The 2010 general election has produced the result that the ruling class
were dreading: a hung parliament. With one seat to declare, no party has
a working majority. So the dirty dealing begins…
Labour has fallen from 349 seats (as at 2005) down to 258 now. The Tories have risen from 210 seats in 2005 up to 306 today. More sharply, Labour’s share of the vote has collapsed from the 2005 election level of 54% down to just 29% this time. But the Tories share has only risen from 32% up to 36%. The legacy of Blair/Brown and the New Labour project has been millions of lost Labour votes as workers have rejected the pro-big business programme of the out going government. However, there has been little desire expressed for the Tory alternative, hence the poor showing for Cameron compared to how things were for them just a year ago with the massive gains for the Tories in the council elections of 2009 and the huge poll leads. So instead of leading a majority Tory government, Cameron is having to sneak around trying to set up some sort of deal with the Lib Dems to get a working majority in the Commons and therefore lay claim to Number 10. But one thing is clear, what ever deal is finally put together – and whoever is involved in it – this will be a government of crisis, a government of austerity charged with the task of implementing huge Tory cuts. The resistance starts now.
We reproduce below the front page article from the new issue of Socialist Appeal, produced in the hours after the polls closed and the results became known:
With the Tories about to cobble together a ramshackle government, a dark cloud of volcanic ash hangs over the election result. Whatever the parliamentary arithmetic, the election marks a watershed. All the evasive talk must come to an abrupt end as the financial crisis spreads.
Working people are being handed the bill for the bail-out of the bankers, speculators and the City of London. We are being asked to foot this bill at a time when bankers’ profits are again booming. City greed has returned with the Royal Bank of Scotland paying out £1.3 billion in bonuses.
The bail-out has meant that we have the biggest budget deficit in Europe – including Greece. The new government is now demanding eye-watering cuts to balance the books.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 500,000 public sector jobs are to be axed. 100,000 NHS jobs are also in the firing line. The Financial Times, the mouthpiece of big business, has called for swingeing cuts. The government “will need to sack public sector staff, cut their wages, slash benefits, reduce pensions and axe services”, stormed their editorial (1/5/10). “These are now the worst of times.”
As for ordinary working people, the paper of finance capital warned that “they are in for the shock of their lives”, but then ominously adds – “and will respond with fury when they learn the truth.”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns of “two parliaments of pain”, but has also projected 20 years of austerity. Others have talked about the end of the Welfare State as we know it, meaning untold misery for the weakest sections of society. Local authorities are busy budgeting for disastrous cuts of 20%, 30% and even 40%.
The proposed cuts are worst than anything that Thatcher came up with in the 1980s. Commentators believe that what is being proposed is a “demolition job” on public services. In addition, public sector pay and pensions will be targeted.
Mervin King, the governor of the Bank of England, has warned that the cuts will be so painful that the government that implements them will be out of power as a consequence for at least a generation.
The ruling class is very concerned that people now face years of austerity but there is no public support for cuts.
We can see what is happening in Greece where the government is slashing living standards. However, Greek workers have responded by taking action, including general strikes.
Workers here can respond in a similar way. Politicians are already worried that austerity will spark Greek-style social unrest and street riots. And they should be worried. The “slash and burn” policies of Thatcher caused such unrest in 1981, including riots in Toxteth and Brixton. The new austerity policies will be much worse. “This is territory where Margaret Thatcher feared to tread”, stated the Financial Times. What is certain is workers will not take these attacks lying down.
This declaration of war on the working class must be met by the full force of the labour and trade union movement. The TUC needs to call a special conference to organise the fight back and put the labour movement on a war-footing. Public sector unions, being in the forefront of this offensive, should lead the way in the formation of a public sector alliance. We must stand by the adage “an injury is an injury to all”. We must prepare now for the biggest struggle for generations. There is no middle road.