbyn said that his worried is “that the direction of travel is that the access to university level education for working-class young people or people from diverse and poorer backgrounds will diminish and we will end up with a more elitist university system in Britain”.
There have recently been a number of demonstrations against the rise in fees which have been suggested by the government and this is something that Corbyn and his party are opposing. Corbyn told SCAN that “the Shadow Chancellor, John Mcdonnell, went to speak at that on our behalf to show that we do take this [fees] seriously”.
Corbyn continued: “people should be taxed because they are wealthy and businesses should be taxed because they are making large profits; people shouldn’t be taxed just because they are learning”.
Along with the opposition against removing maintenance grants Corbyn feels passionately that education should be available for everyone and not just the elite. He believes that “we all benefit when everybody has the opportunity to go to university and everybody has that opportunity to contribute to our society.”
“I believe very strongly in education for all. It is a debate that has got to be had in the party.”