Rishi Sunak wants to grab cash from people on benefits to deliver tax cuts for corporations and the rich. Last week he said a pre-election tax cut spree will be made on the back of “difficult decisions to control welfare”.
Sunak told the Sunday Telegraph, “When I say that I want to keep cutting taxes that is what we’re going to deliver. “I want to control public spending, I want to control welfare, which we’re doing.” The Tories are also demanding more job cuts with plans, for example, to slash 63,000 civil service jobs.
Sunak said the autumn statement in November delivered “the biggest set of tax cuts in one event since the 1980s”—overwhelmingly for business. The £9 billion handout to corporations was the “largest business tax cut in modern British history”. Sunak added, “That tells you that we mean business”—or at least that they protect and support big business.
Meanwhile taxes are rising for ordinary people. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has kept tax thresholds frozen. That means an automatic tax rise for millions as their wages increase during a period of rampant inflation while tax bands remain static. Hunt will set out his next budget on 6 March. It will be a pitch to win votes and to pretend to be helping workers.
But the Tory policy of holding down wages below inflation has directly cut living standards for millions of working class people and encouraged other bosses to cut pay. Sunak told broadcasters last week that his “working assumption” was that he would call an election in the second half of the year, ahead of the January 2025 deadline. The government is in a death spiral, far behind Labour in the polls.
It will seek to use racism and to scapegoat people on benefits to recover. But the Tories keep making the most obvious political blunders. The partner of disgraced ex-Tory MP Peter Bone has been chosen as the Conservative candidate to replace him in the Wellingborough by-election.
Helen Harrison, a Conservative councillor, was selected by members of the party last Sunday. An election is coming because a parliamentary body found Bone subjected a staff member to bullying and sexual harassment. We need more struggle against this vicious government rather than waiting in the—empty—hope that Labour will deliver.
That means restarting the pay fights everywhere, opposing all the government’s attacks on refugees, and challenging it on every front. And union leaders should not stand aside from the fight to defend and improve benefits as well as wages.
Another early test is whether unions defy the new anti-strike laws. The demonstration against the anti-union laws called by the TUC union federation on 27 January has to be a launchpad for much more struggle to smash these laws.