“The Thatcherite ideas rammed down people’s throats for decades are on the ropes. It wasn’t long ago that we were told the state should play no role in the economy. After the banking crisis & now this crisis, nobody can seriously argue that.”Richard Burgon
This crisis has not only shone a spotlight on the huge inequalities in our society – it has deepened them.
It’s been a good crisis for some. British billionaires increased their wealth by £106bn during the pandemic. But it’s been a disaster for the majority.
Tens of thousands of people needlessly lost their lives. We’ve seen a growing corporate takeover of government and the stench of corruption as billions in Covid contracts are handed to those with friends in high places.
We’ve seen the crisis used as cover for further outsourcing – with Serco and others put in charge of Test and Trace.
We’ve seen an education recovery fund that gives working class kids just £1 per day. And we’ve seen the crisis used to drive down wages and conditions through “fire and rehire”.
This crisis must be the moment when we ditch the free-market model that has failed people and planet and replace it with a better society.
I am optimistic we can win the progressive change needed because the public agree with us. Polls show people want a more inclusive and equal society out of this crisis.
And I am optimistic because the Thatcherite ideas rammed down people’s throats for decades are on the ropes. It wasn’t long ago that we were told the state should play no role in the economy. After the banking crisis and now this crisis, nobody can seriously argue that.
So change is in the air. But if left to its own devices that change will mean a Tory Party using the state to bail out the billionaires while leaving the rest of society to sink.
So we on the left need to be winning the argument – in our party, in our unions, in our communities for a progressive way out of this crisis.
The wind is in our sails. When even a centrist US President is announcing the end of trickle down economics, a massive public investment programme and taxes on the super-rich, then that’s the very least Labour should be arguing for.
Even the Tories have had to adopt the language of ‘levelling up’ and ‘building back better’. Of course that’s empty rhetoric.
But the left can use that space to fight for a better society – from a wealth tax on the super-rich, to a Green New Deal that means we don’t deal with the climate crisis as badly as the Covid crises. For a National Care Service that treats older people with dignity and for a 15% pay raise for NHS staff. For a minimum wage of £10 per hour, for millions of new council homes and for so much more, this is the moment for progressives to seize the agenda and fight for a society that serves the many, not the few.
- This article is part of Labour Outlook‘s special 8 page Summer Update produced for the June 26 demonstrations against the Tories. Read & download at https://labouroutlook.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Labour-Outlook-june-2021.pdf
- Richard Burgon is MP for Leeds East, Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs & a monthly columnist for Labour Outlook.