The Socialist 5 October 2011 |
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Tory conference farce - Carry on cutting!
A Guardian editorial summed up chancellor George Osborne's conference speech as: "while the basic facts have changed, his basic script has not". The "basic facts" include that the world economy is in dire straits and unemployment is soaring, among others. The "script" is the usual Tory fare - attacks on workers and cuts, blandly seasoned with a few minor skirmishes over Europe and tax.
While insisting that it is not a 'plan B' for the economy, Osborne has proposed 'credit easing' as a way of getting money to small businesses denied it by the banks. Many will ask why the banks, with £65 billion of shares in two of them owned by the government, cannot be made to lend money. That over half of Tory Party funding comes from the banks and the City sheds a little light on this.
Treasury minister Justine Greening flailed helplessly in her attempts to explain the complicated plans in a BBC interview. The complexity is borne out of 'Boy' George's attempts to address the 'credit desert' where small companies complain they cannot access cash, without adding to the deficit. The 'idea' is that the government borrows to buy bonds in small and medium companies (which at present do not exist).
But as Andrew Neil pointed out: "The bonds would have to be approved by credit rating agencies (that really worked with sub-prime!). The scheme would probably not touch the very small (where credit is scarcest)."
And, of course, on the issue of the negative effect of cuts and price rises on ordinary people's ability to spend they have no proposals.
More concrete were Tory plans to ramp up anti-trade union legislation. John McDonnell, left Labour MP, tweeted: "Osborne's tackling unemployment by making it easier for companies to sack their workers. Is there no sense of irony left on the right?"
Plans floated in Manchester include charges for employment tribunals and doubling the time before a worker has rights at work from one to two years.
Eric Pickles attacked council trade unions for paid facility time, claiming spending on this had "got out of hand". But it's estimated that MPs made 'voluntary repayments' following the expenses scandal valued at double the amount Pickles accuses the unions of costing.
And, as the Unison public sector union explains: "Research commissioned by the Department for Business in 2007 suggested that effective and engaged union representation saves the public purse between £170 million and £400 million a year by improving retention, training take-up, health and safety, and dispute resolution."
In September a leaked document revealed Tory fears that their cuts had exposed the lie in their claim to be the most family-friendly and they were losing support among women. The council tax freeze costing the guts of a billion quid was described as a 'family-friendly' move.
But according to the PCS union, lifting the public sector pay freeze would give the average civil servant's household 16 times more than the saving under Osborne's rehashed council tax freeze announcement.
Also facing the axe are pledges to be "the greenest government ever", as Osborne backtracks on policies to cut carbon emissions rapidly - and the Human Rights Act, as home secretary Theresa May gets it in her cross hairs.
Francis Maude told unions they should "be in no doubt' that the government will reform public sector pensions. But his bluster was answered on 30 June when three quarters of a million teachers, lecturers and civil servants took strike action to defend their pensions. And it will be again.
It's little wonder the Tories want to attack the unions. The strike on 30 November, which could involve four times that number of public sector workers, with enormous public support in opposition to the cuts, has the potential to help unseat this government.