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Thursday, 28 October 2010

No to cuts in the UK !!

We have already drawn attention to the remarkable sound of tracks being backed by this coalition government in its over-hasty, ill-thought-out and doctrinaire cuts programme.

Today saw the interesting sight of the Tory leadership desperately trying to salvage its fragile alliance with the Lib Dem backbenches and rein in dissatisfaction with its draconian programme of housing cuts.

And, lord help them, they are even having to quell dissent among some of the more progressive of their own ranks - the ones with inner-city constituencies who can see their re-election prospects shrinking rapidly during the course of this purge.

Now purge may seem at first sight to be putting it a little strongly, but let's reprise the Tory housing programme. There's ending security of tenure for council tenants, higher social rents - which could be 80 per cent of the market rent - a cap on housing benefit of about £400 a week and a 10 per cent cut in housing benefit for anyone on jobseeker's allowance for more than a year.

Oh, and there's a cut of 50 per cent on the amount spent on new social housing, even at the new, higher rent levels. All of which would contribute to a remarkable change in the environment of our bigger cities.

Downing Street says it is "absolutely committed" to the housing benefit reforms. So let's look at the consequences of this "absolute commitment."

First, of course is the consequential forced relocation of tens of thousands of families from inner-city homes that the housing benefit cap will mean that they can no longer afford to live in.

And make no mistake, we are talking here about working families, not the mainly fictitious idle unemployed living in supposed luxury accommodation.

We are talking about those working at or near the minimum wage who keep our cities clean, who keep the services running and who work anti-social hours while the rest of us are safely asleep in our pits, preparing the cities for the new day.

We are talking about wholesale social engineering, driving the less well off from our city centres and into peripheral housing estates where they can afford to live, but how they get to work and how they bear the additional travel costs is anyone's guess.

And, since this forced exodus will drive up demand for peripheral housing, it will also drive up rents in the private sector. Which, since the government is intent on setting social rents as a percentage of those applying in the private rented sector, will in turn force social housing rents higher and higher.

One thing that is certain is that it won't work and, if it's even tried, it will result in precisely the same situation that France experiences around Paris, where outlying estates rapidly become ghettoised and centres of violent unrest for the young, poorly paid or unemployed.

And then comes a 10 per cent cut in benefit for anyone on jobseeker's allowance for over a year.

Now that's really adding insult to injury. Families trapped in worklessness by massive Tory cuts in the public sector - forcing them into a private sector which is failing to produce enough jobs - will be driven out of their homes if they can't find a new job in 12 months.

But where will these families be driven to? Why, if they are forced into the subsistence-level work that seems to be all that's available, those jobs won't provide sufficient income to live, and will thus serve merely to transfer them from one benefit onto another.

Or are the Tories presuming that they will simply starve? A neutral observer could be forgiven for assuming that to be the case.

But, since we are not neutral, let's make this plain. The working class won't be driven out, they won't be starved out and they won't be marginalised.

British people are slow to anger and slower still to fight back. But once it dawns on them that all that's left is resistance, then Tories beware. It won't be the working class that's driven out of its Westminster tenure.

In many ways, it's catch-up day today, where we look in more detail at the Con-Dem massacre of public services and the welfare state in the spending review.

There was so much hitting the working class in Osborne's indiscriminate butchery that there was barely space in the whole paper to mention it all, let alone absorb, digest and analyse it.

But, today, we survey the wreckage of the living room after Osborne's party and the debris that he and his co-celebrants left in the wake of their bacchanal. We are finding that the truth is worse than we could have ever expected.

In fact, it's so bad that economist David Blanchflower, a member of the Bank of England's rate-setting committee for three years and a professor of economics, warned that a double-dip recession was now inevitable and described the review as "the greatest error seen in our lifetime in economics."

He continued that "there's no example in history where such a thing as this has ever worked. The only examples in history is where it's failed. This is like trying to train an Olympic athlete to run faster and you say "I've got a great solution" and you cut both his legs off - it's as absurd as that."

Warwick University emeritus professor of political economy Lord Skidelsky concurred, quoting Keynes on the Great Depression to the effect that "there will be no means of escape from prolonged and perhaps interminable depression except by direct state intervention to promote and subsidise new investment," adding: "George Osborne be warned."

From across the full range of British society, the condemnation is coming thick and fast.

Unite's joint general secretary Derek Simpson encapsulated the trade union movement position when he fumed: "This is not a spending review, it's a massacre. It's totally perverse to claim that cutting half a million jobs and razing our public services to the ground is good for this country."

And Paul Kenny from GMB noted that, "after this review, the broadest shoulders will still have the fattest wallets. The price for George Osborne's day of reckoning will be paid by the economy, in the public and private sectors and by the unemployed, for a decade to come. In a well-leaked, ideological speech, arrogantly delivered, the demise of public services and the welfare state was laid out in front of us."

RMT leader Bob Crow, in characteristically blunt words, summed it up when he warned that "this is all-out class war with its roots firmly planted in the playing fields of Eton."

Local authority workers, council tenants, disabled people, the unemployed, school pupils, students, single parents, rail and bus passengers, motorists, the regions, the devolved governments, hardly anyone has escaped the cold, dead hand of Tory cutbacks.

And, from deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes, who boasted that we could see the footprints of the Lib Dems all over the review, down to Rochdale Mayor Zulfiqar Ali, who claimed that the spending cuts would be good for everyone - including the 84 per cent of residents on benefits in his council ward - the snivelling Lib-Dem toadies of the Tories bear their full share of the blame.

Mark you, the Labour Party hasn't exactly covered itself in glory. Its commitment to cuts has hamstrung any fighting defence of our class, reducing it to faint demurrals along the lines of "too soon, too deep."

But there is a fighting response to this class-war assault. There is another way to manage the economy.

It is now up to the trade union movement to take a bold and progressive stance, rejecting these cuts, resisting this assault and working for a society in which the rich take responsibility for the results of their greed and the poor are not forced to pay for them.

George Osborne has drawn a line in the sand and it is now up to the leaders of our organised working class to step up to the mark and lead the fightback.


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