By Sarah Bates
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Tories’ economic slump deepens poverty crisis

Working class people are feeling the pressure from the Tories' economic mess
Issue 2809
Protester placard reads, "Freeze prices, not the poor."

Protest in London against the surging cost of living crisis in April (Picture: Alisdare Hickson)

The economic crisis is ­getting worse—but it’s far from ­reaching its peak. Statistics released this week show the depth of crisis that the economy is plunged into. And without serious action by the government, no end is in sight.

On Monday it was revealed that the British economy shrank for the second consecutive month, this time by 0.3 percent. There are several reasons for the decline.

Soaring energy prices mean people are unable to spend as much. And the Tory decision to shut down the NHS test and trace service, despite Covid infections still ­running rampant, also contributed to the decline.

In fact, the three main sectors of the British economy—services, production and construction—all shrank for the first time since January 2021. Manufacturing fell by a whopping 0.6 percent as price increases and supply chain shortages slowed down the industry.

This is the reality of “stagflation”—weak economic growth and rapidly rising prices. But this is a crisis with real people at the heart of it.

The cost of living crisis isn’t really a story of dry statistics or confusing percentages—but poverty, hardship and real misery for millions of ordinary people.

Some 77 percent of people are feeling “very or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living”, according to a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics.

And it’s causing kids to go hungry. The number of school children eligible for free school meals has risen by almost half in the last three years, from less than 1.3 million to 1.9 million. According to government figures, 22.5 percent now qualify.

Alicia, a primary school teaching assistant in the West Midlands told Socialist Worker, “Lots of children come into school hungry. We have a breakfast club that used to be just a couple of dozen children, but now it is much busier. The kids would just use it maybe twice a month, now many are using it daily.”

Children from Irish Traveller families were most likely to qualify (63 percent), followed by Gypsy/Roma pupils (52 percent, and youngsters of mixed Black Caribbean/White heritage (42 percent).

The Food Foundation discovered a 57 percent jump in the proportion of households cutting back on food or missing meals altogether in just three months. In April, 7.3 million adults said they had gone without food.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is twiddling his thumbs while parents spend the money they would usually use to feed their children on energy bills. The level of hardship facing many is not an accident, but a ­foregone conclusion of Tory government policy. Horror at the reality of the cost of living crisis should fuel the fire of resistance to their rotten regime.

  • We Demand Better demonstration, Sat 18 June, assemble 10.30am, Portland Place, London, march leaves 12 noon, rally 1pm, Parliament Square. Details and transport at bit.ly/TUC1806

Tories publish Protocol changes 

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss declared a trade war on the European Union (EU) and escalated rows between the government and the Conservative Party on Monday. It comes as they published changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.  

The bill will give ministers power to remove any part of the protocol that they judge to be causing significant economic or political disruption in Northern Ireland. Johnson said the changes were a “relatively trivial set of adjustments”.

But Johnson brought the protocol in, breaking some promises he had made to Northern Ireland Unionists. It effectively created a trade border down the Irish Sea. 

It allows free trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. That’s the bit the EU is keen on. The bill may just be negotiated by bluster. The Tories, while saying the bill is trivial, are issuing ultimatums to the DUP—the party for whom this legislation is for—to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland. What is clear is that it further divides the Tories and has potential to damage them severely.

Simon Basketter

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