The regime of austerity is set to continue with ever more cuts being pushed through. George Osborne, the Coalition Chancellor, has announced that £25bn in further cuts will be needed after the 2015 General Election, with the welfare budget in line to be slashed. Once again benefits will bear the brunt forcing many more ordinary people into a desperate situation.
George Osborne’s so-called recovery has arrived we are told. However, it is a “recovery” not for you or me but for the millionaires and London’s estate agents. Most people do not see or feel any recovery at all. The regime of austerity is set to continue with ever more cuts being pushed through. Osborne, the Coalition Chancellor, has announced that £25bn in further cuts will be needed after the 2015 General Election, with the welfare budget in line to be slashed. Once again benefits will bear the brunt forcing many more ordinary people into a desperate situation.
Charities have warned that already over a million people are now relying on food-banks to get by. PayDay “loan shark level” loans have reached epidemic proportions as workers struggle to pay bills.
Despite the fact that the number of houses built is the lowest for a 100 years, almost 60,000 London homeowners joined the “property millionaire” club in 2013, as house prices soared to an all-time high.
This rise in house prices has nothing to do with real value but rather the flood of speculative money entering Britain. Kevin Williamson, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said that London was “becoming a preserve of the wealthy” and was being used as “a safety deposit box for global millionaires.”
In London alone, a total of 239,703 dwellings are now valued at over £1 million – more than 61% of Britain’s total. The champagne corks are popping as the rich become richer in Tory Britain. Official figures show that property prices in the capital rose 12% in the year to October 2013.
This spiral of greed is now creating 156 new property millionaires each day but is also serving to squeeze out ordinary people from the London housing market.
The highest concentration of million pound homes is in South Kensington, where a whopping 71% fall into this bracket. At the other extreme, the working class London borough of Barking and Dagenham does not have a single “millionaire” property.
Instead, Barking has to make do with extremely over-crowded schools and plenty of pound-shops. In 2007, some 60,000 people were in temporary accommodation in London alone. With the drastic shortage of rented social housing, 62% of those in “temporary” accommodation have been there for more than two years.
Society going backwards
At the same time Osborne’s “recovery” is going to mean more and more savage cuts. The share of government spending is forecast to fall to pre-1948 levels. This means the destruction of the welfare state and a return to conditions of the 1930s. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that soon there will be little “left to squeeze”! Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said, “Let’s not forget the scale of the cuts in spending still to come.” He calculated that only a third of spending cuts had been implemented.
Young workers today will have to work harder and longer than their parents or grandparents before retirement and get much less. Some have written in the press that the retirement age should be increased not to 70, but to 85 years of age. “We are not talking about people working until they are 90 but just for as big a proportion of their life as they used to in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said Philip Booth, programme director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
A poll by SAGA of over 10,000 people aged 50 and over found that most already expect to work five years longer than their parents. The worst affected said they would still be working at the age of 75 or over and do not expect to be able to stop until they are 85.
The gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society is widening. Sir Michael Marmot, an adviser to the government, has pointed out that two-thirds of people will fail to reach 68 disability-free. “If the retirement age increases, and assuming everyone’s health improves at the same rate [which is very doubtful], the gap between the numbers of poorer and richer people reaching retirement age or doing so in poor health will increase or, at best, the current gap will remain.”
This reflects the real face of capitalist crisis. Capitalism can no longer afford the reforms of the past. Austerity and counter-reforms are on the order of the day. The Coalition has stated that this austerity will last at least until 2020, but others proclaim that it will last indefinitely.
Fight for a socialist future!
Ed Miliband has struck a chord in his campaign against the crisis in living standards, and has promised that a Labour government will freeze energy bills for 20 months. While we welcome this stand, it does not go far enough. Millions want to see the energy and utility companies taken back into public ownership, along with the railways and Royal Mail.
In any case, rather than offering a real alternative to the Tory Coalition, Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, is offering more of the same. “Labour will only succeed as a pro-business party”, he insists, committing a future Labour government to continued austerity. He has launched a “zero-based spending review” to identify spending cuts and is committed to matching Coalition spending (cuts) in 2015-16 and have the cost of his spending plans verified by the Office for Budget Responsibility!
Miliband has made it clear that be wants to “reform” capitalism and not abolish it. But a crisis-ridden capitalism promises decades of austerity. A Labour government pledged to defend capitalism yet again will be a disaster for working people and lead to widespread disillusionment, as we have seen in Greece with PASOK, in Spain with the Socialist Party and also with Hollande in France. It is not possible to plan the economy under capitalism which is based on the maximisation of profit and not the needs of people.
If a Labour government chooses the capitalist road, it will lead to electoral disaster and the return to power of a more right-wing Tory government or Coalition. This is a dire warning to the labour movement. Those who do not learn from history will be doomed to repeat it.
The only way forward is a socialist programme to take the running of the economy out of the hands of big business and running it in the interests of the majority. That means taking over the banks and big monopolies that dominate the economy, under democratic workers’ control and management. This will allow the economy to be planned effectively and the resources built up by the labour of the working class to be then used for everyone’s benefit.
Only on this basis will we be able to build the millions of homes we need, the hospitals, schools, universities and libraries, which will provide work for everyone. We could introduce a living wage for all, lower the retirement age to 50, introduce a 32-hour working week – and that is just the beginning. We would abolish tuition fees and introduce grants. We would drastically reduce rents, together with the cost of energy. Instead of the chaos we have today, we could have an efficient cheap transport system linking road, rail, and other forms of transport.
Instead of profits for the millionaires, we would gear everything to the needs of society. Instead of a future of austerity and decline, we could build a real prosperous future for all. That is a future worth fighting for!