Calling time on the Tories

It’s no good Labour watering down its policies. Core voters want something different.

Rishi Sunak’s government looks increasingly desperate as it tries to find ways to bolster flagging support for the Conservative Party- from attacks on Angela Rayner to its rotten Rwanda legislation. Economic recession combines with continuing inflation, particularly in housing costs, and high energy prices, to squeeze living standards. The need for social and political change is writ larger every day.

Chancellor Hunt’s budget did little to remedy the parlous situation, largely benefitting the richer elite while stealing Labour’s policy on closing tax loopholes for non-doms to fund the National Insurance (NI) cut. Peter Hain excoriates the Tories for 14 wasted years with sustained austerity and Brexit causing the destruction of public services, deepening inequality and the undermining of social solidarity. Hunt’s budget builds in five more years of public spending cuts, hitting local government services, social care, criminal justice and the environment to bequeath any future Labour government a daunting legacy.

Ignacia Pinto further dissects the budget to find women are hit hardest, particularly the poorest and single parents, facing no real pay increase and hugely costly childcare. 4.3 million are now in child poverty while the 2% NI cut will largely benefit richer families. Alongside this general increase in social inequality the “no recourse to public funds” hits new migrants also barred from seeking gainful employment. The persistence of the gender pay gap further compounds inequality as Nikki Pound explains. Drawing from TUC research she shows that the average woman annually works two months for free compared to the average man. Ethnic minority, disabled and older women face an even bigger pay gap. Vivienne Hayes explains how a Women’s Resource Centre can help overcome this discrimination.

The government has ditched the “no fault evictions” manifesto promise from its new renters’ legislation, meaning further housing insecurity and homelessness faces millions. Youth services, which could provide a lifeline from the effects of unemployment, drug misuse and crime, have been particularly devastated by Tory cutbacks, as Caitlin Barr reports.

Putting profits and shareholders as the driver of public services has put our basic utilities of water, energy and transport into freefall collapse. Paul Salveson while welcoming Labour’s statements puts the case for a strategic plan to renew our railways while Camilla Ween and Brian Love make the case for rail in Connected Cities to reduce carbon emissions and reinvigorate our towns. Dave Toke questions the left antipathy towards “economic growth” arguing it could be the route to reaching green goals.

On the international front the world drifts closer to wider military conflicts accelerated by nationalist authoritarian rulers from China, India and Russia to the right populist threat in Europe and Trumpism in the USA.

Putin’s war against Ukraine has intensified as reported by Maksym Romanenko, a doctor from Kharkiv, underlining the need for greater humanitarian and military aid. However morally difficult for those who want peace, heavily armed autocratic bullies can only be stopped by adequately armed resistance. Defence spending has always been a challenging question for the left. Peter Kenyon examines Labour’s plans and commitments suggesting we need to adjust our views to the new world realities, including weapons for Ukraine.

In Gaza the indiscriminate Israeli air and land bombardment, alongside continuing restrictions on humanitarian aid, continues to claim thousands of civilian lives with the death toll of children and women rising above 20,000, from more than 35,000 in all. UN calls for an immediate ceasefire, echoed by weekly civil society demonstrations across the world, must be backed up by an end to weapons supplies to Israel, sanctions and boycotts of goods and people. Bringing progressive Jews and Palestinians together is a tough ask but Julie Ward reports on Standing Together, an Israeli based organisation seeking to do just that. Andy Gregg looks forward to a two state or one state solution highlighting the possible role of imprisoned Marwan Barghouti as a Mandela-like figure for future Palestinian leader.

While the brutal occupations continue in Palestinian territories and Ukraine Glyn Ford reports on the forthcoming EU elections which could see gains for right-wing populist parties seeking to appease Russia. Ominous signs emerged from Portugal where Patrick Costello reports on the narrow defeat of the socialist government after eight years in office.

All roads in the UK lead to the urgent need for change and a general election. Although Labour runs high in the polls the omens for social democracy are not so good as Eric Shaw explains in surveying the situation in Europe and the reasons for the decline.

It’s no good Labour watering down its policies—virtually none of Starmer’s 10 election pledges remain intact—to appease Tory voters. Labour’s core voters want something different; to enthuse them to vote and win over “floating” voters Labour needs to present a convincing alternative which does not pander to lowest common denominator prejudices. This means vigorously countering Tory scapegoating of migrants and endorsing an open border policy, as Don Flynn argues. It means being willing to tear up reactionary Tory policies like the two-child benefit cap, stop backsliding on the new green deal, promote a new deal for working people on trade union and workplace rights, standing up for human rights and scrapping draconian restrictions on the right to protest.

A wealth tax, closing tax loopholes and windfall taxes on the profiteering energy companies to reduce income inequality and fund our crumbling public services, particularly the NHS, (as promised by Labour) would be popular policies.

While pressing for an immediate general election Labour needs to promote some bold transformative policies alongside a vision of a more egalitarian, socially just and internationally democratic world. That would provide a firmer foundation for sustained success.

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