Tory’s war on working class

by Daphne Liddle

THE TORY party annual conference last week in Birmingham was a sustained attack on working class people with promises of continuing caps on wages and on benefits, threats to pensioners’ benefits and to raise the retirement age to 70 and threats to gag “non-violent extremists” who may want to protest against it all.

Low wages are a major factor in Osborne’s failure to tackle the budget deficit as people on low wages pay little income tax, nor can they support the economy by spending.

Benefits paid to those of working age will be capped for three years. Allowing for inflation this means a steady reduction in income for people who are already relying on food banks to feed their children. Public sector wages will also be capped, again.

Those under 25 will be denied housing and long-term unemployment benefits unless they have children of their own to support. There will be a reduction of the total amount of benefits, including housing benefit, which can be paid to any household from £26,000 to £23,000 — as rents are soaring, especially in inner cities.

This will force low income families out of the expensive inner city areas where housing has become most expensive. And it will impact not only on the unemployed but on hundreds of thousands of low paid workers. If they are forced from their homes they will probably lose their jobs because of the rising costs of long distance commuting.

If Osborne really wanted to cut benefit bills he would cap rents and raise wages but this is not about rational economics, it is about war on the poor and social cleansing of the inner cities.

Reacting to George Osborne’s speech, chief executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Julia Unwin, said: “The plan to freeze welfare for two further years will make things worse for our economy, with more people living below the poverty line leading to lower tax revenues and the wasted potential of millions

“The economy is beginning to recover, but for people on low incomes, the forecasts are heading in the wrong direction. Without concerted action, millions of people are going to find it harder to meet their basic needs and have already borne a sizeable burden of deficit reduction in this Parliament.

“Only by tackling the underlying causes of poverty and the high benefits bill — such as low pay and expensive housing — we will see the welfare spend fall.

“George Osborne talked about the importance of choice — for many families today; their choices just got a whole lot tougher.”

The Tories have warned that after 2015 they will look at cutting universal pensioner benefits such a free travel passes, TV licences and winter fuel supplements.

Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith wants to bring in payment of benefits to “troubled families” through a smart card, ostensibly to stop them spending their money on drink, cigarettes and drugs.

It will leave them able to buy only food and only at designated supermarkets. They will be unable to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from cheaper street markets or to buy toiletries, cleaning products or clothes and they will have no cash for bus fares.

Then Home Secretary Theresa May announced her proposals to gag “non-violent extremists,” which could be interpreted as anybody who is actively opposing Government policies. Such people, although innocent of any crime, would be banned from communicating via the internet or from appearing in any TV broadcasts.

The police would be able to apply to the high court for an order to restrict the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder or even a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or the vague-sounding “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: “There were startling contradictions in the Home Secretary’s speech, seeking civil liberties sainthood by tightening stop and search whilst granting police powers to seize passports at the borders and blanket internet surveillance on the whole population.

“She gave a good sermon about human rights and the rule of law in the Middle East whilst mocking the Court of Human Rights and proposing to ban non-violent speech and organisations. How do you promote liberal democratic values by promising state powers worthy of a caliphate?”

But none of this has to happen. If the Tories are thrown out of office next May we will get a Labour government. This will not bring a workers’ paradise but it will bring something better than what the Tories are planning.