The election ought to be a heaven-sent opportunity to expose the rottenness of the system we have and to demand of the political parties what they plan to do to end the fundamental injustice in the way our society and economy work. at present. Of course it won’t even be mentioned, but it ought to be centre-stage.
Take strike 1. The BA walk-out was prompted by an arbitrary decision taken without consultation by the chief executive to cut all cabin crews by at least one member. The union offered to make alternative cuts yielding the same savings, but he unilaterally rejected it. BA staff are then vilified as as bringing back another ‘winter of discontent’. Similarly the signalmen and maintenance workers on the railways who protest that sacking 1500 will endanger safety are told they are ‘holding the nation to ransom’. The Government condemned the strike as unnecessary and damaging.
Then take strike 2. Having behaved with mind-boggling greed, arrogance and recklessness which threatened to capsize the economy and nearly caused a global breakdown, the bankers downed tools, froze the credit markets, refused to lend to businesses, and without a shred of shame demanded that the Government put at their disposal to save themselves and all their ill-gotten toxic assets a sum equal to the country’s entire GDP. And the Government surrendered, gave them everything they wanted, and didn’t even insist on any reforms to prevent this enormous crime against society ever happening again.
Yet it’s even worse than that. Workers have been forced by de-industrialisation ( a million jobs lost in manufacturing in the last decade), globalisation (the threat of industry moving overseas) and Thatcherite labour laws (unrepealed by New Labour) now to accept wage freezes, pay cuts or job losses. Banks on the other hand, having had handed out to them unlimited loans at zero interest, have made a meteoric recovery. The result is that while incomes (including the middle class) have risen £2bn over the last year, profits have spiralled 12 times faster to an increase of £24bn.
A capitalist system as pungently unjust as this should be the central election issue. But that requires a new party – how about a Labour Party?