Government wages war on poor: good luck to the strikers

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The best of luck to today’s public sector workers and their strike. Yesterday’s Autumn Statement by George Osborne — an acceleration of misery for most of us — was a declaration of class war on the poorest in society who do all the useful work.

Polly Toynbee lays out the facts in an impassioned piece in the Guardian:

Not one penny more was taken from the top 10% of earners. Every hit fell upon those with less not more. Fat plums ripe for the plucking stayed on the tree as the poorest bore 16% of the brunt of new cuts and the richest only 3%, according to the Resolution Foundation. Over £7bn could be harvested with 40% tax relief on higher pensions, while most earners only get 20% tax relief; £2bn should be nipped from taxing bankers’ bonuses, but the bank levy announced was nothing extra. There was no mansion tax on high-value properties, though owners don’t even pay their fair share of council tax, and property is greatly undertaxed compared with other countries.

Worse still, two-thirds of properties worth over £1m now change hands while avoiding all their 5% stamp duty, by using offshore company accounts. But not a word passed Osborne’s lips on tax avoidance and evasion. Another 12,000 tax collectors are losing their jobs while some £25bn is evaded and £70bn avoided. In a time of national emergency, Osborne had no breath of rebuke about the responsibility of the rich not to dodge taxes, no threat to curb the culture of avoidance. Despite the High Pay Commission report on out-of-control boardroom pay – which even the Institute of Directors has called “unsustainable” – the chancellor said nothing. How adamantly he ruled out the Tobin tax on financial transactions, called for by those dangerous lefties Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

Instead came the great attack on public sector employees on the eve of the biggest strike in memory. This was a declaration of open class war – and war on the pay of women, 73% of the public workforce. After a three-year freeze, public pay rises are pegged at 1% for two years, whatever the inflation rate. That means this government will take at least 16% from their incomes overall. But the plan to abolish Tupe – the rule that ensures public workers are not paid less if their service is privatised – is outrageously unjust, and will lead to mighty resistance to all privatisation from senior as well as junior staff.

Then there are the four myths around today’s strike which have been pwned in Left Foot Forward. F’rinstance, that pensions aren’t sustainable at the current level:

The assumptions are based on current policies, not government proposals. Confirming earlier findings in the Hutton Report (pdf), they clearly predict the cost of public pensions will fall from 2% of GDP to 1.8% in 2030 and 1.4% in 2060 – without any of the current Hutton proposals.

The reason that public sector pensions are higher? Because so few in the private sector have a pension at all!

As for being the work of “militants”, “78 per cent of Unison voted in favour of the strike, 83 per cent of the GMB, 75 per cent of Unite – all mandates which any politician would kill for”.

You may remember, of course, that Johnson was elected Mayor of London in 2008. He gained 42.48 per cent of the first preferences in London, on a turnout of 45.33 per cent. So London has a mayor triggered by less than a fifth of the voting population – just 19 per cent.

Faisal Islam of Channel 4 News has ten questions for George Osborne, starting with, “You are announcing unspecified massive spending cuts for the next parliament to meet your target. Isn’t this exactly what you criticised Labour for?”

The BBC says that 60% of the public are supporting the strike so the shameful position of Labour’s Ed Miliband and Rachel Reeves are not exactly cutting with the electorate.

Neither are the braying banker sympathisers. As one Tweet put it, if you can write an anti-strike rant, thank a teacher.

Politics Home: A Statement that may seal the Chancellor’s fate. “Look at the decision to cut tax credits which will raise rather than reduce child poverty levels – but refusing to repeat the bank bonus tax as Labour suggested. How out of touch can this Chancellor get?”

Paul Mason on Osborne’s £30 billion of extra cuts. “There is now no chance of a sustained recovery, either in the real economy or the public finances, by the time we get to the pre-election period.”

All this, and yet Rachel Reeves, a Labour frontbencher marked for higher things (with 666 tattooed under her hair, more like), says: “We do not support the strike because a strike is a sign of failure.”

Anthony Hilton, former City Ed for the Evening Standard, on the myth of public-pension Sir Humphreys.

Madam Miaow says … visit Anna Chen’s website here:


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