The Cost of Lizzing Crisis [1]

The Cost of Lizzing Crisis [1]

Remember key workers. We clapped for them a couple of years ago for a while. We were brutally reminded that it is not, in fact, the high and mighty, the wealthy and self-important, those with the most or those with the loudest voices, who make every day ordinary society work. 

It is the doctors, the nurses, the healthcare workers, the ambulance drivers and paramedics, the care home assistants, the bus and train drivers, the postmen, the supermarket workers, the farmers, those who grow our food and deliver it to our shops, the delivery drivers, the engineers keeping the lights on and the water flowing out of our taps, the teachers and teaching assistants, the firemen and police, the refuse collectors and the very very many others doing ordinary but vital jobs which are necessary for any sort of civilised, functioning society. In a time of crisis, yes, but the rest of the time also, even though they too often get overlooked. Most of them did not work from home and often put themselves at risk to help others and do their job and ensure that, emergency over, society would be able to return to some sort of normal.

As George Eliot wrote – 

“for the growing good of the world is partly dependant on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Politicians were quick to praise them then, even to grant medals. And now? Now those same key workers are being told that their wages will have to fall even more behind inflation, that they will have to continue working harder than before because posts are left unfilled, that even doing full-time jobs they have to rely on food banks, that the cost of heating their homes has “only” doubled and they should be jolly grateful for this, that some of them may face redundancy, that the public services on which they depend will face cuts (first, because of inflation and now to provide some belated veneer of credibility to the economically incoherent mess of pottage which was Kwarteng’s mini-Budget), that their mortgages will go up, that their savings will be eaten away by inflation, that their right to strike and protest may be curbed and, now, that their pensions have lost possibly a third of their value because an apparently brainy, well-educated Chancellor and his Prime Minister, both of whom studied economics and/or worked in finance, did not engage brains before opening their mouths last Friday. 

They are told that this is all necessary for a “growth plan” though growth in what and for whom is not clear, other than those earning sums beyond the dreams of avarice for most workers apparently need more financial incentives to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. They notice that those who defrauded taxpayers during furlough or gained lucrative contracts because they were friends with the right people or wasted taxpayers’ money doing jobs incompetently during Covid face no consequences. They wonder why it is, that having made clear in 2016 that many of them were fed up with an economic settlement which prioritised the “haves” over the “have-nots”, and having given the government a substantial majority to make good on its promise to level up the country, it now seems determined to impose an even harsher version of the economic settlement they rebelled against, yet another bout of austerity and a cut in capital projects (a far better way to generate growth than giving very rich people a bit more money).

They wonder whether this is incompetence or a deliberate attempt to create a crisis in order to justify pushing through measures which would otherwise be deemed unacceptable. And not just them. Others are asking similar questions.

Enough. It is unconscionable to harm the least well off even more in order to benefit the rich and favoured groups. Saying it is for “growth” does not excuse this. The alleged “growth plan” (apparently hatched in Tufton Street “think tanks” and finalised over biscotti) is the sort of scheme only a government consisting of people with a half-arsed knowledge of what they fondly imagine Thatcherism meant, overlain with industrial quantities of self-pity and a tendency to blame others for anything going wrong, could have come up with. There are many ways of getting growth but the only one which matters is one which is well thought out, effective, sustainable, fair and seen to be so, for the sake of social cohesion if nothing else. There was a time when Tories understood this.

Tory MPs have not exactly covered themselves with glory in recent years. They may think they will look ridiculous turfing out a leader barely weeks after her election or voting down these measures and requiring the government to go away and do its homework properly this time. They will be right. But their amour propre is of no consequence. They should remember that this was the week when the Bank of England had to intervene because of concerns that there was a “material risk to U.K. financial stability” as a result of the actions of a Tory government (a Tory government, as a Tory Kinnock – is there one? – might say). If they have any honour, any sense of self-preservation, any care for the country – all of it – and the people in it – all of them (not just their friends and favoured voters), they will take action now to end this farce before more harm is done.


[1] “Borrowed” from Twitter

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