Beware of Empty Tory Promises

23 Jul 2017
The Tories’ failed policies cannot reverse the economic and social decline that brought misery to millions across Britain – Labour’s For the Many not the Few manifesto is the only viable alternative, argues Diane Abbott MP.

Last week Theresa May marked one year as Prime Minister with yet another relaunch speech in an attempt to show she is working for change, this time asking even opposition parties to “come forward” with ideas on how to tackle the challenges the country faces.

Jeremy Corbyn replied by saying she and her government have run out of ideas and policies for a better Britain and suggested she reads the Labour manifesto For the Many not the Few.

Indeed, the fact that the legislative programme outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech was the most threadbare I can remember during my time in Parliament starkly illustrated this.

And the proposals the Tories do have represent either a “more of the same” approach when it comes to failed austerity or a continuation of the antiforeigner distraction they have used to scapegoat migrants and others from the problems they have created.

Like her speech for the now seemingly forgotten vision of a “shared society” in January, May has again this week been heavy on rhetoric about being on the side of change, fairness and opportunity but has no
solutions to spiralling poverty and inequality in Tory Britain.

As my colleague Andrew Gwynne MP said this week the Tories have also been “brazenly borrowing Labour’s campaign slogans. But no-one will be fooled — the Tories are the party of the privileged few.” 

Whatever May’s rhetoric, if the Tories stay in power all the British public can expect is more of the same failed approach which has seen the slowest economic recovery since 1920 with a cost-of-living crisis  approaching for everyone — while the top enjoy more tax breaks — tuition fees set to stay at their high level and an NHS in crisis with patients waiting longer and hospitals in financial meltdown.

Again and again — in the last year — Tory-supporting media have suggested that the government has already either moved away from its failed ideologically driven austerity agenda, or will soon seek to do  so.

But as Philip Hammond and May have both made clear in recent weeks, the savage cuts of the Osborne-Cameron years are not only here to stay, but set to deepen.

The recent debates on the public-sector pay cap have illustrated this clearly.

While Theresa May can find her own “Magic Money tree” to the tune of £1bn to keep herself in a job by bribing the DUP, the government refuses to move away from an approach which is seeing pay cuts in real terms for our public servants.

At the same time, the Tories are clinging to an approach which has led to a funding crisis in the NHS last winter, and more and more people in the education sector are warning that our schools simply can’t  handle more of the same.

The Tory Party of never-ending and ever-failing austerity is still very much the Nasty Party, as demonstrated by its willingness to go into a coalition of chaos with the illiberal DUP. While some of the clearest policy illustrations of the toxic  combination of austerity in economics and reactionary views in terms of society present in their general election manifesto — such as taking  free school lunches away, the “dementia tax” or the barbaric proposal to bring back fox hunting — have now been put on the backburner, the fact  they wanted to pursue them shows just how little has changed.

And as they desperately try to cling on to power, we should be aware that the Tories may return to the politics of scapegoating at their September annual conference.

After the one last year — when Theresa May was lauded by many as a PMwho would work for a fairer Britain — it took only weeks for Home Secretary Amber Rudd to announce that companies could be made to publish lists of overseas workers, Liam Fox say that providing any guarantees  for existing EU workers would be to “hand over one of our main cards” in Brexit negotiations and Jeremy Hunt to call for an NHS without any foreign doctors.

Whatever reactionary policies they do bring forward, we should be clear that with strong opposition this government can be defeated.

The Corbyn-led Labour Party will continue to challenge the Tories  across the board — from fighting to defend our NHS and education system to their scapegoating of vulnerable communities.

Labour is ready to rebuild a Britain that is fairer and better. In contrast to the Tories we have a clear programme for government that can bring Britain together and genuinely protect jobs and communities based on our economic alternative of investment in our future.

If all May’s government can offer is permanent failure and disarray, with nothing more than a rhetorical commitment to shaping a fairer Britain, then it needs to stand aside and let Labour govern for the  many, not the few.

* Originally published in The Morning Star

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