Bankers’ Bonuses, Tax Breaks for the Wealthy and Token Gestures for the Rest of Us

The undisguised arrogance towards working people and the difficulties they are facing is the main feature of today’s Tory mini-budget.

Tax breaks for businesses and the wealthy, bonuses for bankers, a harsher benefit regime and derisory token gestures for working class people already struggling to heat and eat, signal the clear intent of this government – not that it was ever in any doubt.

The refusal to increase taxes on the big energy companies, and the derisory sums being offered to households to mitigate extortionate and rising bills, make this a budget for business but not for working people.

Public utilities are not luxuries – they are essential services. Gas, electric, water, fuel and broadband services must be taken into public ownership. This will help address avaricious energy prices, alleviate fuel poverty and assist in the battle against climate change. Public ownership would also ensure protection for the jobs of thousands of workers in the energy sector.

That is not a demand that we’ll hear from either the Government or the Opposition benches at Westminster – and it won’t be made by any of the Executive parties at Stormont either.

Announcements like today’s mini-budget make us think that all the Tories live in London, but we have our own home-grown free marketeers at Stormont. Beyond their rhetoric, they are all economic blood brothers. Their record tells the story: low wage economy, zero hours contracts and run-down public services.

Only a socialist economy can deliver for working people and their families.

Same Old (S)Tories

The first major policy announcement of the new Truss government has, unsurprisingly, all the hallmarks of right-wing, conservative economics and a blatant disregard for the lives and difficulties being faced by working people.

Despite overwhelming support for the nationalisation of energy companies – recent polls suggest that over 70% of people are in favour – the response of the Truss administration is to bail out the companies already making billions of pounds profit through government borrowing, which tax payers will be repaying for years to come. It’s the same old Tories and the same old story.

When working people are looking for an answer to the current energy and cost of living crisis they need to look beyond the Conservatives and also beyond the Labour Party. Liz Truss won’t take energy companies into public ownership and neither will Labour’s Keir Starmer. He says he’s ‘not in favour’ of it – despite Labour’s election manifesto promises.

In the past year energy bills in the UK – where oil, gas and energy are all owned by multi-national companies- have increased by 215%. In the same period bills in France – where the government owns the gas companies and is the major shareholder in the main electricity provider – have risen by just 4%.

Taking our utilities into public ownership could, at a stroke, alleviate the human misery and suffering currently being experienced by young and old alike.

The cost of taking the ‘Big 5’ energy companies into public ownership is estimated to be around £2.8 billion. That’s a lot of money, until you realise that since June last year the government has spent £2.7billion bailing out 28 failing energy companies.

The solution to the cost of utilities crisis is not in vote catching gestures but in bringing gas, electricity, broadband services and fuel into public ownership and public control. Neither the Tories, nor Labour, are going to do that.

Tory Story

Amidst all the news coverage, speculation and conjecture surrounding Boris Johnson’s replacement, there is emerging dangerous and distracting talk of a ‘good’ Tories and ‘better’ Tories. Neither species exists.

The idea that Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister was a one-off, once in a lifetime, bit of eccentricity serves the Conservatives and the political class that they represent very well. It is also a line being adopted by many in the media. The collective message is that, with Boris behind us, we are set for new and exciting times for all. We’re not.

The collective message is that, with Boris behind us, we are set for new and exciting times for all. We’re not.

Suggesting that it will make any difference at all whether the next leader of the Tory party is a woman, from an ethnic minority, gay or the product of a grammar school education is a deliberate strategy to divert attention from the fundamental issue. Who ever the next Prime Minister is they will be a Conservative and a Tory.

For thousands of households and for millions of workers that should be the only characteristic that matters.

Next leader

The next leader of the Tory party, and the next prime minister, will not serve the interest of working people, people looking desperately for employment, single parents, students, people in part time jobs on minimum wage and less, pensioners or people on zero hours contracts and other forms of precarious employment.

Neither Sajid Javid, Liz Truss, Jeremy Hunt nor Rishi Sunak will champion the rights of working people, support their demands for above inflation pay rises and better working conditions or make the necessary investments in our public services.

What they will do, what the Tory party exists to do, will be to govern in favour of the large financial institutions, the multi-national corporations and the stock market speculators.

The next leader of the Tory party will, without question, lower the rate of corporation tax for big businesses, underinvest in our public services, continue to privatise the profitable parts of the NHS, continue the deregulation of industries and services placing short term profit ahead of health and safety.

He or she will further erode workers and trade union rights, it will be made more difficult to go on strike or support those who are. Wages and benefits will not keep pace with inflation, public housing programmes will be cut and only those with the financial means will be able to access further education.

The next Boris Johnson will continue to support NATO and its aggressive and confrontational policies, will follow, unquestioningly, United States foreign policy and will continue to prop up, and trade with, despotic and corrupt governments around the world. That is the Tory party, that is right wing political conservatism.

Home Grown Tories

Of course, we don’t need to go to Westminster in search of conservative politics. Several local parties are openly in favour of cutting corporation taxes, some are opposed to the Living Wage for workers, most are happy to see nurses and other workers on picket lines rather than improve their pay and conditions and very few will support enhanced workers’ rights.

At Westminster and Stormont, the world will continue to be made safe for capitalism at the expense of working-class people. The name, the party, the gender or the ethnic back ground of the Prime Minister, First Minister or Deputy First Minister are irrelevant. Our lives are determined by politics-class politics.

That is a reality that many, including some who claim to be on the Left, choose to ignore.