“When people are standing up to the policies of this government, we must stand with them. If we give workers taking strike action against pay cuts the impression that we are turning our backs on them, that sends the wrong message to millions of people.”
By Richard Burgon MP
Liz Truss spent years carefully crafting Thatcher-style photo ops to woo the Tory base. Just days into her new government, it’s clear she wants to govern as Thatcher too.
From describing tax cuts for the richest as “fair”, to briefings about a “bonfire of workers’ rights” and a new push for fracking, this government will put corporate profits before people’s needs whatever the consequences.
But as the Tories deepen their attacks on the majority of people, trade unions and social movements are fighting back, making it clear that enough is enough.
The RMT and CWU unions, alongside others, are rightly standing up to the Tory view that most people should accept becoming ever poorer while the wealthy get ever richer. They have my full solidarity and we need to build the widest possible support for their strike actions over the coming months.
It’s very encouraging that Labour is currently ahead in the polls. But we cannot be complacent. Ed Miliband repeatedly led David Cameron and lost in 2015. Kinnock was expected to win in 1992 but lost after the Tories dumped Thatcher.
We must never take any voters for granted. When people are standing up to the policies of this government, we must stand with them. If we give workers taking strike action against pay cuts the impression that we are turning our backs on them, that sends the wrong message to millions of people.
We need to use every minute ahead of the next election to show people that Labour is on their side. Key to that is doing all we can to force the Tories to drop as much of their harmful policy agenda as possible. Real change means our communities need a Labour government. But people can’t wait for a general election that could be over two years away to get the protection they need from this economic crisis.
Where Labour has offered a strong lead – from the Windfall Tax to energy price freezes – we have forced the Tory government into important policy changes. We need to see much more of that. When we force such changes, it provides important financial support to people. It also registers with millions of people that Labour has their backs and would deliver for them in government and so boosts our support.
There are a whole range of other policies from public ownership of energy and other utilities, to a £15 an hour minimum wage and wealth taxes on the super-rich that we should be putting forward now as popular solutions to this cost-of-living emergency. Many are becoming the new common sense with strong support in the polls – including from Tory voters.
Our system is going through crisis after crisis as a result of decades of neoliberalism. Millions of people are paying the price. The more we put forward a real alternative to this broken model over the coming months, the better chance we have of stopping Truss’ reactionary agenda in its tracks and of ensuring she is booted out at the general election.
- Richard Burgon is the MP for Leeds East and the Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) of MPs. You can follow him on Facebook, twitter and Instagram; and follow the SCG on twitter here.
- This article was originally published in print in the Labour Party Conference 2022 special edition of Labour Outlook – you can read it here.