2nd July 2017
Protesters demand an end to austerity – London 1st July 2017
To say that top Tories are revolting is hardly news worthy of banner headlines. To say that they are in revolt, over the lack of investment in the public sector, is altogether something else. Following the recent General Election the penny has finally dropped for many Tories that, whatever their views about austerity, it is not a vote winner. One national Sunday weekly suggests that Tories are joining a “chorus…of demands for a radical state overhaul for public services as Cabinet ministers and senior Conservative MPs backed higher pay for millions of NHS workers, more cash for schools and a “national debate” on student debt.”
The paucity of the Tory manifesto for the election was breathtaking, especially when contrasted with the bold and imaginative programme which Labour put forward, central to which was the message that austerity is not working, is not desirable and is not even necessary. The outcome for the Tories is that they are in the embarrassing position of having to steal some of Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes. They may balk at the full wardrobe but will certainly have a close look at anything they think may make them look respectable again in front of the electorate.
Since the election the Tories have stumbled from one crisis to another while the Labour campaign machine has kept rolling on. Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at the Glastonbury festival last weekend drew stormy applause from thousands of young people when he proclaimed,
“Politics is actually about everyday life. It’s about all of us, what we dream, what we want, what we achieve and what we want for everybody else.”
Corbyn demonstrated that the Labour manifesto slogan, “For the many, not the few”, still has resonance. In London yesterday thousands took to the streets to protest against ongoing austerity. Not having to comply with its electoral ‘balance’ obligations the BBC appeared not to notice this protest. They did not report that Jeremy Corbyn described the Grenfell Tower disaster as a “towering inferno in which the poor died in the richest Borough in Britain.”
The media have been slow to expose the fact that, of the £55m collected in rents by Kensington and Chelsea Council, only £40m was re-invested back into Council housing, something the ring fenced housing revenue account is supposed to guarantee. More could be made of the fact that Kensington and Chelsea Council have £249m in reserves, more than the annual budget of many Councils in the country. Perhaps the public inquiry will reveal all. We shall see.
As ever there are still voices within the Labour Party looking to undermine the unity which the election result should have engendered. The Chuka Umunna amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which sought to rule out withdrawal from the EU without a deal and “set out proposals to remain within the customs union and single market” was an unnecessary tactical diversion at a moment when maximum opposition to the ongoing austerity crisis should have been the priority. The shallow posturing of Umunna and those around him is a measure of the extent to which there remains much personal antipathy towards Corbyn beneath the surface with many Labour MPs.
Fighting with one hand tied behind his back however is not new for Corbyn. The engagement of the wider movement and direct appeal to voters, which has carried him so far, is likely to remain central to his approach.
The Tory deal with the loyalist thugs of the DUP, and a remarkable ‘money tree’ discovery of £1 billion over two years for Northern Ireland, has gotten Theresa May through a Queen’s Speech and into a summer recess. For many Tories it is only the lack of an alternative candidate, credible or otherwise, that has got her this far.
Increasing pressure from the public against austerity could yet make it a long hot summer for the Tories. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, organisers of yesterday’s London demonstration, are calling for mass mobilisation at the Tory party conference in Manchester on 1st October, to demand an end to austerity. It will be interesting to see how close to an election that date is and whether Theresa May will be anything more than a piece of Tory history.