“There was very little in the statement at all – and it begs the question why did he bother to do it?”Rebecca Long Bailey
By Matt Willgress, Labour Outlook
On Wednesday, we interviewed Rebecca Long Bailey MP on the Spring Statement Rishi Sunak had just presented to Parliament amid the deepening cost-of-living and energy crises.
Not pulling her punches on how he had failed to offer any action to help the millions of households struggling, she said that the Spring Statement was “really bad for people all over the country who are facing the cost-of-living crisis [and] heard nothing to give them any comfort.”
In particular, there was no move to boost benefits such as Universal Credit, even though people reliant on these payments are facing a real terms cut.
In sum she argued that “there was very little in the statement at all – and it begs the question why did he bother to do it?”
Answering a question on what she thinks is most urgently needed to tackle the cost-of-living crisis now, Rebecca said that we need “immediate support to help people when they are facing exorbitant bills,” including through increasing Universal Credit in line with inflation, bold tax policies around wealth and capital gains taxes to help boost public spending, and an immediate windfall tax to help with the costs of energy.
On the issue of the energy crisis more broadly, she stressed that what was needed was both immediate measures in terms of the Labour Party’s position for cuts to VAT on energy bills and increasing the warm homes discount, plus public ownership and control, which is “really the only pragmatic solution” in dealing with the energy crisis.
She pointed out that the current situation “has come after decades of failed privatisation in our energy system, where we saw energy companies prioritising dividend extractions [for shareholders] over investment in infrastructure and renewables,” and they didn’t “set up funds to protect consumers against fluctuations in the energy market.”
In contrast to this, public ownership would mean that “you would be able to control the energy system,” developing and shaping it “in a way that would protect consumers rather than share holders’ interest,” plus giving energy security.
The final question was in reference to the mass sacking of P&O workers over the last week, with Rebecca saying that “what has happened to the workers at P&O is absolutely scandalous,” we must firmly say that it is not acceptable to let any company treat workers like P&O have and that “if it can happen to P&O workers it can happen to anyone.”
She added that, “the first thing the government needs to do is demand these jobs are re-instated,” and that “if we don’t see re-instatement very quickly, then frankly I would like to see the Government move to take P&O under public ownership.”
It also showed why the labour movement must continue our campaign for making fire-and-rehire illegal she concluded.