No to this Tory-DUP coalition of chaos
01 Jul 2017The longer the recent general election campaign went on, the clearer it became that despite the Tories doing everything they could to avoid scrutiny of the failures of seven years of austerity, people were losing trust in their message every day and they had run out of fresh ideas to make a better Britain, instead offering more of the same in terms of failed austerity and reactionary scapegoating.
This pattern has continued since the election and was starkly illustrated by the threadbare nature of the Queen’s Speech, and this week’s Tory-DUP deal, which seems to be in no-one’s interest other than Theresa May’s as she seeks desperately to cling to power.
We need to be clear that the deal with the DUP has led to the formation of a reactionary and unstable government that is bad for the overwhelming majority of people of Britain.
After the announcement of the deal — rightly condemned as “grubby” and a “straightforward political bribe to desperately prop up Theresa May in office” by my colleague John McDonnell — the government has failed to answer two obvious questions.
First, where is the money for the Tory-DUP deal coming from? After all, May told a nurse there was no “magic money tree” for public-sector pay rises and spent the recent election campaign saying there was no money available to tackle the deepening crisis in our NHS and schools.
But she has now found at least £1 billion to buy a parliamentary majority, with some reports suggesting it could be as much as £2bn.
Many people will no doubt be worried that tax rises or further vicious cuts to welfare or our public services will be used to plug this funding gap.
Second, the government has failed to answer why all parts of the UK can’t receive the much-needed additional funding that Northern Ireland got as part of the deal with the DUP.
Research from Labour suggests that if the sweetheart deal with the DUP goes ahead and the cost rises, as is rumoured, to £2bn then it could mean £68bn in government funding being denied to the rest of the UK.
Under the Barnett formula (a mechanism used by the UK Treasury to automatically adjust the amount of public expenditure allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to reflect changes in spending
levels allocated to public services in England, England and Wales or Great Britain, as appropriate) an increase of £2bn in funding for Northern Ireland would normally imply additional public expenditure in England of £59bn, with Scotland getting an additional £6bn and Wales £3bn.
However, following such a drastic change in extra budgetary spending for Northern Ireland, the Conservatives have decided to not adopt an approach even similar to the Barnett formula to increase funding across the board at a time when all nations and regions are crying out for
extra infrastructure funding.
My colleague Owen Smith, shadow minister for Northern Ireland, was also right to ask this week whether “this deal [will] help or hinder the process of restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland?” noting that “it is clear that other parties in Northern Ireland consider the deal to compromise the ability of the British government to be truly impartial as stipulated under the Good Friday Agreement.”
The Good Friday Agreement is one of the greatest political achievements of modern times and must be fully defended and respected.
Once the Tory-DUP deal was agreed, the first key vote the Tories and DUP combined on was to vote down Labour’s amendment to the Queen’s Speech to force the government to end cuts to the police and fire service and lift the public-sector pay cap to give emergency and public service workers a pay rise.
It seemed on this occasion May couldn’t find her magic money tree.
Labour is clear that recent events prove that she will desperately try and cling to power but will not make the change of direction away from austerity needed to build a better Britain.
Far from being strong and stable, May’s government is weak and wobbly, and this is before it has to make difficult decisions or outline its position on Brexit negotiations in depth.
Yet too many people are struggling to get by while the Prime Minister focuses on holding her unstable coalition of chaos together.
Labour has a clear programme for government that can bring Britain together and genuinely protect jobs and communities. It is absolutely clear already that this Tory-DUP lash-up cannot provide this.
If all May’s government can offer is permanent disarray, then it needs to stand aside and let a Labour government build an economy that works for the majority of society.