Osborne’s bleak new year

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR George Osborne began the New Year by declaring that 2014 will be a “year of hard truths”. He claims the economy “has turned the corner” and that the country is feeling the benefit but that further extreme austerity measures are still needed.

He wants another £25 billion cuts in government spending with a high percentage of it coming, as before, from welfare.

One of the first hits will be the ending of all housing benefit to people under the age of 25.

This is a measure that will literally put tens of thousands of young people out on the streets — and many of them will go on to lose their jobs because of it.

Furthermore a very high proportion of people under 25 who are claiming benefit are single parents. This measure is going to put young mothers and babies on the streets.

And remember that housing benefit claimants are in no way spongers on society. It is the landlords who get the benefit from housing benefit. It is not the tenants’ fault that we are living in a seriously distorted economy with private rents artificially sky high.

Housing is a basic human right; profiteering from other people’s need for somewhere to live is not a human right.

If Osborne really wants to reduce the housing benefit bill he should cap rents. That would save the Treasury far more than throwing young workers, students and parents out on the street.

The unemployed and the disabled have already suffered significant hardship from the austerity cuts so far — with many being driven to early death and suicide by the withdrawal — or threat of withdrawal — of essential benefits.

Further cuts can only multiply this shameful toll of casualties.

Meanwhile, according to the High Pay Centre, an independent non-party think tank established to monitor pay at the top of the income distribution, Britain’s top bosses have already made more money in 2014 than the average worker in Britain earns in an entire year.

The calculations show that earnings for company executives returning to work this Monday will pass the UK average salary of £26,500 by mid-morning on “fatcat Wednesday” — (8th January)

FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.3 million, equivalent to hourly pay of well over £1,000. Executive pay has increased by 74 per cent over the past decade, while wages for ordinary workers have remained flat.

At such a time of cruel, relentless and needless assaults on the most vulnerable you would think the Labour opposition would be screaming outrage and injustice from the roof-tops and demanding an end to welfare cuts and higher taxes for the fat cats.

But we hear little or no response from the Labour leadership. They have promised to end the ridiculous and cruel bedroom tax and freeze energy prices for a short term.

But much, much more is needed. Instead Ed Miliband has used his New Year speech to witter on about stopping immigration to fill low wage jobs.

He has also spoken about the “cost of living crisis” — addressing himself to comparatively better off working class households whose living standards are falling — the “squeezed middle” — but not a peep about the millions being utterly crushed right at the bottom. And no mention of rescuing the NHS from being privatised and dismantled either.

Miliband, Balls and company are playing to the demands of the right-wing capitalist press and ignoring the battering that the working class is suffering. They clearly think they don’t need to bother very much because the Tories are going to lose the next general election anyway.

The unions must wake up from their Christmas torpor and remind Labour over and over again that workers’ votes cannot be taken for granted. Labour must give workers a reason to vote by showing that they are different to the Tories and Lib-Dems — not just a slightly milder version of the same thing.

There is such a thing as working class justice and if Labour and the union leaders fail to remember this they stand in danger of being thrown on the scrap heap of history along with the Tories and Lib-Dems when the showdown comes.