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Editorial: The Conservatives' poor imitation game is fooling nobody

THE Tory Party play to underpin their “get Brexit done” message with some transparently disingenuous positioning on Labour’s natural territory will undoubtedly work for some afflicted with political amnesia — and for a few with their housing costs already sorted.

But remember, under the Tories and Lib Dems the idea of an affordable house, secure job with a living wage and a timely pension became a memory.

Anyone on average pay, let alone low pay is hard pressed to find affordable housing.

It would have been better if Sajid Javid had followed in his bus driver father’s footsteps and done something productive with his life instead of flying high for the dodgy Deutsche Bank — a pillar of the deregulated finance sector that created the optimum conditions for the 2008 financial meltdown.

The transparent bid by the party of low pay to hijack bits of Labour’s plan to incrementally increase minimum pay and create a living wage employment market attracts much ribald comment.

In fact poverty pay is such an integral feature of Britain’s financialised economy that in Tory minds it is normal, even essential.

Endemic low pay is a key factor in supporting the illusion that setting up a small businesses is a viable option for people made redundant in the now normalised churn of capitalist business failure.

Expect any moment some suited wannabe Tory student politician to make her or his conference debut with the claim that the sacked Thomas Cook employees are now liberated to grasp the opportunities offered by the gig economy, become self-employed entrepreneurs or start a small business.

The years of enforced pay freeze — underpinned by a lockdown on even the most miserly cost-of-living increases in the public sector — is just one factor in the permanent crisis conditions which characterise contemporary capitalism.

One big problem with institutionalised low pay in a deregulated economy is that it drives down incomes across the board.

This is why Labour’s plan for a more logically structured negotiating climate with formal sectoral pay bargaining at national level is not just a necessary step to restore employment rights but an instrument of economic policy in itself.

All those small and medium-sized business folk who think Tory or Lib Dem economic policies reflect their interests should remember that a low pay system means cash-strapped customers while raising income levels means increased demand.

But don’t expect the individual employer — whether the the small entrepreneur or the big corporation — to see the big picture. They are each enmeshed in the anarchy of capitalist competition in which driving down their costs — of which wages are the main variable — is a necessary condition for survival.

One aspect of Labour’s plan to take utilities and transport back into public ownership is that it deprives a substantial part of the parasitic capitalist class of revenue streams with which to speculate.

Another is the opportunity it offers to set the stage for a socialist reorganisation of the economy as a whole.

An economy in which a publicly owned sector narrows the ground for parasitic capitalism is a public good into which even a large number of Tory voters buy into as evidenced by the popularity in commuter circles for rail nationalisation.

Reversing the neoliberal tide is a first step on the road to an economy in which housing, health, education, transport and social care are not opportunities to make profits but constitute part of the social wage.

It is not that a Labour government in present circumstances will, of itself, make this happen. But it will free us to imagine that such things are not only necessary but possible.

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