Unleashing Austerity 2.0 would be an insult to the people of this country – Rebecca Long Bailey MP


“The results of 12 years of austerity driven Conservative Government already speak for themselves. For more than a decade, our public services have been driven into the ground by Tory cuts.”

By Rebecca Long Bailey MP

In his first speech outside number 10, Rishi Sunak our new Prime Minister said that there are “difficult decisions to come”. A clear indication that public sector spending cuts are on their way.

Of course, he might try his best to distance himself from the economic car crash that was Liz Truss’ time in office but it is important to note that he continues to represent a staunchly neoliberal Thatcherite platform. An ex-hedge fund manager who boasted to Tunbridge Wells Tories only months ago that he had deliberately diverted public funds from deprived urban areas to their affluent, leafy towns instead.

And then there’s Jeremy Hunt, his pick for Chancellor, who has already alluded to another round of austerity shrouded in a non-existent magical unicorn he calls ‘compassionate conservatism’. Lest we forget, he co-authored a pamphlet calling for the NHS to be replaced by a US style insurance system, oversaw years of cuts and historically low funding as Health Secretary and now it is likely he wants to impose even harsher cuts. An economic knight in shining armour, he is not.

Unleashing Austerity 2.0 would be an insult to the people of the country. They did not cause this economic crisis, they are struggling to survive. They can’t afford to heat their homes, they can’t pay their mortgages and rent, and they are rightly very angry.

How dare this Government expect the people of this country to pay for its flagrant economic vandalism!

And worse still, after the second undemocratically installed Prime Minister in the space of a few months, many feel that it is morally bankrupt for the Government to believe that they can inflict such a pernicious agenda upon the people of the country without seeking a fresh democratic mandate.

We need a general election urgently, but it seems the new Prime Minister will do everything in his power to avoid his own party’s electoral oblivion. He knows that the public realise that there is simply nothing left to cut without cutting vital public services themselves and he also knows that the public are well aware by now that austerity is not the way to build a strong economy and tackle inequality.

The results of 12 years of austerity driven Conservative Government already speak for themselves.

For more than a decade, our public services have been driven into the ground by Tory cuts. In my own constituency, Salford council saw its support grants slashed from £450m to £203m, impacting severely on frontline services.

As a result, lives were destroyed. Life expectancy stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and even fell for the most deprived women in society.

And it didn’t deliver the promised economic benefits: the UK sunk into a double-dip recession and productivity growth was the worst since the 18th century. We endured a lost decade which failed to deliver any improvements in living standards and it’s now commonplace to see working people forced to queue to collect parcels from foodbanks at the end of their shifts.

Let’s be clear, the trademark of the last 12 years is a Government who has actively sought to prioritise the richest at the expense of the rest of everyone else. Whether it was Truss and her attempt to give tax cuts to the wealthiest during the most severe cost of living crisis in decades, the Johnson Government’s ‘chumocracy’ over covid contracts worth billions whilst many workers were denied even basic sick pay, or Cameron’s Government promising the rich massive tax breaks while hammering the poorest with spending cuts.

The people of this country are in no mood to accept more of the same. They deserve a General Election, so voters can have the chance to reject this rotten Tory government and its planned ‘new age of austerity’.

To solve the crisis caused by the Tories, Britain needs a long-term plan to grow and rebalance the economy by investing in quality well paid jobs, infrastructure and public services, through a ‘Green New Deal’. It is clear that wise public investment aids economic recovery, increasing our tax base, driving the deficit down and private investment up.

Funding public services through higher taxes on oil and gas profits, introducing a wealth tax, as well as a £15 per hour living wage to tackle ‘In Work’ poverty, and uprating pensions and benefits in line with inflation would also reduce inequality and boost growth.

Even the International Monetary Fund have stated that “lower net inequality is robustly correlated with faster and more durable growth” and that “the combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution are on average pro-growth”.  This is sensible long term investment in our country’s future, and it’s not even particularly left wing or radical when we look at what’s being done elsewhere around the world.

The next general election will therefore be a watershed moment, it will allow our country to turn its back on a decade of austerity and governance in the interests of greed and to look towards a Government who is dedicated to investing in our country’s future.

Labour must now secure its place as that Government, one who rejects this era of broken and dysfunctional economics and places itself as the one party who truly has the economic interests of the people of this country at its heart.

  • Rebecca Long Bailey is the MP for Salford and Eccles and a regular contributor for Labour Outlook. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
Featured image: Rebecca Long Bailey MP speaks at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity fringe event at Labour Party Conference 2022. Photo credit: Labour Outlook archive

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