NHS workers protest demanding a 15% pay rise. Photo: Paul Mattsson
NHS workers protest demanding a 15% pay rise. Photo: Paul Mattsson

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1173

The main aims of Rishi Sunak’s ‘mini-budget’ were blatant: blame the cost-of-living pain on the war in Ukraine; line up a little pre-general election sweeteners – mainly a future one percentage point cut in income tax; dishonestly paint himself as a tax-cutter in the hope of gaining personal support among Tory members.

But, amid the crisis of their system, the defenders of capitalism cannot determine the outcome of their actions.

Virtually all the right-wing newspapers, normally loyal to the Tories, expressed outrage on their front pages the next day.

The Financial Times, warned that Sunak might be forced to take further measures quickly, given the falling living standards which he had utterly failed to address in the budget.

In a snap YouGov poll, just 6% of people said Sunak had done enough to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Seven in ten people felt he had not done enough. The Resolution Foundation says that of every £3 of new help provided by the chancellor, £2 will go to people in the top half of the income distribution. The idea that falling living standards are a product of the war also doesn’t wash. 

The Tories’ approach is causing concern among the defenders of capitalism who wish to maintain their system of exploitation. The threat to it comes from the working class turning its anger into organised collective action industrially and politically. 

L’Atelier, which is part of the BNP Paribas bank, warned of the danger of “social unrest, protest and extremism” in Britain. John Egan, CEO of L’Atelier, said: “Some factors are unavoidable… But others, such as the high cost of essential ingredients of living such as housing, could be fixed with the right set of policies.”

The ‘right set of policies’ are easier said than done for Sunak. He has his own personal ambitions to attend to, a reflection of the split and divided nature of the Tory party.

Many Tories fear that measures to protect working-class living standards will not satisfy and that appetite will grow with the eating.

Inevitably, in the absence of a mass workers’ party, some of this anger can seek expression by some voting Labour at the upcoming local government elections, many ‘holding their noses’. But it’s clear that Starmer’s Labour has no programme for fighting poverty.

That’s why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be standing candidates in the election on 5 May, pointing out what role fighting councils could play in the cost-of living war. 

Labour-led councils have a combined spending power greater than the gross domestic product of nine EU countries and the state budgets of sixteen! And this doesn’t take into account the borrowing powers councils also have to add to their spending power.

This shows the possibilities there are, not only to resist further austerity but to make significant improvements to peoples’ lives in the here and now.

No one need have their energy cut off – because councils could provide grants, while also putting their shoulder to the campaign for nationalisation of the energy companies. No services need be cut – councils could set budgets based on what is needed and join the fight for the Tories to pay up. 

There is much more that councils with the will and a programme to fight to improve the lives of working-class people could do.

But standing candidates in the local elections is just the first step towards the urgent task of building a mass working-class political alternative that can fight for an end to this unequal, crisis-ridden capitalist system.

We say:

Pay, benefits, pensions

  • An immediate above-inflation pay rise for workers to restore wages after over a decade of pay freezes and below-inflation rises
  • Regular pay increases for all, linked to trade-union agreed measures of inflation
  • Raise the minimum wage to £15 an hour, without exemptions
  • Restore the pension triple lock
  • Restore the additional £20-a-week Universal Credit payment. End the benefit cap
  • Living benefits and pensions for all who need them, rising with the cost of living


  • Freeze council and social housing rents
  • Rent controls to cap rents – decided by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and trade union representatives

Make the rich pay, not the workers

  • No rise in national insurance or council tax, scrap student debt
  • No worker should be made to pay more tax, raise tax thresholds in line with inflation
  • Take the wealth off the super-rich, nationalise the top 150 companies and banks to be run under democratic working-class control and management, with compensation only on the basis of proven need

Price rises

  • Reverse the rise in the energy price cap. Nationalise energy and other utilities under democratic workers’ control and management to reduce bills by removing the profit motive
  • No increase in public transport fares. Return transport into public hands, to guarantee a fully funded, free, environmentally friendly, sustainable transport system
  • Stop price rises, end bosses’ profiteering. Open the books of big retailers to inspection by trade unions. Nationalise the big retailers under democratic workers’ control to be run to meet need, not for profit

New workers’ party

  • No trust in Starmer’s Labour to fight in our interests. For a new mass workers’ party based on trade union and workers’ struggle


  • End the chaos of the capitalist market. For a socialist plan of production, based on the need of the overwhelming majority, not for profit

Sunak slams benefit claimants and pensioners

James Collett, Gloucestershire Socialist Party

Rishi Sunak’s budget statement exemplified the ruthlessness, hypocrisy and violence towards the poor which the British ruling class has been practising for centuries.

From this government stuffed with millionaires we get a budget which spits on the working class.

The Tories removed the £20 uplift in Universal Credit in October. Now, with official inflation due to hit 8.7% (and already at 45% on some basic goods), benefits including Universal Credit will only increase by 3.1%. With one hand they take, with the other they give us the finger.

This real-terms cut in benefits is an issue for the whole working class. Many people on Universal Credit are in work, but paid poverty wages or facing underemployment.

The state pension remains well below the poverty line. Disabled people are tried like criminals in Work Capability Assessments. Carers’ Allowance will go up by just 10p a week: the well-fed dinosaurs in parliament think £69.70 a week is good enough for people who work 24 hours a day caring for family members.


The working class is already being crushed by rising energy prices. Many are forced to privately rent and see their rent going up year after year.

I live in a deprived area, and what I hear people talking about as they queue up at the shop, the laundrette or the bus-stop, is inflation austerity: “They don’t pay us more, but they expect us to pay more all the time”.

5p fuel insult just doesn’t cut it

Calvin Fowler, Worcester Socialist Party

The Tory government’s announcement that they are cutting the price of petrol by 5p and saying that is the greatest fuel reduction in years, is an absolute joke!

They have actually reduced the price of petrol not by years, but merely weeks. Hardly Back To The Future is it? ‘Hey Boris, I’m setting the time machine back to 20 February 2022!’

With the 54% increase in electricity and gas, ‘doing us all a favour’ by taking the price of fuel back three weeks is insulting.

On a personal level, I essentially have to work an extra shift to pay the cost of commuting. As recently as last summer, £30 a-week was enough for the 30-mile round trip, five days a week in my small car.

Last weekend I had to put in another £36, and have started doing an extra shift on Saturday morning to cover the cost. My wife’s commute takes our weekly spending on fuel to around £100, just to get to work!

5p does not hack it. Yet again the bosses and the government use any excuse to crush the working class: Covid, Ukraine crisis, anything to deflect attention from their greed.

Childcare costs push families to the brink

For free childcare and paid parental leave

Bea Gardner, Enfield and Lea Valley Socialist Party

Britain has the second highest childcare costs in the world. And the cost-of-living crisis is pushing them yet higher.

For many, one parent’s wages barely covers the bill – and that’s before rent, gas, water and food. I’ve seen numerous posts on social media from other new parents, and even parents-to-be, desperately trying to find nursery places.

Over 40% of local authorities do not have enough places for children under two. One friend, a social worker and single mother, is unable to return to work because she can only find six hours a week of childcare.

For those who do find a place, they face extortionate costs. I saw one post from a teaching assistant who is only paid for term-time work, but could only secure a childcare place on basis of paying all year round – more than her yearly wage! 

Two-thirds of parents recently surveyed were paying as much or more on childcare costs than on housing. It is often only sustainable by relying on family and friends for help, normally grandparents. Otherwise, people end up working multiple jobs and long hours with no family time. So many parents I know work shifts or weekends to share childcare.

More than 11,000 childcare places have been lost during the Covid-19 pandemic. Privatised nurseries have shut up shop, unable to make a profit.

It doesn’t have to be this way and shouldn’t be this way.

Local councils should subsidise childcare costs, invest in council-run services, and reopen the thousands of children’s centres closed over the last decade. Childcare should be a publicly owned service, employing well-paid, fully trained professionals and run to meet the needs of parents and children, not profit.

Parents, especially women, are being priced out of work – and families forced into poverty. We need to fight for free childcare, and the option of extended, paid parental leave until children reach school age.