“This attack by Rees-Moggs… was a stark reminder that national crisis or no national crisis, the Tories are not going to govern in any wider interest. They will serve the 1% as they always have done.”Richard Burgon MP
I never expected Tory toff Jacob Rees-Mogg to side with the workers when I raised the strike at the Tate galleries in the House of Commons yesterday. But I had hoped we’d be granted a parliamentary debate on employment so we could discuss how to prevent a jobs bloodbath this autumn.
Instead, what we got in response was deliberately provocative abuse from Rees-Mogg towards Tate workers forced into action to stop hundreds of compulsory redundancies. Rees-Mogg – sticking his well-heeled boot into the workers – said that “If people are on strike they are by definition, not hardworking.” This from a man who infamously thought it was acceptable to lounge across the House of Commons benches during key debates last year, apparently half asleep.
This is not just the usual Tory slur on workers forced into strike action. It also highlights how the Conservative Party’s response to the Coronavirus crisis is class politics laid bare.
We have seen time after time in the government’s response to this crisis how the Tories serve the few, not the many. The initial refusal to ensure children get free school meals over the summer, the denial of decent levels of sick pay meaning many simply can’t afford to self-isolate as it would leave them unable to put food on the table and the handing over of hundreds of millions of pounds to failing private corporations who have botched the test and trace scheme are clear examples.
As the economic crisis deepens there will be more and more attacks on our worker’s rights – exploiting high levels of unemployment – and on our public services in a blatant attempt to shore up private profits and reshape the economy. Anyone who has read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine knows that some will simply see this crisis as an opportunity.
So class politics need to be at the core of our response too: that means defending the interests of the 99% against the 1% who dominate our economics, politics and society.
The good news is that recent Government U-turns on school meals, on visa charges for NHS staff and on exam results and much more show that when we fight, we can win.
There is a huge amount that we need to be fighting for. To ensure that the inequalities that scar our society are tackled through our response to this Covid crisis we need to step up the demand for sick pay at Real Living Wage levels, for rent suspensions and a year-long eviction ban, for a programme of public works including a Green New Deal to tackle mass unemployment, for an extension to furlough, the nationalisation of the care sector and for investment in schools so that children – primarily in poorer areas like the one I represent – can get the educational support they need to close the educational attainment gap that has further widened in recent months.
This attack by Rees-Moggs on Striking workers was a stark reminder that national crisis or no national crisis, the Tories are not going to govern in any wider interest. They will serve the 1% as they always have done. Any concessions will only be won by a huge fight from the whole Labour movement.