While Tories flounder, can Labour meet the challenge? 

Editorial 323

The Bank of England raises interest rates yet again; its governor Andrew Bailey tells workers they must take pay cuts, while hapless Prime Minister Rishi Sunak echoes the same anti-inflation mantra.  

The Government’s only policy seems to be raising interest rates, which of course boosts bank profits, and suppression of wages to make workers and the poor pay. As more sectors of the trade union movement, teachers, lecturers and junior doctors join rail workers, civil servants and nurses in taking last-resort strike action, the Government introduces yet more draconian anti-trade union laws and further restricts the right to protest. Labour’s response of ‘get round the table’, instead of getting behind the workers, is a lame and inadequate alternative. 

Another scandal, as the Tory-majority Privileges Committee finds that ex-PM Johnson deliberately misled the House of Commons over Partygate. The serial liar jumped ship before he was pushed, the only PM to have been found guilty of this offence. Fewer than half of Tory MPs voted with Labour and opposition parties to accept the report: over 200 abstained, while Sunak stayed away. So much for his pledge to govern with “integrity, professionalism and accountability”. Johnson may be finished politically, but the charlatan will make millions speaking and writing his populist tosh. Peter Dorey dissects the Tories post-Thatcherite journey to this shameful point. Victor Anderson sounds a warning on the dangers of a directly elected House of Lords replicating the House of Commons. 

It is already clear from the Covid-19 inquiry that the Government was unprepared. Under Cameron, the Government had failed to invest in pandemic contingency planning; under Johnson and Hancock, millions were wasted in unused and late-delivery PPE. The science was not followed. Sunak has now launched a bizarre legal attack on the freedom of Baroness Hallett to access evidence

Meanwhile, inflation, which the Government and Bank of England said would be halved by the end of the year, stayed at 8.7% in May, with food prices and essential items running at over 20%. Millions are drawn into the dragnet of misery, poverty and insecurity. With the ending of Government support, consumers face heavy energy bills, while rents soar and mortgage holders’ bills could increase by hundreds of pounds a month. 

As Sam Tarry MP argues, it is not wages causing inflation but the consequences of Brexit, higher costs of imported goods and profiteering by big corporations like Shell, BP and Amazon, the latter exploiting loopholes to avoid tax.  

Labour should be advocating price controls on essentials, wages linked to price rises, and tax rises for the super-rich alongside pledges to close the non-dom tax loophole and raise windfall taxes. Tax Justice UK, the New Economic Foundation and the Economic Change Unit propose a modest wealth tax on the UK’s richest 350 families that could raise more than £20bn a year. A 2% tax on assets above £10m could raise as much as £22bn. Instead, under Tory policies, food banks, homelessness, child poverty, mental illness and inequality continue to grow, as Andy McDonald MP reports. 

Paul Teasdale highlights a major hole in economic policy where an industrial strategy should be. This is even more acute as the impact of Brexit rolls across what industry remains. Much manufacturing has already shifted overseas, the freeports plan remains a chimera, while the potential for car battery production is hit by the collapse of Britishvolt and uncertainty about a new plant in the South West. Labour’s laudable £28bn green growth plan has now been relegated to an indeterminate time in a future government: not a good look for Labour with young and green-minded voters. Dave Toke puts a strong case for a renewable-only energy strategy as part of a Labour alternative. 

In the most serious conflict in Europe since the Second World War, the Ukrainian counter-offensive against the illegal and brutal Russian occupation has begun. Thousands of lives continue to be lost; children are abducted; and schools, hospitals, homes and factories are destroyed, with the latest atrocity being the bombing of the Kakhovka dam. Millions have become refugees. Christopher Ford challenges Putin’s claims that Ukraine is Russian in an account of the development of the Ukrainian socialist movement since the 19th century. Yuliya Yurchenko issues a scathing polemic against those leftists who would deny Ukraine military aid with talk of proxy wars or inter-imperial conflict. When trade unionists from Ukraine and UK speak to each other, the solidarity is powerful, as Julie Ward reports on the links between Durham and the Donbas. 

The civil war in Sudan has escalated, affecting millions. Andy Gregg explains the history and politics of the conflict. Mary Southcott reports on the Turkish elections, which saw the populist autocratic Erdoğan re-elected by a narrow majority. Glyn Ford looks at the rising tension between the US and China superpowers, urging caution in Western approaches. Peter Hain adapts his Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture given in South Africa to press the need for a democratic and transparent politics to root out the corruption that currently infects the ANC government and tarnishes the legacy of Mandela and Aggett. 

With several by-elections triggered by Tory resignations, Labour could be demonstrating its winning credentials. Divided parties lose elections. So, why the Labour own goal of barring North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll from the North East mayoral shortlist? Alongside other purges and bans, this can only create dissent and disunity in Labour ranks. As Peter Kenyon argues, we need electoral reform and a united party armed with socialist policies to enthuse members and bring a message of hope and change to a beleaguered UK. The next few months will be critical in determining Labour’s prospects. 

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