Sunak hits public sector workers where it hurts.

Rishi Sunak has rolled over and “spaffed up the wall” a bloated defence funding boost that won’t address the likes of veterans sleeping on the street, but will rectify our distinct lack of laser weapons and “defend the realm”. And now, he’s decided the people who should bear the cost of the crisis.

The Tories lampooned Labour for the audacity of proposing upper bracket tax rises, for those earning £80k a year or more, meaning 5% of British earners. Now, we hear whispers of resorting to the sort of tax rises we must avoid: tax rises on middle income or lower income working Brits; that is in no way a progressive policy.

Simultaneously, the meat cleavers are being retrieved and we’re hearing public sector pay must take a hit. This is so tone deaf it’s parody. Yes, they’ll exclude some NHS and healthcare staff because if they didn’t there’d be some sort of revolt and a mass exodus from the *already understaffed* service, but nurses aren’t where key workers stop.

What about teachers, cleaners, people who take out the bins, people who sweep the streets, people who operate our railway junctions, and all the people who’ve kept the country ticking along for this horrendous year of suffering?

Rishi Sunak thinks they should pay for the coronavirus crisis, and he want to erode solidarity by making public sector workers out to be on bloated pay packets; factually incorrect in almost all cases with notable exceptions.

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are resorting to taking recommendations from rightwing thinktanks, ditching an agenda of investment in favour of an agenda of squeezing and prudence. There is a heavy public appetite for investment, and (while also being economically illiterate) they’re making a serious political blunder if they pursue this to its inevitable conclusion.

We’re on a crash course for Austerity-Lite, austerity through the back door- Labour 2015 manifesto type austerity (how the Overton Window has shifted, eh). This means two things:

  1. This is a huge huge opportunity for Labour and it’s time to shift from managerial competence to a compelling vision of big investment, throwing caution to the winds and debating head on the deficit hawks and their snake oil agenda.
  2. This is something we need to highlight. The left needs to call it out, and the SCG needs a clear media strategy and start reacquainting with the public in a more polished fashion and make the post-COVID case for their policies. We need to whip up enough outrage at this for it to become politically untenable for the govt, and politically appealing for Labour to go big.

The Tories never changed, and unless we scare them off this course, Austerity-Lite is back on the table.

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Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.