After all the slurs about unelectability, the Tories have very quickly changed their tune and acknowledged that they are now facing a very real threat that they’ve not encountered for the last 30 years. At a meeting of the political cabinet last Tuesday they decided to focus on the idea that they offer a better future through lower taxes, a higher minimum wage, more jobs, and better public services, while a left-wing agenda would deliver insecurity through higher spending, higher taxes and more borrowing. If that is their plan, they have a real fight on their hands since almost all of their claims are downright wrong.
Taxes have been lowered for the top decile and for multi-national corporations, but the severe cutback in tax credits in this next Tuesday’s Finance bill will increase taxes for the bottom third of the population, even after the increase in the personal allowance is taken into account. The £9 an hour minimum wage, which will not be reached till 2020, is actually unlikely to exceed by much, if at all, the uprating that the minimum will have reached by then.
As to more jobs, there are still 1.8 million people unemployed and the jobless figures are already starting to rise again. Moreover, the quality of jobs created over the last 2 years has been poor: 40% self-employed on a pittance wage and most of the rest insecure, low-paid, and on zero hours contracts, and even then 11 out of 12 jobs created have been in London or the South-East. As to better public services, are they serious? The NHS is being outsourced and privatised strongly against the wishes of the public, education is being made to fit Tory ideology, and legal aid is being drastically pared back.
A left-wing agenda that produced growth and better-paid and more sustainable jobs could be generated at minimal higher spending while interest rates remain at 0.5% which will be for some long time yet. But it would produce the opposite of what the Tories claim – higher income and greater security than the Tory option of prolonged austerity. Again a left-wing agenda would certainly increase taxes on the very rich who are holding the country to ransom by their industrial scale tax avoidance, but it would lower taxes on the poorer half of the population. As to more borrowing, the Tories have a cheek at throwing that at Labour when they themselves are forcing the 13 million households in poverty in the UK, half of them in work, to borrow more because of the £12bn welfare cuts about to be imposed.