5th February 2022
Shoppers search for that levelled up bargain
If the policies and practices of the British government were not littered with such tragic outcomes for working class people they would have to be regarded as a comedy. Schooled in the finest and most expensive institutions the ruling class can muster, the Eton heavy Cabinet, having rid themselves of Head Girl, Theresa May, could do no better than put the boy who sniggers at the back of the classroom in charge, in the form of Boris Johnson.
For those who do not move in such ‘enlightened’ circles it was clear from the off that Johnson, as with any other Tory Prime Minister, would have nothing to offer the working class other than poverty, insecurity and broken promises. In this, if in nothing else, Johnson and his diminishing band of cohorts, can at least claim to be consistent.
Yet they still attempt to pedal the illusion that, if they are patently not of the people, they can be trusted to be for the people. That this is nonsense, propagated by every Tory huckster since time began, is unfortunately no guarantee that some will not fall for it. Sadly, Johnson would not have an 80+ majority in the House of Commons without that being the case.
The Levelling Up White Paper, published this week, is the latest Tory attempt to hoodwink the people. The Minister in charge of this nonsense is Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, who has claimed that the British economy had been ‘like a jet firing on only one engine’.
Gove goes on to proclaim the virtues of the strategy claiming that,
“This White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery. This will not be an easy task and it won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”
Gove fails to point out however that ‘how far you can go’ will still depend upon which class you are born into and how fast a car, helicopter or private jet, presumably with more than one engine, that you can afford!
So, what does this marvel of modern equality contain?
First off there is more bureaucratic dismantling of local government through an expansion of the Heseltine style city Mayor idea, imported from the US. This will consist of nine county deals, two new combined authorities and a host of new powers for existing metro mayors in England.
The Government has also pledged a ‘simplified, long-term funding settlement’ for devolution while the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the replacement for European regional development funds, will be decentralised across the whole of the country.
In existing mayoral areas, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands will become ‘trailblazers’ with extended powers, providing a blueprint for others to follow. The North East Combined Authority is also due to expand.
For all of those huddled up in a rented flat, faced with the choice of whether to heat or eat, this will all surely come as a welcome relief! A new layer of government with an Elected Mayor should be just the ticket!
In addition to the devolution plans the White Paper outlines proposals, marketed as 12 ‘missions’ to be met by 2030, to increase education and skills attainment, boost research and development, improve transport and broadband, and improve pay and employment. In theory, tackling all of the things which have been cut back or reduced following more than a decade of Tory austerity.
Of course, with inflation now bordering on rampant levels the Bank of England is already whimpering about pay deals being too high, so it will be no surprise if that one is the first to go out of the window. Let’s face it, why would levelling up prioritise giving people better pay and conditions?
There is little in the government’s levelling up missions to disagree with. Who does not want increased life expectancy, better schools, better transport, better housing, better broadband connectivity? In short it is a wish list of things that obviously need to be addressed but have suffered because the private sector has been more concerned with making profits for shareholders than meeting people’s needs.
Nothing in the proposals suggest that putting the private sector first will change. Nothing suggests that the energy companies, making vast profits on the back of hiked up energy prices, will be nationalised. Nothing suggests a more effective and efficient rail network, publicly owned rather than in private hands. Nothing suggests the return of local housing control to local authorities and the abolition of the iniquitous ‘right to buy’ scheme.
Nothing suggests that the private school system, with the sham of educational establishments for the rich being able to claim charitable status, will change. There is no mention of abolishing university fees, the introduction of which has become a barrier to access for working class students. While we are on, anyone care to look at the gender equality pay gap?
For most ordinary people the promise of levelling up looks a lot like being just another bumpy ride from the Tories.
It is safe to say that there is more levelling up to be done than is dreamed of in Michael Gove’s philosophy. In fact, there is more levelling up to be done than is possible under any capitalist philosophy as inequality, exploitation and expropriation are at the core of the system. Levelling up, in any real sense, is a socialist proposition and can only be delivered when the system is under the control of the people, run by a government for the people and committed to meeting the needs of the people.
Anything less than that, including the government’s White Paper, is little more than hot air and will not change the real balance of power one jot.