On the day of the great strike, when most working people I know are on strike, there’s a superb piece by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, that nails the vindictiveness of the government’s attack on public services, those who work in providing them, and the poorest in British society:
Class war, generation war, war against women, war between the regions: George Osborne’s autumn statement blatantly declares itself for the few against the many. Gloves are off and gauntlets down, and the nasty party bares its teeth. Here is the re-toxified Tory party, the final curtain on David Cameron’s electoral charade. No more crocodile tears for the poor, no more cant about social mobility or “the most family-friendly government” or “we’re all in this together”. Forget “vote blue go green”, with this mockery of husky-hugging. Let the planet fry.
In yesterday’s autumn financial statement, George Osborne effectively told public sector workers and the low paid that they will be the ones who will pay for measures to kickstart Britain’s stagnant economy, whilst maintaining the policy of reducing the government deficit created by the bail-out of the banks. Many staff in the public sector have already endured pay freezes for two years; now they are facing a rise of just 1%, which represents a cut in real terms, for the next two years. Workers on low incomes claiming tax credit will be hit as the working tax credit will be frozen, and a promise to tackle child poverty by increasing the child element of the credit will be scrapped.
In her article, Toynbee identifies the divisive nature of the measures announced yesterday:
Not one penny more was taken from the top 10% of earners. Every hit fell upon those with less not more. Fat plums ripe for the plucking stayed on the tree as the poorest bore 16% of the brunt of new cuts and the richest only 3%, according to the Resolution Foundation. Over £7bn could be harvested with 40% tax relief on higher pensions, while most earners only get 20% tax relief; £2bn should be nipped from taxing bankers’ bonuses, but the bank levy announced was nothing extra.
Instead came the great attack on public sector employees on the eve of the biggest strike in memory. This was a declaration of open class war – and war on the pay of women, 73% of the public workforce. After a three-year freeze, public pay rises are pegged at 1% for two years, whatever the inflation rate. That means this government will take at least 16% from their incomes overall. But the plan to abolish Tupe – the rule that ensures public workers are not paid less if their service is privatised – is outrageously unjust, and will lead to mighty resistance to all privatisation from senior as well as junior staff. […]
But the direct assault on the poor is almost beyond belief. Watch how the big, powerful charities on Tuesday expressed uncharacteristic outrage. Along with the Children’s Society, Save the Children is fiercer than I can ever recall, calling this “dire news for the poorest families – both in and out of work”; “A major blow”, says 4Children; while Barnardo’s calls it “a desperate state of affairs when the government’s own analysis shows that a further 100,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of tax and benefits changes announced today”.
As for Osborne, according to a profile in yesterday’s Guardian:
The architect of our current austerity is, as Osborne’s biographer, Janan Ganesh of the Economist, puts it, “conspicuously privileged”: heir to the Anglo-Irish baronetcy of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon, created by Charles I in 1629; holder of a 15% stake in the upmarket wallpaper family firm Osborne & Little, a company worth – press estimates vary – between £15m and more than £30m; and son-in-law of the Tory peer, Lord Howell. Other provocative CV details include: recommending Andy Coulson as his party’s director of communications; membership of the infamous Bullingdon Club at Oxford; an unashamedly prosperous private life including the use of an elite private bank, private primary school for his children.
To keep our spirits up, here’s that video for ‘Let’s Work Together’, the single released to celebrate the day of action, sung by The Workers, a group of public service workers.