Class war

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.

Radiographers from the Royal Liverpool Hospital on the picket line

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.

Lets work together

6 thoughts on “Class war

  1. Just finished the demo in Birkenhead, Wirral’s biggest for decades. Excellent turn-out, all public sector unions represented, superb speeches (and specially composed poem) in Hamilton Square – and help from the police (who told working traffic wardens to stop harassing strike organisers’ lorry parked on yellow lines and to join the strike!).

    Polly Toynbee is spot on.

  2. I have my doubts about Polly Toynbee, whose repeated attacks on the last Labour government played a not inconsiderable part in Labour’s defeat in the last election. If you like, we have the Left to thank for this government (and this government’s actions). The best way to ‘fight’ in this parliamentary democracy is with our X. This strike will achieve nothing, apart from to inconvenience hospital patients, schoolchildren, the vulnerable. There are other ways, more likely to lead to a measure of success, to express one’s views on the cuts and the changes to the pension rules. It was Jack Jones, many years ago, who said the trade union movement had forever discredited itself for not organizing a joint industrial action in support of the pensioners, when they were really suffering under a previous Tory administration. That same streak of selfishness tarnishes today’s events.

  3. Polly Toynbee is a fine one to talk, staunch supporter of the right-wing Blair administration and its ghastly crew, what’s to differentiate between 20th century New Labour and old Tory gone 21st century – feather in the breeze? As people realise their democratic representatives have completely abandoned them to worship at shrine of privatisation they will become increasingly desperate and the measures to keep people down will become increasingly viscous. There was a real chance of change for the better when Labour got in, in 1997. That chance was willfully frittered away and on into the shameful Iraq war when Britain – lied to about WMD – invaded a sovereign state, and it led to the unbelievable happening, the post-Thatcherite Conservatives getting into power aided and abetted all the way by the feckless Liberal Democrats. Now watch.

    1. I absolutely agree about Toynbee during the Blair era – when she generally came across as a cheerleader for his policies, and I found I could not read her Guardian columns. But something seems to have been shifting in her views in the last few years, starting with her investigation of low pay, published in 2003 as Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain, about an experimental period living on the minimum wage, working as a hospital porter, a dinnerlady in a primary school, a nursery assistant, a call-centre employee, a cake factory worker and a care home assistant. Recently, her columns have been much more critical of the Labour leadership’s position, and this one can, I think, be judged on its merits.

      1. Yes they are fine words but Toynbee had herself installed inside a council flat – yes a council flat during the housing crisis in London which has subsequently exploded into ‘shed bed’ territory – somehow managed to get herself a limited tenancy inside a council flat when people were sleeping rough out on the streets, just so she could dish the dirt, as she saw it, on the council estate that the flat was part of. In other words it was a PR stunt for the Blairites. Polly then popped back to her residence and typed up her column and the rest is history. The estate is now in the hands of a private landlord and perfectly sound flats are being raised to the ground so that the property developer can build plush new flats and doubtless make a fortune, which is what I think all this has been about. John Prescott was in overall charge of this redevelopment, Keith Hill (another staunch Blairite) was the local MP and Housing Minister at the time. The Chairperson for the redevelopment community project was Keith Hill’s right hand man Joe Moll. Does this stink enough yet? So forgive me but the primary school and nursery associated with Polly Toynbee better watch their backs or they might find they have a JCB creeping up on them.

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