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Only mass action can force the Tories to tackle this cost-of-living crisis

RICHARD BURGON MP argues that whoever is Tory leader, only strikes and mass protest will force the changes we need.

BORIS JOHNSON'S days are clearly numbered after his hollow victory in the vote of confidence. But we will need a lot more than the removal of one lawbreaking liar if we are to really deal with the crisis hitting our communities.

The tales of destitution we are witnessing across the country are stomach-churning. How in the fifth-biggest economy in the world are pensioners having to ride on buses to keep warm and millions of people having to choose between eating or heating?

In stark contrast to that suffering, every day more information comes to light showing this has been a very good crisis for some.

In the last few weeks alone, we have learnt that the number of billionaires in Britain has risen to 177 and their wealth is now at record levels.

Britain's billionaires have increased their wealth by a staggering £150 million per day over the last year.

We have also learnt that the bosses of Britain’s top 100 companies have seen their annual pay increase to an average of £3.6m.

On top of that, the TUC revealed this week that bankers' bonuses are up 28 per cent over the last year to an eye-watering £5.9 billion. These bonuses are rising at six times the rate of wages.

Parents may be skipping meals to ensure their kids are fed, but at the heart of Britain's finance sector, the champagne corks are popping.

In the face of the worst attack on living standards in 70 years, the scale of support offered by the government has been pathetic.

The recent imposition of a windfall tax on oil giants to provide some help against rising energy costs is a step forward and is the result of public and political pressure. But it is nowhere near enough to deal with the scale of this crisis.

The Tory windfall tax could have been twice as large — at £10bn this year alone — and still these companies would have been making more than the profits they normally make before oil and gas prices shot up.  

And the windfall tax should have been accompanied by wealth taxes on the super-rich, the immediate inflation-proofing of benefits, pensions and wages, the restoration of the £20 cut from universal credit, and proper caps on energy, rent and basic foods.

That only the bare minimum of support has been delivered is because defending the living standards of the majority of people is not the role of the Tory Party.

The last few years have revealed to millions of people that the real job of the Tory Party is to keep the profits flowing to the already wealthy, whatever the scale of social crisis.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of what the state has been used for in this crisis.
 
It’s been treated as a giant cash machine, handing over many billions of pounds in dodgy Covid contracts to the well-connected.

Billions more are being handed out in Rishi Sunak’s latest round of tax breaks to the very oil and gas firms that are driving up people's bills and fuelling a climate catastrophe.

The money in that tax break alone could have been used to insulate two million homes — saving each household £340 every year.

And we have also had a tax cut for bankers, which could have funded the expansion of free school meals for every child on universal credit. We shouldn’t ever forget that not a single Tory MP voted against this bankers’ tax cut.

At the same time as the Tories are using the state to bail out the super-rich, they are pursing an authoritarian clampdown in response to the anger and frustrations of millions of people.

The government is threatening even tougher anti-trade union legislation, pursuing voter suppression through an ID requirement and imposing draconian anti-protest laws.

The Tories know that their policies will be increasingly unpopular, so they want to remove everyone’s right to resist and fight back, whether through voting, industrial action or peaceful protest.

And we have seen racist scapegoating becoming ever crueller with plans to deport to Rwanda refugees escaping war, famine and torture. There are no depths to which the Tories will not plumb in their drive to divide and rule.

How do we resist this? On a political level, we need to get a Labour government in as soon as possible that pursues policies to defend the many, not the few.

But people can’t wait until the next general election, so we need to build the movements now that can try to create such pressure that the government is forced into concessions that can make a real difference to millions of people — or better still, out of office entirely.

We need to build as much solidarity as possible with workers taking strike action to fight back in this cost-of-living emergency. And we need to build the social movements that make demands for better jobs, pay, public services and packages of support in every community.

That is why the TUC national march and rally on June 18 is so important. As the TUC rightly says, working people have had enough. The cost of everything — including absolute essentials — is rocketing, but wages are falling badly behind.  

We have to do all we can between now and the demonstration to make it as big as possible. That will send a powerful message to the Tories and unscrupulous bosses that we won’t let this crisis be paid for on the backs of the 99 per cent.

And over the next year, as the crisis bites even harder, the scale of protest will need to match the scale of crisis.

So let's ensure that the TUC demonstration is not only a huge success but a spark for further actions that make 2022 a year of protest against this Tory government.

That’s key to defeating the living standards emergency the Tories are choosing to force on our communities.

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