THE Tories’ post-election bung to the Democratic Unionist Party gifted trade unionists an easy retort to rhetorical questions of where money for a comprehensive public-service pay rise could be found.
“From the same place you found the billion quid for the DUP,” was the answer.
It now transpires that the dodgy cash-for-votes deal between Theresa May and Northern Ireland’s party of Orange bigotry cannot be pushed through by government prerogative powers.
Parliament must be consulted on the matter and has the final word. Until it does, May cannot splash the cash.
She and her colleagues will hope that the DUP accepts their word and provides the necessary voting back-up on tight divisions until the cheque is honoured, but Arlene Foster might be perturbed that her Tory friends didn’t mention Parliament’s role or suggest when a vote might take place.
Was the Prime Minister hoping to get away without a vote or did she believe that the DUP leadership wouldn’t notice non-arrival of its bung?
Grandees seeking to steady the Tory ship of state will call for calm nerves and point out that the Tory-DUP alliance has a clear Commons majority.
That may be so, but several pro-government MPs on both sides of the bargain are uneasy about their shipmates of convenience and will not relish renewed public scrutiny of this tacky arrangement.
Opposition MPs stress that they are not opposed to Northern Ireland receiving an extra £1 billion for public spending after seven years of cuts imposed by the Tories and, until two years ago, their Liberal Democrat allies.
But the justification for redressing the balance applies equally to Wales, Scotland and England where working people have also suffered from the political decision to prioritise the economic interests of big business and the wealthy elite over those at the bottom of the heap.
For a party that constantly proclaims its supposed “Britishness,” DUP readiness to take the Tory shilling — raised through inflation to a billion pounds — and spit in the faces of Welsh, Scottish and English working people by supporting May’s neoliberal approach may carry a future price.
As TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has made clear, the trade union movement seeks a unified position.
The seven-year-long 1 per cent maximum cap on public-service salaries must be lifted across the board not in piecemeal fashion in areas of particular embarrassment or concern to the government or its MPs.
Divide-and-rule is in Tory politicians’ DNA. It was the weapon of choice in perpetuating imperial rule and is applied as assiduously today to undermine working-class unity.
Tory MPs and media will attempt to separate workers into deserving and less deserving on a host of pretexts, not least that scarce resources enforce the need to do so.
That will not wash. The labour movement has pointed out that cutting the top rate of income tax and slashing corporation tax for big business were deliberate policy priorities to favour the haves over the havenots.
Reversing those decisions would make cash available to off er overdue pay rises to public-service workers.
In reality, starving the public sector of adequate finance, which affects service delivery as well as staff pay, reflects Tory hostility to an ethos that puts service before public profit.
The government will only be moved by a mass united campaign that makes the case for change and is extended to industrial action when required.