“The Tories have not changed. They are the political arm of the British Establishment – a small golden circle of privilege & wealth – who rule the country at the expense of everyone else.”Jon Trickett MP
We see through all our history that moments of crisis often bring opportunities for something better. For positive change. The Covid-19 pandemic is no different.
But they also carry within the possibility that things will stay the same or deteriorate. The Tories have not changed. They are the political arm of the British Establishment – a small golden circle of privilege and wealth – who rule the country at the expense of everyone else.
Boris Johnson’s primary aim is to defend the interests of Britain’s ruling class. This means that COVID-19 will result in another squandered opportunity to tackle our broken economy and fractured social fabric.
They are not a party of One Nation. Their central ethic is one of deepening, strengthening and reinforcing the class divides in our country.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not only exposed the inequitable economic distribution and unacceptable health inequalities that exist across society. It has also laid bare the extent of disconnection between the political classes and the country as a whole.
Covid-19 has reset the values we hold as individuals and as a country. There are numerous examples. No one could be untouched about how the “clap for carers” caught the heart of the country or the hundreds of thousands who stepped forward to become NHS volunteers.
Yet the government has done nothing to tackle the crisis in social care. And there are also many lesser public acts of generosity that go unseen. Posties checking-in to make sure vulnerable customers are not isolated, volunteering in the local community and supporting the elderly next-door neighbour living alone.
The thing that the government cannot change are the fundamental values of our country. We are a country that looks out for one another. Committed to collective action to tackle injustice. Yet, we have a government that governs only for the wealthy, at the expense of the majority and vulnerable.
And so our country faces a crossroads in the wake of this current national crisis because of the way the Tories have been governing the country. Their whole artifice is one of political camouflage.
They have to hide who they really are. If they did not do so, they could not win another election. Their response to the global financial crisis was “we are all in it together”, “sharing the proceeds of growth”, “re-balancing the economy” and the “big society” as Cameron and Osborne often told us.
But the reality was different: austerity, stripping vital public services to the bone, kicking people when they are down and greater hardship for working people. All this while enabling the rich to get richer. The facts are clear: Since 2010, wages have fallen. Weekly earnings in real terms of the average UK worker has declined by 3% since 2010.
Many are now working longer hours, for less pay, and shamefully still live below the breadline. Jobs and opportunities in the labour market are increasingly being replaced by automation and technology. Yet skills and re-training is not available. Increasingly we are becoming divided – a “them” and “us” society. Those who believe they were born to rule, and the rest of us.
We must also not be hood-winked by the PR-slick Chancellor. The Tory-led Sunak post-Pandemic economic plans will lead to a K-shaped recovery. This will perpetuate the wealth inequality and the hardship that many people are already facing across the country. (see below) Unless there is a change in direction it will bring the death knell to many communities, disenfranchising and pushing them to the margins of society.
Labour cannot stand-by. Our task is four-fold.
Firstly, we need to reveal the real character of the Conservative Party.
Second we need to show that our values are the same as those of the British people. That we will attack entrenched privilege whilst standing on the side of the overwhelming majority of people who work hard, play by the rules, but are screwed by a system which does not work for them.
Third, we need to develop a transformational programme about how we reset our politics, our social arrangements and our economy.
Fourth, we need to re-root the Labour Movement in communities in the ways our socialist pioneers did over a century ago.
Above all, we should not hark-back to the policy book of the 1980s and nor should we embrace the failures of Blair neoliberalism. Reverting to a bland and failed settlement will not work. The banking crash and now the social fissures revealed by COVID-19 together mean that the next election must be about progressive change.
The Tories have no interest in change – their record shows this. As we know from crisis past, only Labour can deliver a new social and economic settlement. More importantly, it is only the Labour movement that can bring about the transformational change working people up and down the country are crying out for.
- This is the Jon Trickett ‘No Holding Back’ column. Jon is a regular Labour Outlook columnist alongside fellow Socialist Campaign Group MPs Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell & Kate Osborne.