December has been a much quieter affair since I retired, after 30 years as a teacher in Looe. 

In addition to all the usual planning, teaching and endless meetings, December heralded a hectic parade of parties, carol concerts and plays (I remember the year one of my own children was Gabriel in the Nativity play and dropped Jesus on his head, just at the crucial moment!).

Schools have had a torrid time under nine different Tory Education Secretaries, in a decade memorable for ideologically driven change, exam chaos, strikes and collapsing buildings. Despite all this, I feel sure that teachers all over the country are endeavouring to make Christmas in their school a happy, festive celebration.

For some children this will be more important than ever. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation informs us that in Britain, the sixth biggest economy in the world, one million children are living in families experiencing destitution, unable to adequately feed, clothe or clean them, or even keep them warm. 

For these children, school may be the only place where they can feel warm and safe. It may also be the only place where they will experience some of the fun and simple treats associated with Christmas.

Last month the Chancellor kick started the Tories’ election campaign with a tax giveaway intended to buy votes across all the different voter groups. What he didn’t announce was that this £19-billion will inevitably need to be clawed back from public services in the coming years – knowing his party is unlikely to win the next election, and happy to put party before country, Jeremy Hunt will cynically hand this poisoned chalice to an in-coming Labour government.  

Despite this, Labour has already committed itself to fully costed policies to help improve the lives of families living in poverty. Some of these include the introduction of fully funded free breakfast clubs in every primary school and the abolition of no-fault evictions, which cause homelessness and disrupted education. Reform of universal credit and a “new deal for workers’ rights” will make sure people are protected when they need it and ensure that those in work can put food on the table, without recourse to food banks. 

Let’s not forget that following the last period of Tory misery, the incoming Labour government of 1997 lifted two million children and pensioners out of poverty.

The best Christmas present for Britain would be the news that we will have a General Election in May, with the promise that the following Christmas will be under a Labour government, working to improve the lives of the many, not the few.

Sally Sweeney of South East 

Cornwall Labour Party