The shock appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer replacing Kwasi Kwarteng saw swiftly followed with a reversal of many “mini-budget” policies. Whilst some approaches are an acknowledgement of realism, the policy change still fails to address glaring problems that only seem to widen the class pay gap further.
The one part of Kwarseng’s mini-budget that was actually popular, amongst the public, Tories and the opposition, was the reduction of the national basic income tax rate from 20p to 19p. Whilst it does not seem like much it could be the difference between whether or not some families have to choose either food or heating over winter. The 2 year energy guarantee would also have helped struggling families, even if the original policiy was met with staunch criticism of how it was conveyed. However, Jeremy Hunt has decided to reverse the two decisions by retaining the 20p tax rate and reducing the energy cap guarantee until April 2023. All of a sudden, those struggling who thought they had but a glimmer of hope, have seen it extinquished in one fell swoop.
The decision to also remove the cap on banker’s bonuses is also both baffling and infuriating. Let’s not forget, deregulated banks and their corruption within directly led to the financial crisis of 14 years ago. The cap was put in place as a measure to keep banks in line. It is nothing short of criminal to give banks power that has the capability of ruining people’s lives in such a manner.
As for the stamp duty, it fixes nothing. All it does is push prices further up leaving struggling first-time buyers in no mans land as rich developers hoover up all constructed assets to land bank on for profit. The only way to keep the housing market under control is a combination of tighter industry regulation, an influx of supply and schemes to prevent excessive land banking and pricing out of first time buyers.
For 12 years it has been obvious that austerity and trickle down economics do not work. People on the poverty line has increased massively: food banks have gone from rarity to everywhere, and now they are running out of donations; Part time and zero hours contracts have boosted employment figures to suit Government statistics, but leave those people on them out to dry with a shortage of income; the energy crisis was looming long before Ukraine and instead of re-regulating production and wholesale decided to de-regulate retail in order to protect companies from ruin, leading to huge waves of profits for producers and wholesalers.
With Partygate and the sexual assault furore the Tories could no longer hide behind circumstance as a defence for being unfit to govern. First they hid behind Labour infighting and antisemetism claims. Then they hid behind Brexit at the last General Election. Then, for a few months, they hid behind the pandemic. And now their blase attitude to decision making has caught up with them. With a new leader already under pressure the chances of an early GE being called seem to be growing with every decision and u-turn. It’s only a matter of time before Liz Truss has no option but to commit career suicide and call one, or resign faster than her Tory Leadership contest victory.
The forced fracking debate on 19th October proved yet another sticking point, as the Tory Whip forced all Party MPs to vote down a movement by Labour to ban fracking permanently, despite a number of them having personal opposition to the practice. This has lead to scuffles in the Chambers and claims of harrassment and bullying, as MPs were told they face expulsion from the Party if they voted against the Government. Add in a new scandal at the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, over sending a sensitive official email from her personal account, it is clear that the Government, and the Conservative Party as a whole, are crumbling faster than the delapidated building they operate from.
It’s almost a certainty that Labour are going to walk the next election. All they have to do is turn up and keep their mouths shut and they are a shoe-in. But that does not mean a change in direction will automatically solve the issue at hand. It will take much longer than one full term in office to fix these problems and lay the foundation to prevent it from happening in the future.
Labour themselves are in their own political turmoil. Hardline voters are turning away, and the Party finds itself back in the red as its party members dwindle rapidly. Their leader has ostricised many of their working class supporters, including the Trade Unions who have worked alongside the Party since their inception. Fresh racism rows continue to blight the party, even if these may be considered a few isolated incidents. Its economic policy is different, but not radically so, from the current status quo. It stands a chance of working but does not ensure a balanced short term/long term solution to the ongoing hardships felt amongst the nation’s most vulnerable.
How Labour gain power is not yet clear, however opinion polls suggest anything from a slight majority to a 2/3 landslide. 20/20 hindsight would be amazing, because it is important that any Labour Government, regardless of size, is properly held to account. In the event of failing to secure outright victory, a coalition with the Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru could be enough to keep them honest, but such a route is not a popular one, as it may result in powers to declare Independence, and therefore break up the Union of the British Nations. If they do not obtain a majority they may more likely try to run as a minority Government. That normally would make their task much harder, but as some of their major policies are much more in line with the most popular fringe parties they may not come across opposition often. The Conservatives in their current state are incapable of such a task, such is their moral authority in tatters. And yet the political pendulum looks set to swing wider and faster than ever before meaning that stability will be even harder to come by.
With that being the case, just having a Labour led Government will not be enough to ensure that the long term stability needed for the most vulnerable is provided. It is more important than ever to support the work of Trade Unions and fight against every decision made against the most vulnerable and the National Interest. Collectively the British public can ensure that the energy and finance sectors are properly regulated and that the decisions of those in charge of public services cannot prioritise profits at the expense of ordinary people and its workforce.
With both sides of the house embroiled in internal conflict, scandal and instability, we are realistically unlikely to see anyone step up to the plate and deliver an economic plan that ensures long term security for all. Therefore it is more vital than ever that the public, no matter how disenfranchising the current shitshow is, stays up to date on all happenings and collectively finds its voice to keep holding the Government to account.