The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 30th June 2017

May in full retreat

by Daphne Liddle

THERESA May on Wednesday signalled that the one per cent cap on public service was “under review” and could be dropped in the coming autumn budget.

This is a new concession, prompted by Jeremy Corbyn’s tabling of an amendment on Wednesday evening to last week’s Queen’s Speech to scrap the pay cap and Theresa May’s fears that some of her MPs will support Corbyn’s amendment.

Already some have voiced the view that the pay cap and austerity have gone on too long. And these Tory MPs at the moment are concerned about keeping their jobs when they once again face their constituents in another general election that could be called at any time.

May is signalling that even with her new deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from the occupied six counties of Ireland, she has no confidence that she has a majority in the House of Commons when she cannot depend on her own MPs to back her. She is trying to appease them to keep them on side by surrendering the party’s key economic policy.

May’s argument, which she expressed before the general election to a nurse who had questioned her about nurses’ pay, was that there is “no magic money tree” and that strict austerity on pay is still necessary to balance the economy. And she held to that view throughout the election, and the continuation of austerity policies and more cuts was signalled in the Queen’s Speech.

But now May herself has rubbished that argument this week when she found £1 billion of public money to induce the DUP to form an alliance with the Tories. The DUP says that it intends to use this money to improve health, welfare and education services in the six counties — in other words to reverse Tory austerity there. No progressive would begrudge the people of the six counties an improvement in their standard of living, even though we are very concerned about the rights of people in the Garvachy Road and Drumcree, amongst other places, to live in peace and free from threats, abuse and intimidation.

But if May can find £1 billion from the magic money tree for the DUP, why can she not do the same for the peoples of Wales, Scotland and England?

All arguments for austerity are now shown up as nonsense. The only purpose of austerity is to take money from the working class in order to fill the pockets of the ultra-rich and even Tory MPs can see this — and they know that their constituents can too.

Labour tabled an amendment on Wednesday evening calling for cuts to emergency services, including the police and the fire service, to be reversed, and calling for an end to the one per cent cap.

Earlier this month trade unions representing 1.3million nurses, doctors and health professionals wrote to Mrs May asking her to end the long-standing one per cent cap on public sector pay rises. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, repeatedly highlighted concerns about austerity during the general election.

According to research by the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), the nurses’ union, NHS workers are taking payday loans, pawning belongings and using foodbanks to survive. Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “It is shameful that Theresa May can find an extra £1billion for her coalition deal but can’t find an extra penny for hard-working nurses and NHS staff.”

Jeremy Corbyn added: “Conservative cuts have failed. Labour has a different approach, which values those who look after us and will transform Britain for the many not the few.”

A recent GQR poll conducted for the TUC showed that 76 per cent of voters want to give public sector workers a pay rise — including 66 per cent of Conservative voters. Few voters will support more cuts to essential public services after the Grenfell tower disaster and four recent terrorist attacks.

Then on Wednesday, just hours before Corbyn was due to present his amendment to scrap the pay cap and following calls from the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, and the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, that Theresa May should look again at lifting the pay of public sector workers, there was a message from a Downing Street source: “We understand that people are weary after years of hard work to rebuild the economy.”

The source added that the Government would “listen to evidence of the pay review bodies,” which are expected to deliver their findings in the autumn and the hint that there will be a “fiscal event” (the Budget) in the autumn.

The source continued: “We’ve heard the message at the election. There are recommendations from independent public sector pay review bodies and decisions will be taken [at the budget].”

So Theresa May is starting to listen. Time to ramp up the volume and tell her hints of a retraction are not enough; it is time for her to go!