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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

‘Government must help those who need it most’

LAST WEEK Boris Johnson was telling us that “many more families are going to lose their loved ones before their time” because his government was going to allow the deadly coronavirus to spread to about 60 per cent of the population, so that this would develop future “herd immunity” for those who survived.

This could lead to the infection, in a matter of months, of around 40 million people and some 300,000 to over a million deaths amongst the frail and the elderly. Whilst this didn’t seem to bother the crackpot advisers who surround the Prime Minister, there was an enormous backlash from the medical community and the vulnerable pensioners who are the mainstay of the Tory vote in the Home Counties these days.

Under pressure from his own back-benchers, Johnson has backtracked to return to a conventional containment policy that Labour supports but argues doesn’t go far enough to deal with the crisis.

It’s all very well telling the over-70s to stay at home for the next four months but telling them to rely on relatives, friends and neighbours for food and supplies, and expecting the local council to act as the agency of last resort, is largely wishful thinking in boroughs where social services have been cut to the bone. It does nothing but spread panic and despair amongst those who have no-one to turn to.

It’s all very well introducing a partial lock-down, but what’s to be done about the workers who will be suspended or put on short time as a consequence of the emergency measures to counter the coronavirus outbreak?

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, says he’s willing to talk to the TUC about their concerns. But what the unions want is a national taskforce that brings together unions, business and government to co-ordinate support and ensure that measures are being effectively targeted, delivered and accessed by those who need them.

The TUC’s key demand is that the government provides wage subsidy schemes to support people in jobs, and that businesses and employers should set out Jobs and Fair Wages Plans, agreed with recognised unions. The second is to fix the sick pay system to provide sick pay at a living wage for everyone, including the two million workers not covered by the scheme, along with a refunded benefit system worthy of a country with the fifth largest economy in the world.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, says: “The government must be bold, decisive and do all it can to help those who need it most: those without jobs, those locked in to zero-hours contracts and insecure work, our front-line health workers, the self-employed, and businesses of all kinds across the country who need to know the government is on their side.

“The market cannot deliver what is needed. Only collective public action led by government can now protect our people and our society and do what is necessary to get us through this crisis.

“A decade of damaging and destructive cuts means our public services are ill equipped to cope. Too many people are already drowning in debt, trapped in insecure jobs and housing, or left reliant on a broken Universal Credit and benefits system. But no one can be left behind.

“Every resource we have must be harnessed to help those who need it and to get our whole country through this crisis. Now is the time for collective public action, for the good of us all.”