“The elites may feel at ease with Labour’s unshakable commitment to their fiscal rules, but it will be little comfort to the millions of people using foodbanks.”Mark Serwotka, PCS
By Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary
At last month’s TUC Congress, the phrase that dominated above all was that Britain is broken and is in crisis. It’s a crisis that requires urgent and radical action, not simply tinkering around the edges. The Labour Party’s current policies won’t provide the fundamental change needed, and unless they change course, they will be failing millions of ordinary people.
The bottom line is that we need to get the Tories out after everything they’ve done to this country. The misery, suffering and despair after thirteen years is unimaginable, but this doesn’t give the Labour Party a free pass. It’s precisely because of how bad things are that we need a vision of hope for the future, with a radical government working alongside radical unions. The best they can offer is “We’re not the Tories”. It’s just not good enough and falls woefully short.
As a bare minimum, an incoming Labour government should invest in public services (including above-inflation pay rises), end outsourcing, nationalise all key industries, reform social security and repeal all anti-trade union laws. Not only are these policies massively popular, but they will also rebuild our economy and provide the growth that so much of the Labour Party’s strategy is based upon.
Labour says that tough choices once in government will prevent them from implementing policies such as these. It’s an argument that just doesn’t wash, not least because the language of tough choices echoes that of George Osborne in 2010, as he unleashed a devastating wave of austerity that has continued to this day and as things stand, will continue under a Labour government.
When Labour talks about these tough choices, there’s one example that is more worrying than most. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has ruled out a wealth tax while at the same time, the party wouldn’t scrap the two-child limit in government. Forcing families with two or more children to live in poverty rather than tax the rich more isn’t a tough choice, it’s simply an immoral one.
Underpinning Labour’s strategy is the commitment to their fiscal rules, as they attempt to portray themselves as the party of sound money management. This fiscal conservatism is being used as cover to distance themselves from fundamental change and to make it clear to those at the top that they’ve got nothing to worry about under a Labour government.
This may curry favour with wealthy donors but it’s ordinary people who will continue to suffer in the absence of radical change. The elites may feel at ease with Labour’s unshakable commitment to their fiscal rules, but it will be little comfort to the millions of people using foodbanks, or the families sitting in cold dark homes because they can’t afford heating or electricity.
Something else the party is short on is trust. Keir Starmer’s ten election pledges from 2020 have long been discarded and with each passing week, another policy is ditched. I was in the TUC Congress Hall last month when Angela Rayner pledged to raise statutory sick pay and ban zero-hours contracts. This was met with a standing ovation but less than three days later, the pledge was binned. It’s another let down and workers deserve so much better.
Despite all this, Labour looks set for victory at the next general election. And with this month’s Labour Party Conference likely to be their last before the election, the company they’re keeping says a lot. The red carpet is being rolled out for weapons manufacturers, fossil fuel companies and private health firms. An event is even being sponsored and hosted by Deliveroo, a company notorious for its union-busting across the world. So you have to ask yourself the question, whose side would a Labour government be on?
Away from the movers and shakers exerting their influence at the top of the party, it’s striking that the inner machinations lower down in the party aren’t covered in the media in the same way as they were between 2015 and 2019. Locally, reports of candidate selection stitch-ups have been widespread and whole executives replaced, reportedly at the demand of Labour HQ. They’ve run roughshod over party rules to turf out those they deem undesirable and replaced them with those who tow the party line.
If Labour were to get elected, they can’t treat the civil service – where PCS members work – like its own plaything. It’s one thing to run the Labour Party like this but it’s another thing altogether to run the country like it.
With Labour on the cusp of power after thirteen years of Tory chaos, this should be a period of optimism, but a vision of a brighter future isn’t there. What the people of this country need is a Labour government that will be different, will be bold and will invest in our communities. After everything people have been through, it’s what they deserve.
- This article appears in the special Labour Outlook hard-copy bulletin for Autumn 2023. Download and read it here.
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