Boris Johnson has been found out. The first Prime Minister to be convicted of breaking the law, made by his own government. Not content with seeking to front it out, his government is now launching a barrage of assaults on the living conditions and rights of most UK citizens. This brazen attack cannot be blamed on Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine. Nor can it be blamed on the Covid pandemic.
This is a ‘made in Britain’ cost-of-living crisis manufactured by a Brexit-loving, oligarch-protecting, regulation-burning, austerity-embracing Tory government intent on making ordinary citizens pay for their mess. The heightened squeeze on living standards is the result of 12 years of Tory negligence; public spending cuts; erosion of our health, welfare and local services; failure to invest in renewable energy supplies; failure to reverse the wealth gap between rich and poor; failure to sort the social care crisis, and mismanagement of their own capitalist system. Brexit has made matters worse by inhibiting the movement of goods and people across Europe.
It turns out that there was a magic money tree; but of the millions paid out belatedly for PPE and Covid testing, with much going to Tory crony companies and a poorly managed furlough scheme, waste and fraud was commonplace. As Colin Lawson reports, multi-millionaire and Covid rule-breaker Rishi Sunak could have produced a lifeline in his spring Budget. Instead, he ignored the plight of those dependent (in full or in part) on benefits and failed to protect the incomes of much-clapped-for public sector keyworkers by continuing the 3% pay cap while inflation exceeds 8%.
Energy price rises underline the Tories’ indifference and incompetence, reports Dave Toke. By their stubborn refusal to change rules on onshore windfarms, the government is reversing COP26 commitments not to drill for more oil and gas or start shale fracking. Other renewables like solar and wave power have been given a back seat in the face of plans to build eight new expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear power stations, which would take years to produce any power.
Meanwhile, women are taking the brunt of the price rises, pay and public service squeeze, explains Alice Arkwright. A recent report from the Health Foundation reveals that life expectancy for women in the UK is now one of the lowest in Europe, while in many towns and cities, one in five women and children, and half of all single-parent (usually female) households, are in poverty. Food banks continue to mushroom alongside the inequality gap between rich and poor.
On jobs, the government is ignoring the plight of millions of agency and zero-hours workers. A Labour proposal to outlaw fire-and-rehire schemes was rejected in Parliament. Instead, we had crocodile tears over the sacking of 800 P&O workers and empty pledges to ensure reinstatement. Meanwhile, such companies will enjoy tax-free access to planned freeports.
Our NHS has a broken workforce and broken hearts, says Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. The paltry sums given to the NHS are nowhere near what is needed to end lengthening waiting lists and ambulance queues outside overstretched accident & departments. With a staff shortfall of over 110,000, potential overseas workers are still turned away.
Don Flynn exposes the callous and illegal plans of Priti Patel to fly desperate asylum seekers to human rights-blighted Rwanda in defiance of every humanitarian principle, while showing two fingers to Archbishops who condemn the proposals. But this is only the most heinous tip of the iceberg of restrictions proposed in the new Nationalities and Borders Bill, waved through Parliament by complicit Tory backbenchers again in defiance of House of Lords amendments.
When it comes to refugees from Ukraine, the government has been equally cynical and cold-hearted, alone among European nations in refusing to drop bureaucratic visa requirements, leading to a few thousand desperate people finding sanctuary of more than five million in search of protection.
Putin’s war against Ukraine has been the news story of the year, changing the landscape of Europe and posing the biggest threat to world peace since the Second World War. Chartist has sought to explain the conflict and has called for solidarity on our website and on social media. In this issue, we carry further in-depth analysis by Pete Duncan and David Dalton on the political, social and economic consequences of the war, while Francis King puts the conflict in historical context. Solidarity with embattled Ukrainians, opposition to Russian imperialism, and a negotiated settlement remain essential components of a solution.
Labour under Keir Starmer has stepped up its vocal opposition to the government, particularly on Partygate, but, as Eric Shaw argues, banning leftist groupings and changing the rules to tighten the leadership’s grip does not produce a united, enthusiastic and enlivened Labour Party. The local election results could be a tipping point for Johnson, says Peter Kenyon. The results and the Wakefield by-election will give some indication of whether Labour’s policy-lite approach is likely to work. Without clear socialist policies and ideas to repair broken Britain, as Trevor Fisher argues, it is extremely doubtful that real headway can be made.
Labour faces an Everest to overcome the Tories, needing to win 125 seats to topple them. Compass supporters in this issue argue that a progressive alliance is a necessary element to reach the summit. Many Labour members agree that a commitment to making all votes matter through electoral reform would go a long way towards bringing about a winning united opposition message. That is why, with support from Make Votes Matter, we are producing another special supplement to make the case in Labour-affiliated trade unions.