In recent years, despite the so-called need for austerity, we have seen the wealth of those at the top triple, whilst wages have declined for the majority of those on low to middle incomes. In real terms, household income has dropped by £1600 per year since 2010 and at the recent Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, despite being under threat from UKIP, seeing defections and resignations linked to obscene acts and the usual in-fighting, they couldn’t help but revert back to ‘nasty Tory’-type. George Osborne decided to pander to the right-wing media by announcing further attacks on the welfare state and those often referred to as ‘scroungers’. However, other than the snivelling, vindictive, sycophantic Tory Party faithful, most fair-minded people were quite revulsed by Osborne’s evil plans for those on low incomes. The reality for him, the Conservatives and the slavering ghouls in sections of the UK press, is that people are finally starting to wake up to the fact most people on benefits are actually in work and that his austerity measures are nothing more than a programme of wealth protection for the rich. People are also waking up to the fact that the number of workers earning the minimum wage has doubled since 2010. They are aware that part-time and zero hours contracts have spread like a cancer throughout the labour market and are masking the reality of UK unemployment. Therefore, it’s no real surprise that Osborne’s policies, which amount to a further £480 reduction in the earnings of ordinary families and a tax cut for wealthy pensioners have gone down like a lead balloon apart from the drivel coming from the Tory supporting media newspapers who support the axing of human rights act whilst using it to defend themselves.
During his speech to Conference, Osborne also referred to the crisis of capitalism as the ‘Great Labour Recession’. At the risk of sounding like I’m defending the Labour Party (I’m not), the ‘credit crunch’ was initially caused by the unregulated gambling culture and greed of those in the financial sector. When the Coalition came to power in 2010, they actually inherited a growing economy. It was George Osborne’s decision to choke off that recovery with his ‘emergency budget’ that created the worst and longest economic decline in UK history. In typical Tory style, they used the need to reduce the deficit as a cover to go full-steam ahead with their ideology of squeezing the public sector, shrinking the state and privatising everything in sight. Again, in classic Tory fashion, they underpinned the whole programme with a culture of fear, divide and rule and ‘look over there’ politics. The net result for the rest of us has been spiralling household costs, pay cuts, unemployment and the rise of payday loan companies, zero hours contracts and foodbanks. So much for David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Whatever happened to that by the way?
The sad thing is that despite the facts and figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that the Coalition borrowed more in three years than Labour did in thirteen, despite official rebukes from the Office For Budget Responsibility (OBR) surrounding fudged figures and despite losing our AAA rating, the media is still saturated with the Tory rhetoric of debt inherited from the last government. The need for austerity along with the blame being shifted onto immigrants and those on benefits spews from our televisions, radios and newspapers. The facts show that putting your trust in George Osborne is fatal if you’re on a low to middle income, so why do people keep falling for the rhetoric? The answer is simple; they aren’t being presented with a credible alternative, particularly from the Labour Party. Just when they appear to be on the verge of some genuinely vote-worthy, almost (say it quietly) socialist policies, they go and blow it by announcing a fiscal policy that is nothing more than a continuation of Tory austerity. They believe that they can win an election simply by saying that their arsenic is less poisonous than the Tories’ cyanide. Good luck with that in May 2015.
One of the most amazing things about the Tory Party Conference was David Cameron’s speech. After announcing more cuts totalling £25 billion, we got the offer of ‘jam tomorrow’ with Cameron announcing tax cuts costing £7 billion. He claimed that he was doing the poorest in society a favour with the tried, tested and failed trickle down economics. On the face of it, raising the tax threshold sounds great, but the problem is this; when you earn so little, tax really isn't the problem. It’s the amount that you earn that is the real issue. Cameron's plan for working people is still entrenched in a culture of fear and uncertainty with the continued spread of part-time jobs and zero hours contracts. Cameron intends to further erode and remove hard-won employment rights and price workers out of justice if they are sacked unfairly or don’t get paid. He intends to introduce legislation which means that you can be sacked if your boss simply doesn’t like you. You will only be entitled to four weeks’ pay and because of changes to benefits, you will receive no employment benefit for five weeks. That is the reality that David Cameron would like ‘hard-working people’ to face; fear, poverty and total subservience. The flipside to the draconia being meted out to the rest of us is how those who caused the economic crisis are faring and what the future holds for them. Austerity hasn’t yet reached bankers, spivs and speculators. Bonuses continue to skyrocket and tax breaks come thick and fast. The clinking of champagne glasses will continue to be heard from Tunbridge Wells to Chipping Norton. The redistribution of wealth and gulf in earnings between those at the top and those at the bottom is a national disgrace and the time has come to take steps in order to address this.
I’m proud to be the National President of a Trade Union that has not only fought and beaten the use of zero hours contracts, but is calling for a minimum wage of £10 per hour. It’s an absolute nonsense that the taxpayer should top up the incomes of those whose profitable employers are too greedy and selfish to pay properly. That money could go towards sustaining the public services, education and healthcare provision that people rely on for generations to come. I say that if hugely profitable companies are incapable of taking social, moral responsibility, it should be forced on them. Those employers with the ability to pay respectable wages that people can live on should do so; no ifs, no buts. Nobody should be priced out of sending their children to university as a result of poor wages. Nobody should have to freeze their way through winter in an unheated home as a result of poor wages. Nobody should have to rely on a foodbank or a payday loan as a result of poor wages. Paying people a fair wage that they can live on would significantly reduce the welfare bill, improve people’s well being, improve social mobility, ease the pressure on the NHS and fire the economy in one foul swoop. You won’t hear this from the Conservatives or people of their ilk, because it would also wipe out their agenda of blame culture, hate and division. It would mean a fairer re-distribution of wealth and working people enjoying confidence and high self esteem. It’s simply at odds with their ideology and that in itself, should encourage people to push harder than ever for better pay and equalisation of income as well as make better, more informed political choices.
Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Great North Rd.
Welwyn Garden City