I really don’t have much time right now to write this, but I wanted to do something in the moment for once, rather than in retrospect.
Tomorrow is National Campaigning Day, and I will be out with other Labour activists, talking to people about why we think we’re all Better Off With Labour, in response to the Conservative propaganda that passed as our budget on Wednesday.
To be fair to Hammond, I did like he ideas about investment in infrastructure for technology, and he made some remarkably funny-for-a-chancellor jokes, (see? that’s a link to a Telegraph article; never let it be said that i don’t try to keep some semblance of balance!) Pinching Labours promise of abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers was reasonable, but the Tories are on the back foot and they know it, so they must appear to be attending to the public. The Public schooled the Tories and the media in the recent General Election; now they know Corbyn is a real threat.
But what about everything Hammond didn’t say? The huge, gaping black-holes that our schools, our health system, our social care system, all the homeless/low-paid/vulnerable/disabled/struggling/suffering families and workers across the country are falling into, being ignored? Overlooked?
Despite the Paradise Paper leak and the pantomime ‘outrage’ that followed, tax avoidance was not properly addressed (is anyone surprised, given a vast proportion of Tories benefit from tax avoidance loopholes?). Universal credit still not properly addressed, leaving the most vulnerable members of our society (a high percentage of them working) facing spiraling debt, the threat of eviction, resulting in increased reliance on foodbanks and exasperating all kinds of health problems. This is how we ‘help people to work’, apparently. Not even scratching the surface of our housing crisis (yes, crisis is the right word) in terms of housing investment. Nothing for our older generations, or for disabled people, suffering through a social care crisis and overlooked by our chancellor. But not by Jez:
This budget does nothing to address the social injustice and the canyon of inequality that defines our time. There’s a bit of lip service, to placate the masses (before Uncle Jezza turns them all into sandal-wearing, jam-making lefties), but fundamentally, nothing has changed.
When inflation is accounted for, most people are paid less now than they were in 2010, and wages are set to decrease further. The number of homelessness has doubled since then, in a country with the 6th largest economy in the world. The UK is the worst place in Western Europe in terms of elderly care, with 1 in 6 pensioners live in poverty. In 2015 the Tories promised 5000 extra GPs, and yet in 2017 we have 1200 fewer, and the chief of the NHS has said that the funds set aside for the NHS in 2018 ‘fall far short’ of what’s needed. Its the same for our police service, and for social care services charged with the protection of our most vulnerable citizens.
We are told there is no money to support people that desperately need it, or to invest in education to give children the opportunities needed to discover their unique potential and ensure a prosperous future for our country. There is no money for sick people, no money to build houses for the homeless. No money to invest in our communities. Yet there is money to bribe the DUP when you fail to win the confidence of the British voter.
Thanks to 7 years of the suffering caused by austerity, the deficit is gone, right? We can loosen our belts? Well…no, actually. David Cameron promised us: we’re all in it together as a nation and we’ll work together to clear the deficit by 2015. Its now 2017, and we’re being told now it will be 2025, and we all know that we most certainly are NOT in it together. Whilst most of us, especially nurses, firemen, policemen, midwives etc, have had a pay cut and have been struggling for the last 7 years, the countries wealthiest have seen their wealth increase by 112% in the same period. In the UK in 2009, Britain’s richest citizens had 258bn. In 2017, that has increased to 547bn, almost certainly sat in offshore accounts somewhere. The system has failed to ensure a fairer distribution of wealth.
Austerity is an ideology that only applies to ordinary people, yet ordinary people didn’t cause the financial crash of 2008. The people that caused the crash that lead us to this point (the bankers) remain unscathed, the system remains unregulated, ordinary people pick up the tab, and somehow the mainstream media has got ordinary people blaming other ordinary people for the hardship.
There is an exploitation epidemic. Workers being exploited paid less than the cost of living whilst share-holders are paid millions in dividends. Energy and water companies, making an extortionate amount of money providing the essential services needed to survive. Credit card companies exploiting the vulnerability of desperate people without a choice. Private landlords exploiting both tenants and the welfare system by charging too much in rent, a problem that we cannot resolve without rigorous investment in social housing, which the Tories have consistently failed to provide. Renters living in unsafe conditions because their profiteering landlords would rather fit highly flammable cladding to buildings to improve the view from the outside, rather than sprinkler systems, emergency lighting and a dozen other (relatively cheap) things to improve safety for their tenants inside; all made legal because MPs (1 in 3 of which are landlords themselves) voted down a labour initiative to make landlords responsible for ensuring their properties are ‘fit for human habitation’.
The situation is dire, and we are so over-saturated by it, it is easy to forget the human cost. The suffering. The people who are feeling lost, scared and alone, drowning in a sea of despair whilst those in lifeboats look the other way.
There are Labour campaigning events taking place across the country, and I would recommend going along to one, natch, especially if you’re undecided about what it’s all about.
Go talk to the people in your community that care enough to want to talk to you. Go see what Labour are about, not through the carefully edited scripts issued by the outlets posing as news, but through talking to real people, people like you, people who live in your community and believe that there is a real alternative on offer now, an alternative that will make a real difference in your life, for the better.