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Opportunity to win

Why we must fight back
Steve Turner, assistant general secretary, Friday, June 30th, 2017


This week Theresa May announced the dodgy deal with the DUP to keep her government afloat.

 

The Conservatives’ desire to cling to power has served to illustrate the truth of what many of us have argued for years – austerity has been a political choice from the start, not an economic necessity.

 

How else to explain the very political choice to agree a package of policies worth £1bn in exchange for supporting votes in Parliament?

 

In the same week the government voted down the Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech in support of ending the public-sector pay cap – and the amendment to end austerity and instead invest in every nation and region of the UK, resource an industrial strategy and introduce further measures that would end the cost-of-living crisis in this country.

 

These amendments were drawn from Labour’s manifesto which represented not just an alternative to austerity but an alternative to the past decades of economic, industrial and social policy which, despite the achievements of the last Labour government, is a model that has ultimately failed the overwhelming majority of people.

 

Decline

Whole communities have been left in managed decline and the seeds were sown for the financial crash.

 

The general election was a stark choice over the future of this country with Britain at a crossroads – and that choice continues.

 

The Conservatives have promised to prolong the crisis in living standards; only Greece has seen real wages fall more than Britain since the financial crisis and the OECD has forecast this will continue into 2018.

 

The IFS has said that real wages will not recover their pre-financial crisis levels until at least 2021.

 

Foodbank queues have grown, with four out of five foodbank users going hungry multiple times a year and sometimes skipping meals for days. Poverty has deepened, job insecurity has soared and our infrastructure and public services left crumbling and creaking.

 

The scale of the crisis that has engulfed this country is unprecedented — and it will continue to unfold for as long as the impact of this government is felt.

 

The surge in the polls we saw for Labour was a result of its policies being heard — concrete actions such as a £10 minimum wage, universal childcare, funding for public services and investment that would transform our economy into one that creates good jobs with decent rights, to name just a few.

 

If implemented it is a manifesto that would not just end austerity but would genuinely change the lives of millions of people for the better, create a Britain fit for the future and a society where the wealth generated by us all is shared more equally.

 

The challenge now is to create the opportunity for it to be put into action.

 

It is worth noting that under Corbyn’s leadership over the past two years the Labour opposition has wrung concessions from government, forced U-turns and “rethinks” on dramatic cuts to personal independence payments and tax credits, increasing national insurance payments for self-employed people and scrapping restrictions on Sunday trading and more.

 

These wins meant that Labour effectively prevented even greater pain being inflicted on millions of families.

 

Now with a strengthened opposition and a significantly weakened government, there is scope for more victories – each one inflicting a wound on this government and its ability to cling to power.

 

Public sector pay cap

Take the most highlighted issue so far, the continuation of the public-sector pay cap. In truth this is a real-terms pay cut for millions of public-sector workers delivering our local council services, working in our NHS, schools and emergency services.

 

This – and the wider cuts to our public services – have taken on renewed tragic significance against the backdrop of the recent terror attacks and the outrage of the Grenfell Tower fire.

During the general election campaign, following Labour’s lead, other parties said the pay cap had to end.

 

Polling by the TUC found that two-thirds of Conservative voters are opposed to continuing to inflict pay cuts on our public service workers.

 

And this week a No 10 spokesperson was forced to say that a review of the policy is under way. Government ministers demurred from saying it would continue and then the Treasury stepped in and sought to row back.

 

Confusion reigns over the future of a policy that has been emblematic of government’s attitude, signifying its disregard for our public services and the people who work hard to deliver them.

 

Forcing this government to change tack would ease the struggle in making ends meet that millions of public service workers have suffered.

 

Real opportunity

This is not to be complacent – rather the opposite. There is a real opportunity to win a Labour government and it is an opportunity that needs to be grasped.

 

It means turning up the political pressure on this government, exploiting every weakness it shows, highlighting every hypocrisy at every point and demonstrating the real difference that a Corbyn-led Labour government and the manifesto put forward can make to people’s lives and our society as a whole, explaining and campaigning around not just the vision but the actual difference it will bring about.

 

It means consolidating our recent gains and working where there are marginal seats that we need to win next.

 

We must infuse our protests with a sense of hope of what can be achieved, to spur us to make demonstrations such as tomorrow’s as large as possible as just one element in showing the strength of our support and to keep building momentum to ensure a general election soon – so that when it comes we are in the best place possible to win.

 

The PA Not One Day More national demonstration is tomorrow. Assemble at noon at BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA.

 

This comment first appeared in the Morning Star, June 30

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