Getting things done?

Budget 2020: ‘Scratch the surface; ignore the slogans and soundbites’

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The following piece is a comment from Joy Johnson of Unite’s political department


This budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first, will for evermore be known as the coronavirus budget.   It was a budget of two parts, first mitigating the impact of coronavirus and second, big figures to be spent on Boris Johnson’s infrastructure projects to, in his words, ‘level up’ the UK particularly in former Labour seats.


This was a no holds barred populist spend, spend, spend, promises, promises, promises budget.


On coronavirus the Chancellor declared that what the NHS wanted they will get.  Given the length of waiting times, given patients being treated in corridors and given the cuts in the number of nurses and medical staff – it sounds hollow.


The truth is that after a decade of Conservative austerity we are facing this colossal crisis in a weakened state.


Cuts after cuts have stretched our NHS to breaking point.  Social care workers on the front line under paid and under-valued are told they are unskilled yet when this crisis worsens they will be needed as never before.


As trade unionists we pay tribute to public service workers.  We know that they move heaven and earth to do a good job.


Sunak tried to pinch Labour’s commitment to public services when he claimed that ‘the Conservatives were the party for public services’.  Tell that to those public services who have been under the cosh over these last ten years.


We saw the reaction of Prime Minister Johnson to the floods, with whole swathes of the UK under water and people left in misery. At a time when he should have shown leadership, he was left wanting.


This Budget was meant to reveal a Johnsonian ideological direction of travel. We had a taste of Johnson’s leadership style when he led his reshuffled cabinet in a humiliating chorus on how they would deliver more police, hospitals and of course buses.


At the despatch box Sunak became a tribute ‘getting things done’ band.  Starting with ‘getting Brexit done’ building up to a crescendo Sunak declared  – ‘we promised to protect the NHS and we are getting this done’.


Ministers allowing themselves to go through this humiliation is up to them — public service workers know the reality.   As John McDonnell warned; “…after ten years of austerity we have inequality and poverty that we’ve not seen on a scale in this country”.


Chancellor Sunak had the nerve to say that this Conservative government is the party of the workers.  One thing we know for certain – judge them by their actions.  China became our factory.  Decent jobs have been turned into the ‘gig economy’ — a tag that may sound technologically attractive but exploitation, whatever it is called, is still exploitation.


So this first budget by Rishi Sunak ended with the claim that they will do whatever needs doing to deal with today; it would, he said, also lay the foundations for prosperity tomorrow.


Scratch the surface.  Ignore the slogans and sound bites and look for the detail.  Has it done enough for the economy?


Will  it be the case that it really –  ‘get’s things done’?


Or will it be judged as a budget  when Sunak served it up as a future leadership bid?  Is that another thing – ‘to get done’?

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