Under the microscope – Coronavirus pandemic news in brief


Coronavirus   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Tories consider nationalising

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is launching a bailout scheme called ‘Project Birch’ to prevent the collapse of key big businesses. Essential sectors like airlines, steel and manufacturing could receive public loans “on a ‘last resort’ basis,” says the Treasury.

However, the governor of the Bank of England has told MPs that many firms are already drowning in debt. They may prefer to sell shares in their companies rather than take on more loans.

And bankers’ association TheCityUK is pressuring Sunak to consider part-nationalisation. Financiers are concerned that private business will not be able to pay back all that debt. They estimate that government-backed loans alone could exceed £100 billion, having hit £40 billion within two months.

The government might guarantee banks’ repayments by changing its loans into shares. “You convert into preferred equity on the assumption that some of these companies have a good future, then flog them – à la Margaret Thatcher – over time,” says the chief economist at investment bank Goldman Sachs.

But denationalisation “à la Margaret Thatcher” is part of what got us into this mess in the first place! We say: forget bailouts for bosses and banks – nationalise finance and big business with no compensation to the fat cats. Then run them under the democratic control of workers and service users, not the profit parasites and their lackeys!

Migrant surcharge lifted

Public anger at mistreatment of health staff has forced the Tories to stop the £400 NHS surcharge on visas for overseas NHS workers. The fee remains for other workers from outside the UK, and rises to £624 in October.

We say: scrap all healthcare charges for all users – prescription payments, dental and opticians’ fees, visa surcharges and the rest. Make the privateers and billionaires pay!

Top 1% take 17% of wealth

The richest 1% in Britain were taking 16.8% of national income up until the Covid crash, reports the Resolution Foundation. The figure was previously calculated as 13.8%, which didn’t include taxable ‘capital gains’ like land, shares and fine art.

While the top 1% took almost 17 times over the odds, the top 0.1% took over 80 times over the odds. They received 8.1% of national income – previously calculated to be 5.6%

Tory panic laws

The government is exploiting pandemic disruption to rush through anti-worker legislation. The new immigration bill passed its first stage on 18 May, and a new counter-terrorism bill has just materialised.

The immigration bill would introduce a ‘points-based’ system which punishes ‘low-skilled’ workers like those risking their lives in the NHS, care homes and supermarkets. The counter-terrorism bill would make even more extensive snooping on unconvicted people lawful – trade unions, beware.