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Sunak’s problem is not a lack of funds, but a total detachment from ordinary people. #SpendingReview #PeoplesPlan

“Behind his shiny veneer and BBC superhero cartoons Sunak represents the same old Nasty Party.”

Sean Waters

Sean Waters, Chair of Sussex University Labour writes on why we need to campaign against poverty pay and for a #PeoplesPlan to protect jobs and livelihoods.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the failings of the neoliberal system, forcing our government to steer from catastrophe to catastrophe, with blunders over lockdown, test & trace and corruption just the tip of the iceberg. It has also revived debates around the acceptable level of poverty in the fifth richest country in the world.

It is unacceptable for a man with the wealth of Rishi “12 houses” Sunak to tell those working hard for low pay that they have to be forced into financial insecurity to pay for a crisis exacerbated by his incompetent colleagues, and profited on by their rich mates. For all the Tory talk about making work pay, over half of people living in poverty in Britain are in a household where at least one person has a job. If the government fail to introduce a safety net for earnings, this number will only increase and force those already in financial insecurity even further into poverty. A failure to provide these protections constitutes a clear attack on low paid workers, many of whom are now considered key workers.  

Moreover, without assurance that workers will be able to pay their bills whilst off sick, we run the risk of encouraging people to endanger themselves and others by ignoring guidance on self-isolating, just to provide for their families. It is fundamentally unacceptable and against the “cradle to grave” values of our health service that anyone should be so financially insecure that they can’t be off sick.

In response, as the #PeoplesPlan which has been signed by over 15,000 Labour members, says “We must demand that the government legislate for a minimum earnings guarantee at a decent level & raise Statutory Sick Pay to living wage levels.”

The reality is the Government is willing to pay billions to private contractors and have gone to great lengths to protect the pockets of landlords. The problem, therefore, is not a lack of funds, but a total detachment from ordinary people. This is why Rishi Sunak failed to answer when questioned whether £95.85 is enough to live on; he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t care.

The Tories are pushing the economic burden of Covid-19 onto hard working families, showing that behind his shiny veneer and BBC superhero cartoons Sunak represents the same old Nasty Party. As we know the changes in the Tory party remain cosmetic –  whilst Labour are out of government, we have to force concessions and be encouraged by our success every time the Tories are bullied into another U-Turn.

Coronavirus has the potential to represent a crossroads in politics, it has shown that the important people in our country are not the politicians or billionaires but the nurses, postmen and bus drivers. This presents an opportunity to mould discourse toward putting public good over private profit, giving those workers a more equitable distribution of the wealth they create.

The left has a role in articulating this vision and constructing a movement to push for it. These modest policy proposals represent a smaller part of a more comprehensive Peoples Plan which can be read in full and signed here.

  • Sign Richard Burgon’s petition to stop workers being paid less than the minimum wage during the pandemic here.

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