LAST weekend, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting set out in The Guardian his party’s intention not to make promises that it cannot keep, arguing that “the only thing worse than no hope is false hope”.

“Labour for No Hope” is quite the campaign slogan, but it’s certainly an accurate one if recent statements from the party leadership are anything to go by.

No additional spending on public services. No time for young people standing up for the protection of our planet. And no plans to scrap the two-child limit, despite this being one of the single biggest drivers of the rise in child poverty under the Conservative government.

What the party has promised is that it will be focused on growing the economy. Just last week, Labour leader Keir Starmer revealed a clear view on competing priorities when he told a climate protester: “We’re on the side of economic growth.”

In Streeting’s words, this is the “only way we are going to be able to give … public services the investment they need”.

This sounds a lot like telling people to keep waiting for any sort of improvement to their lives to trickle down to them, while they continue to watch the rich get richer.

For too many people in Britain today, waiting is something they can ill afford. Often politicians talk about “hard choices”.

Turning off the heating in the middle of winter and watching your child shiver from the cold just so that you can keep them fed is a hard choice.

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Telling your kids you’re on a diet so they don’t wonder why you’re skipping meals is a hard choice. Investing in lifting families out of poverty – today, not at some undetermined point in the future – should never be a difficult choice to make.

This is the reality of life under the Conservative government for many, and one of the hardest-hit groups have been families with three or more children.

Analysis from the End Child Poverty coalition finds that 42% of children in these families are in poverty and this is projected to rise to over 50% by 2026/27 unless urgent action is taken.

With new data on the two-child limit on Universal Credit published today by the Department of Work and Pensions, campaigners estimate that 250,000 children would be lifted out of poverty if the policy were scrapped, while the depth of poverty would be lessened for a further 850,000 children.

Unsurprisingly, data at a constituency level also reveals that the areas where higher proportions of children are impacted by the policy are, in many cases, the same areas with higher rates of child poverty.

This is a policy which was introduced in 2017 by the Tories with the argument that families receiving benefits should “face the same financial choices about having children as those supporting themselves solely through work” – a position which entirely fails to recognise the concept of unforeseen changes in circumstances.

It’s also a policy which has become synonymous with its associated “rape clause”, an oh-so-generous exemption which means that benefits can be paid for additional children who are born as a result of rape or coercion.

Last year, 1830 mothers declared that they had been coerced or raped in order to access this support for their children – and undoubtedly there will be many more who were left struggling without it because they did not want to be re-traumatised or put themselves at risk by disclosing this.

This represents the absolute worst of Conservative politics and the heartbreaking consequences it has had for families and vulnerable people over their time in government. So, if reversing it is indeed not Labour Party policy – as Starmer said during a recent Q&A – then Streeting is right: the outlook is pretty damn hopeless.

It is undeniable that false hope will not put food on the table, nor will it keep children warm, happy and healthy. But at a time when the world looks so very bleak, telling people that “no hope” is preferable, and even worth voting for, feels like a slap in the face.

Thankfully, not everyone in Labour shares the same perspective on what their party should prioritise in government.

Backbench Labour MP Kim Johnson led a debate in Parliament on Tuesday on the two-child limit and child poverty, and has said that “tackling child poverty has to be a cornerstone” of her party’s policies.

Speaking in the debate, Labour MP Mick Whitley said: “Our party should make an explicit commitment to scrap the two-child limit in the first days of the next Labour government.”

In fact, Starmer’s own comments came in response to a question about the fact that his work and pensions spokesperson, Jonathan Ashworth, had described the policy as “heinous” in the days prior.

The question is, will these voices be listened to when the time comes to demonstrate what “Labour values” look like in action in 2024?

If we look back at the record of the last Labour government, for all its flaws – and there were many – child poverty was something it took seriously. One of the core pledges of Tony Blair’s government was to lift one million children out of poverty.

It took longer than promised, but there were, in fact, more than one million fewer children living in poverty (before housing costs, which is the measure used by the UK Government) by 2010/11 than when the Labour Party took power in 1997.

One of the final actions of the Labour government was to introduce the Child Poverty Act of 2010 which imposed a legal duty on the government to meet child poverty targets (much as we now have in Scotland).

In perhaps the most telling and on-brand action taken by the Tories over their last 13 years of power, the Child Poverty Act was repealed in 2016. In one fell swoop, multiple welfare reforms were introduced which have unravelled the progress made under Labour.

I say all of this to make it very clear that I am not talking about some idealistic vision of the Labour Party that has never existed.

There is nothing radical about saying the social security system should do exactly what it did up until April 2017 and support all children. If the goalposts over what is right and what is wrong can shift so easily because one – very right-wing – party has gotten away with it, why even bother standing as the opposition at all?

Charities like Child Poverty Action Group have now begun making calls within Scotland for the devolved government to use its own social security powers to mitigate against the two-child limit. It’s no wonder.

Despite the increasing likelihood that we’ll have a Labour government at Westminster this time next year, the prospect of real change to some of the worst features of the status quo is dwindling by the minute.

For the sake of people across the UK who are suffering immeasurably under cruel policies like the two-child limit, we need to keep up the pressure and appeal to those in Labour who understand that ending child poverty is something worth standing for, whatever the costs.

Meanwhile, just don’t hold it against those of us in Scotland if we are looking to the nearest exit in search of hope.