“With the Downing Street revolving doors in full swing, there is a depressing recurring theme: a chronic lack of action to tackle the cost of living crisis throwing millions into poverty, debt and desperation.”
By Samuel Sweek
They say a week is a long time in politics but these days things seem to change by the hour.
Westminster bubble psychodrama has meant we’ve seen an unprecedented four Prime Ministers in three years, and four Chancellors in as many months.
With the Downing Street revolving doors in full swing, there is a depressing recurring theme: a chronic lack of action to tackle the cost of living crisis throwing millions into poverty, debt and desperation.
The reality is that there is a distinct lack of urgency to get a grip of the biggest set of economic problems faced by working class people because the solutions potentially come at the cost of an invitation to the next corporate PR junket or a generous donation at the next election.
British politics is a club built on old boys’ networks, dinner parties and repaying favours. There is a concerted effort to shut out working class people and others who may threaten the established order simply because it is not in the interest of the 1% for our democracy to be functional.
There has been a class war in Britain for centuries and it has, certainly and significantly, come to a head this year.
Whilst millions of people make the devastating choice between heating or eating, punished by decades of low wages, pay suppression and crippling inflation, the CEOs and shareholders of dirty fossil fuel giants take home record pay and profits.
How can it be right that, in one of the richest countries in the world, there are over 4 million children living in food, fuel and clothing insecurity? Even in traditionally more affluent suburbia and market towns like Huntingdon, where I have been a councillor for the past four years, the child poverty rate sits at close to 25%.
The coronation of Rishi Sunak cements the wealthy elite’s grip on Westminster politics. There has only been three Prime Ministers since Winston Churchill who didn’t graduate from Oxford University, and none have amassed a greater fortune than Sunak.
He is, after all, the richest man ever elected to Parliament, and dedicated his stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer implementing a programme of cuts and austerity for the 99%, with tax breaks for his rich mates in the 1%.
In April this year it was also non-consequentially exposed that Sunak’s wife was claiming non-domicile status, allowing her to save millions of pounds in tax on dividends collected from her family’s IT business empire.
A painful contrast to the Tories’ ‘strivers and scroungers’ legislation that has forced a record number of people to dependency on food banks and unscrupulous lending, as well as a relentless demonisation from the complicit British media.
And now, without debate or mandate from the electorate, Sunak has free reign to continue the class protectionist policies that have defended the financial interests of the wealthiest in society at the expense of the rest of us.
But it is the rest of us who have the power to change things.
Up and down the country, workers from across sectors have stood together on picket lines and fought for fair pay, conditions and futures. A victory for one is a victory for all, and many unions have secured inflation-busting pay rises for their members. I believe that more will follow.
Nothing is too good for the working class. The Labour Party simply must capitalise on its seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls to build a radical, hopeful and socialist alternative to the past twelve years of Tory corruption.
That alternative must empower communities and not bureaucrats to choose their local representatives in Parliament and simply must include full public ownership of energy, water, mail and rail to reduce household bills and the soaring cost of living.
We must take inspiration from those in the biggest set of industrial actions in modern times and organise in every corner of our communities, create local solidarity networks and, without complacency, make the case for a world that puts people before profits.
We have the chance to defeat the Tories and rebalance the system in favour of the working class. We cannot miss this opportunity, the time to get organised is now.
- Samuel Sweek is a Labour Councillor and a member of Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG). You can follow him on twitter here.