The government is not even pretending to have an answer to the dire situation most of us face. Workers can’t wait for it to tackle the deepening cost-of-living crisis – we have to take action ourselves, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE
REPORTS this week — a fortnight before the Chancellor is due to give his Spring Statement — confirmed that households in Britain are set to suffer the worst overall decline in living standards for nearly 50 years.
Yet what is noticeable from the Tories is a complete lack of urgency when it comes to tackling the drastic and deepening cost-of-living crisis.
Millions of people face rocketing fuel bills, tax hikes and rising food prices, yet the Tories do nothing, showing that deepening poverty and insecurity are — as usual — not as important to the Tories as ensuring bigger private profits for their corporate billionaire backers.
Immediate measures that could easily be taken, such as reversing the recent £20 a week cut to universal credit or cancelling the proposed National Insurance hikes, are needed to help millions of people now and should be followed up with a wide range of measures to invest in the future and boost the economy.
These could include extra resources to create universal, comprehensive public services, ending cuts and privatisation, plus a mass council housebuilding programme to help tackle the housing crisis.
Others are outlined in the excellent Workers Can’t Wait list of demands being circulated by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity, which nearly 15,000 people have signed up to.
One way to finance such measures would be to increase tax on the richest in society and the biggest corporations.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, to give just one example, has outlined how £200 winter fuel payments could be doubled and the £20 cut in universal credit be reinstated as part of a £12.8 billion package of measures which would be paid for just by scrapping corporate tax relief this year.
As he argued, “A comprehensive rescue package is needed to provide people with the security they need to avoid the worries and hardship many are now facing.”
Alongside this, the left needs to be at the forefront of arguing for an alternative economic strategy as a whole, based on investment and an end to austerity for good.
As I have argued many times in this column before, investment not cuts must be our central theme, as nearly all serious economists now agree that investment is not just the most important factor in economic growth, but outweighs all others put together.
This is why, for example, when the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition first took power in 2010 and drastically cut back on the last Labour government’s investment spending, it pushed our economy back into recession.
Since then — and continuing now — we have seen a continued refusal to organise an investment-led recovery, with a strong role for public investment and public ownership alongside it and we will face deeper and deeper problems in the years ahead if this is not corrected.
What is needed then is massive investment in a better future with full employment and a radical Green New Deal to the fore.
The left must have a clear, coherent alternative that can both restore Labour’s economic credibility and transform our economy into one that works for the 99 per cent rather than the 1 per cent.
While we enter the public debate around the economic agenda we need, it’s also important to understand that we can’t — and mustn’t — wait for the next election to cross our fingers and hope for change.
We need to build mass resistance to the Tories now, including by supporting the regular actions being called by the People’s Assembly against the Tories and their cost-of-living crisis. All Morning Star readers should be part of them.
Sign the Workers Can’t Wait petition at www.mstar.link/workerscantwait.
Support the People’s Assembly at www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk.