IMF analysis recently found that people in the UK are seeing the biggest hit to household income of any Western European country. This is not a coincidence. After twelve years of Tory rule, the UK is the now most gas dependent country in Western Europe with the leakiest, draughtiest homes to boot.
These two facts are inseparable from the policies of the de facto party of state, which has consistently focused on rewarding its political and donor bases whilst putting off action on global challenges: from energy resilience to pandemics and the climate emergency.
David Cameron’s declaration that he was “cutting the Green crap” ushered in an era of myopic policy choices which are now proving disastrous: slashing investment in renewables, scrapping the zero carbon homes initiative for new builds, failing to deliver on retrofitting, subsidising fossil fuel producers and inexcusably refusing to build new onshore wind power. If we hadn’t done this, our gas imports would be 13% lower according to recent analysis by Carbon Brief – a saving of £5 billion.
We need to keep shouting about this and making it clear that the cost of living emergency we’re facing didn’t fall from the sky but has been engineered by twelve years of Tory policy choices. It is a scandal precipitated by an unprecedented transfer of wealth to the very richest in our society in the name of trickle-down economics.
Luckily, the Tories are making this very clear to us right now. The one redeeming feature of their latest budget is its clarification of exactly who they really represent: lower corporation tax rates, uncapping bankers’ bonuses whilst failing to rule out further benefits cuts, tax cuts for people who live off shares and stocks.
All this has created a crisis within a crisis which is wrecking the economy for all but the very richest with prices soaring, mortgages rising or being withdrawn, and the Bank of England having to shell out £65 billion (so far) to keep pension funds afloat.
The Tories failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining. Now they’re pissing on us and telling us it’s raining.
Not even the financial markets or the right-wing press have confidence in this budget, a fact that reflects not only its dismal prospects for growth but also a latent anxiety that the Tories really are giving away the game.
And no one voted for most of the things they are trying to do, there was no mention of tax cuts for the rich, more austerity, rolling back workers’ rights, or restarting fracking in their 2019 manifesto. Just 81,000 Conservative Party members put Liz Truss and her right-wing ideas into Downing Street. If she wants a mandate for these things, she needs to go back to the country and get one.
As the screeching u-turns leave us right back where we started, with millions of people struggling, we need to fight for an alternative for the millions, not the millionaires. That means fighting for transformative policies that will improve people’s lives, staying in Labour and putting pressure on the leadership to go further.
It means public investment that pays for itself instead of unfunded tax giveaways for the super rich.
It means ending our dependency on dangerous and dirty fossil fuels which fluctuate in price.
It means recognising that the cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use and launching a big home insulation programme.
It means windfall taxes on energy companies that last as long as the windfalls themselves.
It means taking suppliers into public ownership to ensure that suppliers are not extracting huge profits whilst energy prices are low only to turn to the public again when prices rise.
It means standing with our trade unions on the picket lines as they fight for real pay rises.
It means resisting efforts to play the working class off against itself whilst the rich get richer with attacks on migrants and people of colour.
But above all, it means booting out this Tory Government which will always put its rich mates ahead of delivering growth for the many and tackling the major issues of our time.
This article was first published by Labour Outlook on the 14th October 2022.