Corbyn’s party now has a chance to show the public it’s dependable, believes RABBIL SIKDAR
DAZED and blooded by a flurry of blows, but the bell refuses to ring; the Tories are taking a battering. Self-inflicted wounds and natural flaws in the Tory ideology have sprung to the surface. The party that once brimmed with arrogance is shaking. As cracks appear, momentum and hope slowly gather on the other side.
Whether David Cameron resigns or not should not be the priority. A change in the system rather than the figurehead is necessary. Jeremy Corbyn has rallied the Labour Party as Ed Miliband did, issuing a firm warning that tax avoidance is immoral and can no longer be ignored. What those on the left have yearned for years has come: we are finally talking about tax avoidance.
Maybe much will come of it, or maybe nothing will. But the Tories are reeling from the crises such as the junior doctors’ dispute, the slashing of disability benefits to fund corporate tax breaks and inaction over the steel crisis.
Now they are struggling with the revelation that Cameron benefited from his father’s offshore trust with the Panama Papers leaks.
Public confidence and trust in the government has sunk to a staggering low. Cameron and George Osborne’s ratings have dropped dramatically. And while faith in Corbyn and Labour remains mild, polls have shown the public trust Corbyn over Cameron in dealing with tax avoidance. Should this become a dominating issue over the years then Labour has the opening that the Tories had with immigration and welfare.
The image of unfairness and injustice running deep in Tory policies has become crystallised, and in John McDonnell Labour has an eloquent shadow chancellor who can crucially highlight that cracking down on poverty and mushrooming levels of inequality is morally and economically practical.
The Tories have allowed tax avoidance to run rampant while ordinary people have shouldered the economic burden for the mistakes of the financial system. The result hasn’t been the economic security and prosperity the Tories promised. They have presided over low growth, a growing deficit, a debt bigger than previous Labour governments combined and terribly low levels of productivity. There is an opening for Labour to restore trust as a fiscally responsible government.
This is something Fabian activist and Open Labour editor Jade Azim has stressed, saying Labour had to make sure the “link between fairness and competence is locked down.” People were offered the fairness being preached by Miliband in a muddled language, but opted for the fiscal discipline and security-preaching of Tory messages. The Tories have failed on cutting the deficit and debt, failed to create a stable growth and overseen terrible levels of productivity. People have suffered unfairness and economic incompetence in unison.
As ordinary people suffer, so does the economy. Zero-hours contracts and a low minimum wage haven’t just spiked poverty rates and sent many to foodbanks; they have strained the welfare system and failed to cut the deficit. Growth has been undermined by a lack of spending, including consumer spending. The housing crisis has fuelled inequality and created a massive rise in homelessness. Families are increasingly squeezed out of cities, the market setting unaffordable prices for too many homes. Council homes are flogged off while the rents are set at terrible rates, often hitting young people hard. There is no aspiration or security in this and the public are increasingly aware of it. People did not enthusiastically vote for the Tories, but they need a clear idea of where Labour aspire to take the country.
Where is the economic security in poverty, zero-hours contracts and exorbitant rents? Why is the state turning a blind eye to the £120 billion lost to tax avoidance and handing out corporate subsidies in the sum of £93bn to large businesses when families’ incomes are squeezed and public services are slashed? Where is the environmental security in persistently ignoring threats of climate change by slashing flood defences and failing to invest in the renewable energy sector? Where is the security from terrorism of working with the likes of Saudi Arabia — great exporters of the ideology that terrorists espouse — and Qatar?
Labour has the opportunity here to deliver an economic message that appeals to the public’s growing security fears, and offers hope. A genuine living wage tackles poverty, inequality, the rent crisis and the growing welfare bill while beginning to address the deficit by ensuring millions more are paying some tax.
Creating homes brings down the housing benefit bill and begins to boost growth again. Bringing the railways under public ownership has actually been proven to be less expensive than the present system, where the state has had to subsidise the private railways frequently. Ending the private finance initiative (PFI) deals dragging down the NHS to return to the fully publicly funded healthcare revitalises our struggling hospitals.
Investing in the manufacturing sector and renewable energy industry boosts productivity, creates skilled jobs and begins to tackle the looming environmental calamity. These policies aren’t just morally right; they have economic appeal and tackle the financial insecurities of millions of ordinary families and the country.
A Labour Party that allows Corbyn to voice his criticisms of the EU will work well with the Eurosceptic public.
Shifting the debate onto TTIP and corporate deals rather than immigration is necessary. Our public services are threatened by TTIP and other such deals.
Only through the EU can we tackle terrorism and maintain security, by sharing intelligence and information with our neighbours, locked in the same struggle against a growing jihadist insurgency.
It’s vital that Labour combines the fairness of an anti-austerity agenda with economic sense. The public can be convinced and are not the vehemently right-wing bunch that the Blairites have often portrayed them as. We need strategic discipline from Labour, hammering home the economic and moral failures of austerity. Labour has an opening; it must use it.