DURING the run-up to the general elections Sajid Javid appeared on the BBC where he was asked how the Tories would provide £8 billion for the NHS. He couldn’t answer.
The Tories at that time indicated there would be £12bn slashed off welfare, but on the live leadership debates David Cameron promised that tax credits would be protected from the cuts. The facade has come tumbling down.
Tax credits have been cut and everyone is feeling it. On Question Time, a tearful mother showed her anger and despair when she berated the Conservative government for shredding tax credits when they promised not to do so. Gallingly for the Tories, this woman had voted for them in May.
How perverse is it of the Tories then to portray Labour as a threat to the security of families? As they have plunged low and middle-income families into economic hardship, it’s an astonishing denial of reality that they spin themselves as the “party of workers.”
For all the debate on whether Jeremy Corbyn needed to tweak his policies to reflect “aspiration” in order to win over Tory voters, it turns out he simply needs to remind many of them which party really cares about the welfare of ordinary families. And if there’s a message that Corbyn has to repeatedly hammer home, it’s that there is no security in growing levels of inequality, poverty, deficit and debt combined with terrible shortages of high-skilled jobs and low levels of productivity and growth.
The woman who was on the verge of tears on Question Time is every single working mother and father in the country affected by the cuts in tax credits. People having to work several jobs and work long, draining hours just to make ends meet in a deepening crisis of high living costs are going to be pushed u in further fiscal insecurity by the policies of the Conservative government.
Security does not permeate through cuts of tax credits and cutting free school meals — often the only meals some children can safely rely on. There is no security in sending families to food banks or leaving them in cold homes. There is no security for young people dealing with a spiralling rent costs that simply swell the welfare bill. And there certainly isn’t security in cutting police and army budgets.
In short, there is no security in leaving your country in the hands of economic illiterates like the Conservative Party.
Corbyn must address how precariously British people are now living. Cameron laid an astonishing charge against him of having a “security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology.” This charge has to be unravelled quickly before it sticks. The Tories have a shambolic economic record of incoherent ramblings about cutting the deficit while it rockets ever upwards. This has to be made clear to the public. Importantly, Labour’s own economic record under Tony Blair has to be defended far better.
If these Tory attacks on the British way of life show anything, it’s that the Tories aren’t just transferring the wealth of ordinary people’s pockets into the bank accounts of the wealthy — they are transferring power and control over society.
These policies go deeper in reshaping society into something beyond our recognition.
And their roots go deep too. They began with Thatcher’s industrial annihilation that left entire communities suffering with the insecurity of poverty and unemployment. That loss of a social identity, combined with the cultural diversity brought about by immigration, sharpened communities’ sense of being left behind in a new, modern and more technology-driven world.
What those communities lost cannot be recovered in the same way. But we can still protect what we have left. The welfare state, our pensions, the NHS and the BBC. We lost the Royal Mail but our hospitals and our public broadcaster, the last possessions of ordinary people, can stay like that. And for economic security and growth, we can create a new industrial plan that will regenerate wealth in communities that lost wealth. New industries to replace old industries.
Renewable energy in place of coal.
Labour needs to offer a vision of extending public ownership as a means of extending democracy as far as possible, while at the same showing how it offers community security. That has to be combined with a brutal takedown of what the Conservatives have done — and failed to do — in government.
The Tories speak about security. But they have taken away people’s sense of control over the economy and society itself. Where is the security in that?