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  • Hamza King

Where is the asbestos pledge in manifestos?

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

The first December election in over 100 years awaits us and the Labour Party have come bearing gifts.


The Labour manifesto promises ‘Real Change’, with ambitions to ‘rewrite the rules of the economy, so that it works for everyone’. But amid all these bold claims, something is missing.


Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged to ‘invest in new school buildings, including the phased removal of asbestos from existing schools.’ An admirable commitment, which had the support of the trade unions and campaign groups.


Yet two years on and Labour’s promise to remove asbestos from schools has disappeared.


This omission is disappointing to say the least and a blow to trade unions and their influence over health and safety issues.


Once again, the threats posed by asbestos are being subordinated to the noisiest issue facing our society.


It is an ironic fact that this election is being waged over our membership of the EU, while the UK’s monitoring regime lags the standards of our European neighbours and permits our school children to breathe up to ten times more airborne particles than Germany.


But in fairness to Labour, none of the major political parties have committed to removing asbestos, in either their 2017 or 2019 manifestos.


This reluctance to address the asbestos issue appears to transcend individual party preferences.


It may be that the dangers of asbestos do not have the salience to cut through the Brexit noise.


It is easy to forget the silent killers. In thinking about environmental challenges, we miss the dangers of a carcinogenic material that has been hidden in the walls of our schools and hospitals for so long.


Asbestos breaks down over time becoming more dangerous. The longer it is left to degrade, the greater the risk it poses to the health of future generations.


It is therefore not a question of ‘if’ we should remove this toxic mineral from the reach of our children, but ‘when’?


Must we wait until asbestos is a ‘popular’ political issue, or will we act before it gets past the point where we have to?