The money was there for corporations but not for workers – Interview with Rebecca Long Bailey on the #Budget2023

“The budget should have done two things: it should have insulated people from the cost of living crisis; and it should have also invested in a real industrial strategy. Neither happened.”

Rebecca Long Bailey MP

By Sam Browse and Matt Willgress

As the debate on Jeremy Hunt’s Spring budget concludes, Labour Outlook met with Rebecca Long-Bailey – Labour’s former Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – to discuss what it meant for addressing the cost of living crisis.

She said, “the budget should have done two things: it should have insulated people from the cost of living crisis and tackled poverty pay in the process; and it should have also invested in a real industrial strategy to reverse the decline in living standards that we’ve seen over the last 13 years. Neither happened.”

“When the Chancellor spoke about getting people back to work, there was no mention of poverty pay. There was no mention of funding our NHS properly – because a lot of people who are off work who are sick and struggling are not receiving the care and support that they need

“There was no mention of how taxation was going to be made fairer in this country. What the Chancellor could have done was tax oil and gas companies more robustly. They’ve been raking in billions in the last few months alone.

“And there was no talk of a wealth tax, even though now would be a critical time to do that in order to give our public services the funding boost they need.”

Asked about the energy crisis, she said “the energy price gap was frozen for another 3 months at £2500 but that’s still up in real terms on what people were paying originally. If you’d said that and then said I guarantee that energy prices are going to come down because wholesale energy prices are falling, that could have provided some hope for people.

“But he’s not going to do that because our energy market is broken. We’ve seen rampant profiteering over the last 40 years from various sectors of the energy market.

“The real solution to all of this is to bring large parts of our energy network into public ownership so that we have more control to bring bills down – but also to invest in the critical infrastructure that we need for the future, especially when we’re looking to drive up investment in renewable technology and renewable energy.”

Responding to questions about the relationship between the budget and the government’s so-called Illegal Immigration Bill, the former Shadow Secretary of State said, “we’ve seen this stoking of division at a time of deep economic turmoil. In the past twelve years we’ve suffered a crisis of living standards, we’ve seen wages fall, and public services destroyed, and I worry that certain people are trying to push the debate towards trying to blame refugees.

“But it wasn’t refugees who sold off council houses and refused to provide enough funding to build new ones to replace them. It wasn’t refugees who starved our public services and NHS of funding and brought them to the point of collapse. And it wasn’t refugees who proposed dramatically cutting taxes for the wealthiest in society while the most vulnerable were suffering and caused economic turmoil as a result. All of that was the Government.”

She urged people to oppose the government’s draconian anti-protest laws and, in closing, told listeners that “we have to coalesce about a radical agenda. People are depressed and disenchanted with politics at the moment and they need something to come along and give them that vision of hope.”

Featured image: Official Parliamentary Portrait of Rebecca Long Bailey MP. Photo credit: public domain image from parliament.uk

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