Sunday, 7 May 2017

What would Labour do for the working people?


"I don’t know what he'd do for working people in this country" said the lifelong Labour voter as he tried to explain his ludicrous decision to switch allegiance to the billionaire bankrolled Tories.

He might have well said "I can't be bothered to do any research at all so I'll just do as I'm told by the right-wing billionaire press barons".

It's not surprising that there are people out there who don't know about Labour's policies, after all, research by the London School of Economics found that just 11% of all newspaper articles about Jeremy Corbyn actually bothered to fairly represent a single one of his policies. In the fanatically right-wing Daily Mail and Express that figure fell to 0%.

In this article I'm going to explain how some of Labour's headline policies would benefit working people. It will be obvious that many of these policies would benefit people from other backgrounds too, but the main focus of the article is to demonstrate that a Labour government would be very much better for the British working people than another five years of hard-right Tory rule.

Wages

After the Tories came to power in 2010 they oversaw the longest sustained decline in the value of UK workers' wages in history. Meanwhile the elitist billionaire class literally doubled their wealth.

While ordinary British workers had the value of their wages eroded away so badly that crisis-stricken Greece is the only country in the developed world where wages fell as dramatically, the tiny super-rich minority were gaining wealth at a faster rate than ever before!

Several of Labour's headline policies would clearly work to reverse this dreadful collapse in wages: A £10 minimum wage by 2020, an end to the below inflation public sector pay cap, and the creation of tens of thousands of skilled jobs to work in infrastructure modernisation and house building.

The obvious question is "how would they pay for all of that?"

The answer relies on having a little bit of basic economic awareness. Higher wages for ordinary workers create higher levels of economic demand (see my article on the Marginal Propensity to Consume), increase the amount of tax that can be raised and reduce the amount that the government needs to spend on subsistence benefits for the working poor (like Tax Credits and Housing Benefit).

Investment in things like infrastructure and social housing actually create very much greater returns on investment than spending on stuff like tax cuts for the rich. In fact infrastructure spending and social house building are the kinds of government spending that create even bigger returns than the initial investment costs (see my article on fiscal multiplication).


Preventing undercutting

One of the big ways that Labour would help British workers is by preventing unscrupulous employers from undercutting UK businesses and UK workers wages by exclusively hiring cheap migrant labour.

If a job to work in the UK is advertised it must be advertised to the UK workforce, not just overseas. - This is the sensible kind of immigration and employment policy that most people would like to see.

All non-bigoted people accept the idea that if there's nobody available in the UK to do the work, it's fine for the employer to look overseas (if the job needs filling it benefits the economy that it is filled).

What they don't accept is unscrupulous gangmaster types hiring exclusively overseas workers and undercutting legitimate British businesses that pay their workers decent wages.

Nobody on the left is in favour of gangmaster exploitation of migrant workers and the damage it does to genuine British businesses that pay decent wages to their workers, and the Labour Party policy of banning gangmaster exploitation is absolutely right.


Tribunal fees

Labour intend to scrap the Tories outrageous £1,200 tribunal fees so that if you're unfairly dismissed by your employer you can seek justice without having to find such a significant sum of money. Of course very wealthy people can find a grand or so in their savings to seek justice, but finding such a sum of money is obviously a lot more difficult for your average working class Joe/Joanne who have had their ability to save eroded away by years of Tory wage repression, and now find themselves jobless.


Unfair dismissal fees are clearly an economic barrier to justice for the working poor that have been introduced to make it easier for unscrupulous bosses to lay off their workers (for unfair reasons like age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, political views, trade union activities, pregnancy, or refusal to accept their sexual advances).

Labour would scrap these unfair tribunal fees giving the working classes and the working poor the same access to the justice system as the more well off.


Housing

Research by the Office for National Statistics has found that house prices are at their least affordable ever. This should come as no surprise at all in light of the fact that the Conservatives have overseen the lowest levels of housebuilding since the 1920s, and also massively increased demand for housing by allowing the highest levels of net migration in history under Theresa May's watch at the Home Office.

Of course house prices are going to soar beyond the means of ordinary working people if the government restricts supply by presiding over the lowest house building levels in generations while Theresa May was busy letting in more immigrants than any other Home Secretary in British history.

Labour have pledged to invest in a house building boom which would benefit workers in two important ways. First it would bring house prices back within the reach of hard working families, and second it would create tens of thousands of new jobs ranging from low to high-skill working class jobs (from labourers, through bricklayers, digger drivers and plasterers up to electricians and plumbers).

Retraining

Labour has a policy of creating a National Education Service to provide free education and retraining to people of all ages. The era of jobs for life is long-gone and most workers these days can expect to change jobs several times throughout their working lives.

The Tories have been ruthlessly and recklessly slashing the adult education and retraining budgets since 2010 but Labour understand how much of a false economy these "cost-cutting" measures are.

A modern high-tech economy needs a flexible workforce, and adult education and skills retraining services are obviously fundamental in maintaining a flexible and well educated workforce.

The massive modern day improvements in technology means jobs become obsolete more quickly than ever. Labour is intent on providing unemployed workers with the skills they need to get back into the workforce as quickly as possible. This doesn't just benefit the workers themselves it also benefits businesses (by ensuring they have the workers they need) and the taxpayer (by getting people into skilled jobs rather than leaving them unemployed, or exploiting them as free "workfare" labour meaning they make no tax contribution despite actually working).

Education

Labour has pledged to reverse the savage Tory cuts to the education budget that will result in huge cuts at almost every state school in the UK.

Wrecking the education budget won't harm the life chances of the 7% of children from elitist families who can afford to send their kids to private school, but they will obviously harm the life chances of millions of kids from working class backgrounds.

If you're from a working class background and you have kids or grandchildren and you go out and vote for the Tories and allow them to snatch cash out of their school budgets, you're voting to harm the life chances of the kids you care about, and the life chances of millions of other kids from working class backgrounds too.

If you have any kind of class solidarity or concern about the younger generations of your family at all, you simply couldn't dream of allowing the Tories to rig the education system even more in favour of the privileged elites than it already is.

Combating inequality

Britain is an increasingly unequal society. Ordinary workers have had the real value of their wages slashed and 400,000 more kids are growing up in poverty, whilst the super-rich minority have literally doubled their wealth.

Most ordinary workers pay a higher percentage of their incomes in tax than the richest people in society. Labour would work to try and reverse this trend.

One policy is to avoid tax rises for anyone earning below £80,000 per year.

Another is to impose fair pay rules on companies bidding for government contracts so that ordinary employees at these companies get a decent wage in relation to their bosses.

Tax-dodging

One of the big ways that a Labour government intends to make life better for the workers is by making sure corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of tax.

The benefit for ordinary workers is obvious. If Labour bans HMRC from signing sweetheart deals with massive multinational corporations like Vodafone, Starbucks and Google, that would mean £billions in extra government income that wouldn't have to be raised by taxing the poor or increasing the deficit.

Another Labour policy is to ban companies that are based in tax havens from bidding for government work. It's astounding that this hasn't been enacted before, but you'd have to be a fool to think that it's fine for private companies to soak up £millions or even £billions in taxpayers' cash through outsourcing contracts, yet avoid paying back into the system by paying tax on their profits.

If ordinary working people have to pay tax on their wages, how on earth is it fair that giant corporations are getting away with dodging tax on their profits?

Investment

As I've mentioned before the Labour Party wants to put an end to the Tories catastrophic ideological austerity agenda and create an investment led recovery. Under Tory rule the UK spends a pathetic 1.7% of GDP on infrastructure and innovation as compared to the 3% norm in other developed nations.

A nation that refuses to invest adequately in infrastructure and investment is a nation that is determined to be left behind in the global economic race. Good jobs don't just magically appear out of nowhere, they have to be created.

An investment led recovery would create jobs in two crucial ways: The actual process of improving our national infrastructure creates jobs, but also countries with modern infrastructure tend to be much more attractive places for companies to establish themselves or to expand their operations than countries with crumbling and inadequate infrastructure caused by a policy of deliberate under-investment.

If you think an increase in the number of good jobs is in the interest of ordinary working people, an investment led recovery makes a lot more sense than a continuation of Tory ideological austerity.

Renting

The house price inflation bubble that the Tories deliberately re-inflated after the banking crash (lowest house building since the '20s, highest immigration rates ever) means ever more workers have found themselves trapped in the private rental sector.

Labour would introduce new tenants rights (like the right to live in a home that is fit for human habitation) and rent caps (to prevent greedy and idle landlords from cashing in on the housing shortage by endlessly jacking up the rents).

Labour is also pledging to begin the biggest programme social housing construction in decades to give ordinary working people the chance of escaping the clutches of the exploitative buy-to-let brigade.

The NHS

The Tories are planning to shut down and downgrade dozens of NHS hospitals and facilities, but they're not going to say which until after the election.

For all you know your local hospital or A&E unit or walk in centre could be one of the dozens under threat.

It doesn't really matter if you're working class, middle class or really very well off indeed. If you have a major accident or a serious illness and need to go to hospital fast, you're obviously more likely to die on the way if your local A&E has been shut down.

Labour has pledged to halt the Tories hospital closure programme to carry out a public safety review before any more A&E units are shut down.

Crime and public safety

Since 2010 the Tories have scrapped 20,000 police jobs and 10,000 fire service jobs. As a result crime rates are on the rise and there was a 17% increase in the number of people dying in house fires in a single year.

Not only would Labour's policy of reversing the Tory cuts to essential public services by hiring 10,000 extra police and rebuilding the fire service improve public safety for all of us, it would create a lot of very good professional jobs for young people from working class backgrounds to aspire to.

Returning to their roots

The strangest thing about these endlessly repeated complaints that Jeremy Corbyn is somehow not interested in the workers or the working class is that they're so completely backwards.

Of course the economically centre-right New Labour government did more for workers (especially stuff like minimum wage and tax credits) than the economically hard-right Tories (the billionaire bankrolled party of wealth and privilege) would ever do, but the new direction Labour has taken since the collapse of New Labour is to return Labour to its roots:

Labour has given up third way triangulation and guided focus group nonsense to listen to the needs of ordinary working people up and down the country and give them more power to influence the political direction of the country.

Jeremy Corbyn is actually the most worker friendly Labour leader in decades and the Tories are the most worker-unfriendly in decades too.

You'd have to have things spectacularly backwards to abandon Labour now in order to vote Tory because you think that that you care about workers rights and workers' wages!

Avoiding a Tory nuclear Brexit

Perhaps the most important consideration of all for working people is the kind of Brexit that is going to happen. Of course a lot of working people voted in favour of Brexit, but they certainly didn't vote in favour of the Tory threat to trigger a massive economic meltdown by enacting what they're calling "the nuclear option" of stropping away from the Brexit negotiation table with no deal whatever.

The very rich will obviously have the wealth to insulate themselves from the economic fallout of an extreme Tory "no deal" Brexit, but ordinary working people who have already suffered years wage erosion certainly won't.

The Centre for Economic Performance's best case estimate for a "no deal" Brexit would be a 6.3% collapse in GDP which would make a self-inflicted Tory Brexit recession significantly more damaging than the bankers' crisis which wiped out 4.8% of GDP.

The worst case estimation from the ONS is a 9.5% collapse which would make a "no deal" Tory Brexit recession twice as bad as the one that followed the global financial sector insolvency crisis!

The areas of the economy that would be most badly affected by a "no deal" nuclear Brexit would be manufacturing, agriculture, food and drink, hospitality, shipping and ports, aviation and airports, import and export reliant businesses and tourism related enterprises.

There couldn't possibly be a better example of voting against your own class interest than a working class person voting for a political party that is clearly slow marching the UK economy towards an economically ruinous "no deal" nuclear Brexit.

Please at least take a few moments to consider Jeremy Corbyn's sane and stable approach to the Brexit negotiations before you decide to vote in favour of a party that seems ever more determined to launch the worst case scenario from a working class perspective, of a chaotic and economically ruinous extreme-right "nuclear Brexit".

Conclusion

Labour in 2017 has the most worker-friendly set of policies they've has developed in decades. It's so obviously more worker-friendly than the Tories' hard-right pro-big business, workers-rights confiscating, wage-repressing, Nuclear Brexit-gambling agenda it feels patronising to have even spelled it out ... but it seems necessary because alarming numbers of people seem to be making their political decisions based on little more than personality politics and empty rhetoric than anything resembling coherent analysis of the parties' different policies.

What we can do

  • If you hear anyone questioning what Labour would do for the workers - show them this article. If you know any ordinary working people who are actually thinking of voting Tory - show them this article.
  • There are plenty of ways of sharing this article. Share it with people on social media. Email it to them. If they don't really do the Internet then print it off and hand them a physical copy (people with no access to social media are the most important to reach of all).
  • Don't just show this article to them either. Ask them what they thought of it, engage them in political conversation. 
  • If you're not registered to vote, or not sure, check here.
  • There are 2.4 million young people who are missing from the electoral register, many of them ordinary working people. Encouraging them to vote will be absolutely vital in preventing Theresa May from getting the super-majority she wants in order to further rig the economy in favour of the tiny super-rich elite at the expense of the rest of us. If you know anyone who is not registered to vote then encourage them to do it. 

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