System change is the way out of the crisis into which neoliberalism has driven us – Jon Trickett MP on #Budget2023


“The answer is to secure an enduring shift in the balance of wealth & power in favour of working people.”

Jon Trickett MP

Jon Trickett MP spoke at the Arise Festival event for a #PeoplesBudget on March 13. We are delighted to exclusively publish his speech below.

There’s a lot of talk about the current economic situation being created by the war in Ukraine and the Covid pandemic.

Of course these two processes have contributed to recent turmoil in the markets and in the economy.

WATCH: Investment not cuts – the #peoplesbudget we need, hosted by Arise Festival and the Labour Assembly Against Austerity on March 13th, 2023.

But neither the war nor Covid were transformative in creating a new economic system.  The contours remain the same as they were before and our reaction ought to be as it was before the two crises.

Let’s recall that between the banking collapse and the arrival of the pandemic, the wealth of the richest 1000 people increased by £538bn and stock exchange values by £2 trillion. 

Meanwhile wages fell by £433bn – A direct and huge transfer of income and wealth from working people to the richest.

At the same time, millions fell into poverty, and services were cut to the bone.

It wasn’t an accident of economic history, it was how the system works.

The truth is that the wealth of the country is more or less continually increasing because we all produce more goods and services.  But what happens to the additional wealth?  It goes into the pockets of the wealthiest.

Has all this changed since Covid and the war?

The answer is no.

We know that working people, pensioners and people on benefits are increasingly struggling to survive as prices shoot up.  You only have to go to supermarkets to see what is happening.  Prices of so many goods are no longer attainable for the poor. 

As the leader of Unite the Union pointed out this morning, the profits of the FTSE 350 companies almost doubled in the first half of 2022. Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda doubled their combined profits between 2019 and 2021.

In other words – unattainable price rises for many, soaring profits for a few.

In my constituency, many have now voluntarily cut off their own energy supplier because they can’t pay their bills.

One man bought a load of those little barbecue sets in supermarkets at the end of the summer for a bargain price.

He is now engaging in the horrifyingly dangerous practice of lighting them indoors in an effort to keep warm in the winter.

A mother went to the local clothes bank with her five children because she couldn’t afford to put shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.

You can bet your life that neither Sunak nor Hunt, in whose hands our economy lies, have never been in the situation which face millions today.  We know that for a fact don’t we.  They are both millionaires.

The PM’s gravest personal concern appears not to be how to clothe his children.  He is too busy changing the local electricity grid to heat his swimming pool.

Meanwhile, Hunt sold his company for £14m in 2017.

It is time to fight back.

We see more than a glimmer of hope in the current wave of collective actions when tens of thousands of workers have decided that they will fight back.

In many cases the strikes are winning major victories.  Collective action does work. At Luton Airport Unite members won a 28% pay rise. At Croydon Hospital the porters and domestics in the GMB won 24%. Liverpool dockers in Unite won 18.5% and the firefighters of the FBU have just won 12%.

We should all be in a union and support them when they recommend action. It’s our task as socialists also to act in solidarity with those in other industries when they are taking action. When it’s our turn we will get their support and when it’s their turn, we owe them our support

Visiting picket lines at the moment is a very enlightening experience.  The support of the wider public who pass by is overwhelming.

However, the fear must be that the wealthy will find a way around the current trades union victories.  They will surely simply safeguard their profits by increasing prices.

In the end we need a political solution.

It is impossible to imagine that current problems facing so many working people will be resolved by purely ameliorative steps. Like giving aspirin to a cancer sufferer.

Let me give you an example.  The upcoming budget is being trumpeted as providing “back to work”  incentives. They want us to focus on welfare benefits but the problems are profound: rapacious employers, zero hours, agency labour, under-employment, false self employment among other malpractices.  So, if we are going to tackle the underlying problems of the British labour market, the answer is to secure an enduring shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people.

Because the issues we are talking about are systemic in character.

You can see that the owners of big wealth know how to protect themselves in the face of major challenges such as the banking crisis, Covid and so forth.

If this is the case, then whilst engaging in the fight for incomes, for schools and hospitals, we must offer system change as the way out of the present chronic crisis into which neo-liberal economics has driven the country.

  • Jon Trickett is the MP for Hemsworth and a regular contributor to Labour Outlook. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • You can watch the Investment not cuts – the #peoplesbudget we need event in full here.
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Featured image credit: Jon Trickett MP

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