Latest post on Left Futures

How we are punished for not responding to George’s not-so marvellous medicine

snake-oilIn February, the Guardian revealed that from a £300 million ‘relief fund’ to help local councils struggling with the scale of funding cuts demanded of them 83% of the funds will go to Conservative run councils. The five most deprived local authorities in the country – Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Manchester, Knowsley and Hull – are also Labour run, have suffered some of the deepest cuts and yet will receive nothing at all.

In the same week Jeremy Hunt imposed a new, cost cutting and unsafe contract on NHS junior doctors, the ever escalating housing crisis was the focus of Jeremy Corbyn’s questions to Cameron at PMQs and John McDonnell finished the week with a packed meeting in Sheffield, telling the audience:

I think Sheffield is going to play a central role in the future of our economy, but it needs investment…we have argued for a long period of time about the rebalancing of our economy, both in terms of between the finance sector and manufacturing, we have also argued for a geographical rebalancing as well, and that’s not occurred under this government….our whole thrust around areas like Sheffield is about investment. Investment in skills…But also investment in infrastructure, and investment in new technology”.

It was a week in which the dramatic contrast in what the Conservative government is currently executing on the overwhelming majority of people in this country, and how much more of a brighter future could be won with the Labour leadership came to the fore.

As we approach the March Budget it is likely that Osborne will blame the clearly slowly British economy on external forces – security concerns, the Chinese, the Europeans – anything but his own failed economic policies. The growth in real GDP slowed to 1.9% in the last quarter of 2015 – a decline from 3% growth in the middle of 2014. The economy had been seeing a short Tory boom – a boost to consumption that proved sufficient to help ride the government through the general election but is now fading. Despite the proven track record of deep austerity policies causing the economy to slow significantly – in 2010 the economic growth rate slipped from 2% to 1% – Osborne has made it clear that these are the policies he is going to re-inflict on the country.

The failure of these economic policies to produce sustainable growth that can be the source of better public services, better wages and better living standards for all means that measures to politically insulate Conservative MPs from the human cost of this failure are needed. The extra £300 million for particular local councils was miraculously found after up to 30 Conservative MPs threatened to revolt against the local government finance settlement. The re-drawing of Westminster constituency boundaries should also be viewed in this light.

And to be clear, the economic failure of Cameron and Osborne is counted in human cost. Recent TUC analysis has shown that real wages are still worth £2,270 less than in 2008 – the result of a seven year fall in living standards that is impacting on all but the very wealthiest to some degree. Insecure, precarious and low paid work has increased – scarring sectors where women predominant such as social care, cleaning, catering and hospitality, but spreading across the economy, leaving more and more struggling to make ends meet and with little autonomy over when and where they work. And then of course there are the deaths now tragically associated with our shredded benefits system, the rise in homelessness and in January research revealed that violence against women had increased since 2009:

The turning point in the rate of these violent crimes is consistent with an explanation focused on the reduced economic independence of women and the impact of the cuts to services on which women disproportionately depend.”

Measures such as the Gagging Act, the Trade Union Bill, the Snoopers Charter and others seek to curb and constrain peoples ability to organise, protest and take action to defend and improve their lives.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership and his appointment of John McDonnell as an anti-austerity ‘Peoples Chancellor’ – compared to Osborne’s Bankers Chancellor – is an opportunity to forge a real alternative to austerity. His call for a geographical rebalancing of the economy to spread wealth and decent work, as well as becoming less reliant on the financial sector, put the need for investment front and centre.

Investing in projects such as house building, public transport and technology can not only meet urgent social needs – for example, providing genuinely affordable homes for social rent, ensuring people can travel around the country easily to visit friends, family and for business with minimal environmental impact – but such investment is the necessary underpinning for sustainable economic growth.

Growth which can then be used to fund the NHS, education, and many other public services and social security at a level that the country needs and deserves – with poverty and inequality made to fall, not increase. Popularising these policies, demonstrating that Labour can win with a message and plans that can transform the lives of millions of ordinary people for the better is the challenge ahead.

You can hear more about meeting this challenge at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity meeting ‘Better off with Labour – the Alternative to Osbornes Cuts’, House of Commons, 9 March, 7pm with John McDonnell MP, Diane Abbott MP, Cat Smith MP, Helen Goodman MP, Maya Goodfellow (writer), Shelly Asquith (NUS), Steve Turner (Unite and Peoples Assembly Against Austerity), find out more about LAAA at www.labourassemblyagainstausterity.org.uk

This article previously appeared in Chartist

One Comment

  1. John Penney says:

    Very true , Sian. Unfortunately, re a major component of Osborne’s Snake Oil bullshit policy bundle – the “Northern Powerhouse” con trick – all too many Northern Councillors and MP’s (and Blairite MP’s generally) are cynically , or credulously, playing along with the , completely unfunded” “powerhouse” mirage.

    This can only be because it will deliver them personally much enhanced powers and areas of responsibility (and probably enhanced pay in return for such increased responsibilities) . That the entire point of the “Northern Powerhouse” nonsense is to deeply implicate Labour politicians with the general public in the detail implementation of ever greater Tory Austerity, is of no concern to all to many on the Right of Labour’s ranks.

© 2020 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma