CONGRATULATIONS to all labour movement activists descending on Manchester for Sunday’s national mobilisation against the Tories called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
Theresa May flirted before the general election with populist proposals to cap energy prices alongside a vague commitment to control runaway boardroom rewards as part of her spurious attempt to rebadge the Tories as “the party of working people.”
Such waffle did not survive the election campaign, as May confirmed that her government will press ahead with the capitalist austerity campaign formulated by ousted chancellor George Osborne.
Holding down workers’ wages, tightening the screw on finance for key public services and grinding the faces of benefit claimants into the dirt, the Prime Minister leaves no doubt which section of society her government supports.
Whatever her romantic myths about the role of freemarket capitalism, her government’s policies disregard most people and prioritise big business and the wealthy elite. Her austerity agenda is not based on harsh economic reality but on a narrow political outlook that oozes greed and self-interest.
Yet, despite her shabby deal to bung a billion-pound bribe to the Democratic Unionist Party in return for its MPs’ votes, the setback she suffered at the election and the rising tide of opposition to her government restricts her ability to operate freely.
Flagship policies from the Tory manifesto did not make it into the Queen’s Speech because she couldn’t see them getting through Parliament.
A new generation of grammar schools, replacement of free school meals by cheaper “breakfasts,” the dementia tax to pay for social care, a fresh vote on fox hunting, means testing for winter fuel payments and watering down overseas development aid were all intended as areas for legislation.
Labour’s upsurge under Jeremy Corbyn, putting on an extra three million votes, clipped the Tories’ wings and left the May government holed below the waterline.
The People’s Assembly is a broader organisation than Labour, bringing together trade unions, community organisations, student bodies, left parties and a spread of women’s, pensioners’, gender equality, disabled, youth, black and ethnic minority groups — and many more.
Its goals aren’t restricted to an election manifesto or a single party’s aims but to a programme of emancipation for all.
A mass turnout in Manchester will confirm to the Tories that they are increasingly isolated, that time is running out and that resistance and demands for change will only become more powerful.
A welcome pledge
WELSH First Minister Carwyn Jones’s undertaking that safety-critical guards will be kept on all Wales and Borders trains is a major step forward for staff and passenger safety.
The Welsh government’s positive engagement with rail unions in the best interests of rail users and taxpayers stands in stark contrast to the obdurate attitude of some regional operators, egged on by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
It confirms the value of devolution that enables views widely supported across Wales on public services to find expression and to lay the basis for a federal Britain.
Grayling and his profits-obsessed private operator pals should take a leaf from Jones’s book and recognise, as he does, that “hard-working railway staff are a major asset in delivering a modern and safe railway.”
The First Minister’s commitment that the Wales and Borders franchise should become part of a UK national integrated railway under public ownership, “if future legislation allows,” emphasises the urgent need for a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government.