Lindsey German on topsy-turvy economics, media duplicity and Tory Islamophobia
Isn’t it a funny old world when the things the left are accused of doing are actually being carried out by the right? So the Tories are claiming to pledge increases in public spending, they are misusing the offices of state for political purposes, and they are accused of having Moscow gold shoved into their pockets.
The big accusation of the weekend was that Labour would spend £1.2 trillion over the next five years if elected. These figures have been angrily denied by Labour and quite rightly since they are a mash up of 2017 election pledges and commitments made at this year’s conference. So we shouldn’t take any of it too seriously except that it is being splashed on the front pages of the right wing Sunday papers as part of the latest scare campaign against Labour.
Now £1.2 trillion (a trillion is one thousand times a billion) is a lot of money but I personally would be pleased to see Labour spending this sort of amount on the public services that this country needs. We only need to look at every area of life to see how decades of cuts and the recent decade of austerity have turned Britain into a country where pretty much nothing that is publicly provided works properly. Investing in housing, good jobs, education and health to rectify some of the attacks in recent years is going to cost huge amounts of money and one of the main debates in this election should be who pays for this.
The Tories in general are against taxing the rich and were appalled at attacks on billionaires – regarding this as damaging ‘aspiration’. But making these people pay a decent tranche of taxes, and likewise the corporations, would bring in a large part of the money needed. In any case, we should get this into perspective. The ever delayed Crossrail project in London is now alone expected to hit £18.3 billion in costs. For one line across the capital. The high speed rail link HS2 is now expected to cost £88 billion. The government spending on preparations for Brexit alone since 2016 has cost £6.3 bn. The Tories have increased military spending by an extra £4.7bn from 2017 to 2020.
My point here is that none of these figures – covering only a tiny amount of spending overall – are treated in the same way. Yet when Labour wants to spend substantially to rectify major social problems they are met with horror. And, while Boris Johnson seems to be visiting a different hospital every day (could you perhaps do something to challenge this Unison and other health unions?), the record of his and previous Tory governments on the NHS is parlous. Waits for cancer patients lengthened, September the worst month ever for people waiting more than 12 hours on trolleys, more cancellations of urgent operations, around a third of patients having to wait over a week for a GP appointment.
The NHS is now in ‘perpetual winter’ and this is before winter hits. And the problems go back to lack of funding especially under the coalition government (that nice Jo Swinson), and the knock on effects of all sorts of cuts in social care.
The real discussion in this election should be why Britain has developed such a crisis in all its public services and how much will it take to put that right? Because when we say this is an election which will shape a generation, it means we need a fundamentally different approach to making the rich pay and challenging inequality.
The Tories’ figures on Labour spending are obviously based on research done by civil servants at government behest, despite the head of the civil service saying they shouldn’t be used. And they have suppressed reports into their funding by Russian billionaires and into Johnson’s relationship with Jennifer Arcuri until after the election. These are all examples of corruption pure and simple.
A low point even by Tory standards
There is another issue where the Tories are allowed a free pass and that is racism. Baroness Warsi, former Tory chair, is shouting from the rooftops that there is institutional Islamophobia in the Tory party – but not many people are listening. Compare this to the furore over antisemitism within Labour. We are now routinely told that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic and that Labour is institutionally antisemitic. Yet the same is not said about Boris Johnson who – unlike Jeremy Corbyn – is on record as having made a number of obviously racist comments.
The only conclusion one can draw is that the issue of racism against Jews is being weaponised by those who oppose Corbyn, while the issue of racism against Muslims is relegated to minor importance. None of this does any service to the fight against racism anywhere in whatever its form. It has, of course, the added advantage that charges of antisemitism are increasingly used against those who criticise Israel and its policies – and this is a grave injustice to the Palestinians.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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