The Barbarism of a Tory Class War
This speech was first given on 11/09/21 to Arise Festival
There are those who think our policies are too radical. They say that we lost the election because our manifesto was too left wing. This explains the repeated purges on the Left in recent months. They think that Labour can win by shifting our whole movement to the Right. They're wrong. Of course, we didn't get every single thing right. One of which was being too tolerant to those who thought it was OK to repeatedly attack the party leader. But - and this is my central point - left policies and ideas are now more relevant than ever.
How else could you explain the fact that the Tories haven’t yet started their full scale austerity attack on the public services? And why was it that they used state power and borrowed billions to introduce the furlough scheme?
Look carefully at the opinion polls. There are still significant majorities for radical policy ideas.
I remain optimistic about the future.
Look at Labour's proposals in 2017 and 2019.
As I said, some mistakes were made. We must learn from them in order not to repeat them. But we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. After all, our transformative agenda unified the rank and file party membership, and galvanised tens of thousands of people drawn into activism for the first time. It inspired millions of voters.
Proposals on universal public provision, whether that was broadband, care, education, or railways.
We looked to tackle the climate crisis, Labour had plans to decarbonise the economy, from modernising public transport and retrofitting social housing.
All this required massive public investment and a progressive government prepared to act.
And we were willing to take the necessary steps to fund it.
To start to tackle the obscene inequalities in income and wealth.
To tax the top 5% of earners and to look at taxing the billions of tax-avoiding corporations - and not to tax the poorest in society as the Tories plan to do.
However, let's not be in any doubt. The Conservatives are planning a full scale assault both on our services and also on working class living standards.
We can see that happening immediately this autumn in the:
Ending of furlough
Withdrawal of Universal Credit
Suspension of Pensions Triple Lock
Increase in National Insurance for health and social care
Real terms reductions in public sector pay
Let’s call this what it is: it's the barbarism of a class war.
Waged on behalf of the wealthiest against the rest.
It's the barbarism of a country.
where the billionaires see their wealth grow exponentially,
where millions of children are left in poverty,
where you have the cruelty of Grenfell,
or the victimisation of migrants and so many others.
How could it be otherwise.
After all, it's the wealthiest in society who fund the Tories.They aren’t subject to this assault. Their income and wealth continues to grow year on year. Labour now needs to fight all of this with a message of hope, and that hope is the promise of socialism.
So let's say to our leadership as I did in the Commons a few weeks ago that they need to cast aside their timidity. They are too focused on internal matters, the purges must end, the attacks on internal democracy, and the command and control approach to local party meetings. They think we lost the election because of our policies. But if they want to explain what really happened, maybe they could start by taking a long look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they helped or hindered us in the run up to the election.
So it is down to us - the Left - to lead the argument in the Labour Movement and take it out into the wider country.
Let me make one final point.
Speaking to the Left I would say.
This is no time for pessimism or for defeatism. For flaking away from the struggle. Nor should we indulge in factionalism, competition and individualistic ways of operating.
We need to unite in a collective fight. Less than two years ago we were the leadership of a Movement for transformational change heading for an electoral contest to gain state power. And look closely at the two recent elections in UNITE and UNISON.
These are reasons for optimism. We can be more radical and we can be more populist for example in our economics. Four thoughts come to mind.
Why for example has Labour so often limited itself to taxing income rather than wealth? If we are serious about tackling the inequities of capitalism then we must be surely prepared to take on the overwhelming power of capital itself. And why is unearned income taxed less than earned income? Dividends earned from shares is a case in point. Taxed less than wages. Then there is the ocean of money lying unspent in the bank accounts of wealthy corporations. Last time I looked it was almost a trillion pounds unspent. And isn't it time to renationalise the Bank of England? This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But this wealth is in the hands of a very few.
Comrades, We can do this.
But only if we use our intellects, if we radiate hope, and if we show that we can unify.
Let’s make it happen!!