Socialist Worker

The real divide across Britain is class

Issue No. 2726

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham


Coronavirus has highlighted deep class divisions across British society. But for the mainstream press in England, the divide is between the North and South. 

Around two thirds of the population in the north and a fifth of the population in the Midlands face more stringent lockdown restrictions. Not a single area south of Birmingham is affected. 

Leading figures in the Labour Party claim the Tories’ problem in dealing with the virus is a “London-centric” approach. 

Andy Burnham, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, has appointed himself spokesperson for the north. He is leading the charge of Labour mayors across northern cities against further lockdown restrictions without their consultation. 

The Tories’ approach is inadequate, incompetent and driven by the interests of big business to keep profits flowing. 

They had to be pressured to promise local furlough schemes in northern areas facing lockdown restrictions—yet these still leave thousands of workers at risk of redundancy.  But Labour leaders’ objections start from “the economy”—not the need to suppress coronavirus.

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, is heading up a group to challenge the government over its measures with a judicial review.

This is underpinned by a political strategy. Labour is trying to win back voters in the north—or at least hold onto the ones the party didn’t lose to the Tories at the last general election. 

And mayors and council leaders hope to do this by showing they’re “standing up to Westminster”. 

Divison

As coronavirus cases and hospitalisations rise across Britain, we need to assert that the real division is class.  The Tories’ and bosses’ disregard for working class people’s health and lives is the same whether in London or Liverpool.

If you’re a frontline worker, having to catch public transport, go into an unsafe workplace or live in poor and overcrowded conditions, you are at greater risk of catching the virus. 

These inequalities are compounded by systematic racism. 

But the virus isn’t the only threat to working class people.

The Tories and bosses have made clear they will try to make workers pay for the coronavirus crisis with their livelihoods. This threat was underlined by the latest unemployment figures, which saw the rate jump by 4.5 percent. 

In the face of the assault on working class people, we need strikes and protests that can unite workers against the government. 

Resistance is not going to come from the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer continues to lick the nearest boot he can find to prove to the British state and business that he is responsible and respectable. 

He is fond of saying that the Tories are “holding Britain back”. But it’s Starmer’s politics that holds our class back.


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