By Sarah Bates
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2809

Tories crash—but Labour is not providing real hope

Labour won't offer a real alternative from the devastation promised by the Tories
Issue 2809
Disability rights group Dpac protesting in March against benefit deaths

Disability rights group Dpac protesting in March against the Tories benefit cuts (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The Tory election campaign has descended into complete chaos. Rishi Sunak’s decision not to attend a key part of the D-day commemorations in Normandy last week saw him savaged on the right—and horrified his own supporters. Political journalist Tim Shipman, writing in the Sunday Times, said that Tory headquarters lay deserted.

Conservative bigwigs can’t raise any cash and the senior aides are “laid low with illness”. “Morale is also at rock bottom,” he writes. “Half of Tory ministerial aides have refused to join the campaign despite being ordered to do so.”

Despite the palpable stench of failure wafting from Sunak’s camp, there is a major failure of any political party to properly oppose it. The lack of a national voice that raises the interests of ordinary people was perfectly expressed in a row over the Tory plans for benefits.

In a desperate effort to shore up some votes, Sunak chose to attack benefit claimants. He doubled down on a previous claim to “end sick note culture” and get people back into work. “Work is a source of dignity, purpose and hope and I want everyone to be able to overcome whatever barriers they might face to living independent, fulfilling lives,” Sunak said.

But he doesn’t want people to live fulfilling lives. Sunak wants to slash disabled people’s benefits. The Tories also want to stop GP’s being able to issue sick notes and instead will outsource that service to “specialist work and health professionals”.

This is going to make it harder for people to access healthcare and benefits—and is part of an ideological drive against the welfare state. Labour has disgracefully attacked the policy on the basis that it doesn’t address a “spiralling benefits bill”.

A spokesperson said, “These reheated pledges do nothing to solve the fact that £10 billion of taxpayers’ money was lost to benefit fraud just last year.” That doesn’t mention that the total amount of unclaimed benefits in Britain is now £23 billion a year.

That means thousands of people who should be getting help that aren’t. In the election debate last week Labour’s Angela Rayner said the party would not make promises it can’t keep. This included not pledging to scrap the two-child benefit limit. The Greens’ co-leader Carla Denyer was right when she said, “You could, you’re choosing not to.”

Around 250,000 children would be lifted out of poverty if Labour ended the two-child limit on benefits. With three weeks left to run of the election campaign, and the polls looking worse for them by the day, a Tory wipeout is looking surer. But Labour is far from offering a real alternative to the racism, war, privatisation, poverty and climate devastation promised by Sunak and his crew. We say kick the Tories out, don’t trust Starmer, vote left and prepare to fight the new government from day one.

Teach the private schools a lesson—shut them down

Labour is right to pledge that private schools should pay more tax. Currently, the institutions are exempt from the 20 percent VAT on their fees—and the planned rise would generate an additional £1.5 billion a year. But it’s wrong for Labour’s Emily Thornberry to suggest, as she did last Sunday, that such a plan would mean larger classes in state schools.

Why not just stop school closures and employ more teachers? It’s ridiculous that schools for the ultra-rich, such as Eton and Winchester, can claim to be charities. It’s a way to avoid tax for wealthy parents. The problem with Labour’s policy is that it doesn’t go far enough. Private school fee payers shouldn’t just be made to cough up.

These schools should be axed and the two-tier education system ended. In 2019 the Labour conference voted to “challenge the elite privilege of private schools” and “integrate all private schools into the state sector”. This would include scrapping independent schools’ charitable status and “all other public subsidies and tax privileges”. What happened to that? The class privilege and drain on the state system should be swept away.

Reform UK backs rich

Support for Reform UK—Nigel Farage’s far-right party—is surging, with its vote share steadily gaining on the Tories. Farage is trying to tap into disillusionment with mainstream politics, and is using racist and anti-establishment rhetoric to do so. Last Friday Farage launched a racist attack on Rishi Sunak after the prime minister left the D-Day service early.

Farage said that Sunak showed he isn’t “patriotic” and “doesn’t understand our history and our culture”. It’s a nasty attempt to say that Sunak’s migrant heritage means he is ignorant to British culture. On top of this racism, Farage claims to be anti-establishment—to be standing up for “the little guys”. This fakery isn’t only revealed by his background—a millionaire, privately educated stock trader. 

It’s also revealed in Reform UK’s existing policy pledges, which are an array of pro-corporate promises. One pledge is to slash corporation tax—paid on big business profits—down from its current rate of 25 percent to 15 percent. And Reform UK has pledged a 20 percent tax relief on private healthcare and insurance, plus tax relief on private schools. This will be paid for by “attacking government waste”.

That’s just another way of saying austerity. It says these tax cuts will be paid for by forcing every public sector manager to make 5 percent cuts to spending and scrapping dozens of public bodies. That’s £50 billion of cuts to already crumbling public services. Farage’s pledges mean the poor being made to pay for the rich. Anti-racists should fight to expose Reform UK as a party that isn’t for ordinary people—but a racist party that works for the bosses.

Does Labour back Palestine?

The Labour Party election manifesto was expected—in some form—to call for recognition of a Palestinian state. But it will be hedged around with qualifications that make it virtually meaningless.

Labour was likely to say it would recognise Palestine before the end of any “peace process” and make sure a neighbouring country doesn’t veto such a move. But on the present basis there won’t be any “peace process” that isn’t controlled by Israel and the United States.

Labour says it will be an “honest broker” in the Middle East. But the party fully supports Zionism, has backed its massacres against Palestinians as “self-defence” and won’t call for sanctions against Israel.

The media claims that Starmer is trying to win back Muslim voters and keep the left in Labour happy. And it’s true that the massive mobilisations for Palestine will have shaken some of those in Labour’s high command.

But Starmer is marching down the same path as United States’ president Joe Biden—a route he feels safe treading. And the present stance is a retreat from the 2017 and 2019 manifestos. These promised “immediate and unconditional recognition of the state of Palestine”.

After Ireland, Spain and Norway recognised the state of Palestine, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it a “reward for terrorism”.

The Biden administration added last month, “The two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not unilateral recognition.”

This is what Starmer wants—a two state solution that protects Israel’s right to exist, and gives Palestinians a minor voice in negotiations.

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