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Editorial – Toffs in troughs

March proved to be a bad month for the Coalition. It was a reverse of the old adage that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In the first week or so it looked like things were going smoothly with the NHS destruction bill finally clearing the Lords, and the 28 March national strike against the pension “reform” crumbling. Dave Cameron obviously felt confident to press ahead with a new round of attacks, Royal Mail is finally to be sold off; the London fire brigade is outsourcing 999 calls to Capita, a firm notorious for the mess it made of local government benefit services. Health and education multinationals are casting hungry eyes on NHS hospitals and cash-starved state schools.


Clearly sizing up the sheer lack of fight by the leadership of the big unions – who have failed to call a single national demonstration against the destruction of the NHS – Cameron, Clegg and Osborne believed they could get away with a blitzkrieg on all the post-Second World War social gains. Labour’s Ed Miliband – elected by the unions to reconnect to Labour’s social base, but having done nothing in this direction – was facing a Blairite counter-revolution from his MPs.
Cameron and his millionaire cabinet seemed to be getting away with it.
But suddenly in the second half of March, it all started to go wrong. The cash for access corruption, a witch-hunt of the tanker drivers, which totally backfired, and George Osborne’s budget with its “granny tax” and “pastygate” saw the media having a field day at the Tories’ expense. To add insult to injury, The Sun too bared it populist teeth at what it (hypocritically) called, “Toffs at the Trough”.
Its 30 March leader called Osborne a “public school-educated heir to a multi-million pound fortune “ and his Cabinet colleagues people who “don’t worry how much to pay for food, rent or petrol”. It concluded that there is a growing “divide between working people and a rich elite.” Too true as their massive slump in the opinion polls showed. But this isn’t the only slump they have to worry about.
On 28 March it was announced that the UK economy grew by a miserable 0.5 per cent in 2011. In effect the UK economy is in stagnation not recovery. Britain’s GDP is 4.1 per cent below its pre-recession peak, which makes this “recovery” worse than during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is becoming clear that for all the excruciating pain (for the great majority) there is no “gain” – except for the top 1 per cent.
But it isn’t only the Tory toffs who need to be worried. The Oxbridge lookalike elite with their policy differences only of timescale and packaging rather than substance are deeply distrusted if not hated by millions bearing the brunt of the crisis. The young in particular – the unemployed and those on McJobs in the inner cities, as well as in the colleges and schools – are seething with anger.
What George Galloway’s victory in Bradford shows is that, at least in the inner city heartlands which formerly could be relied on to vote Labour, large sections of its supporters are deeply alienated. For two decades Labour has done little for them and has been too busy courting that strange being, Middle England (Is it a region? Is it a class? No it’s an excuse for betraying working people!)
The events of the last month – the victory of the electricians over their bosses, the success in London of the 28 March, despite the betrayals of the union leaders and thanks mainly to the teachers, the revolt of the young voters of Bradford – all bear witness of a simmering anger: against the Tories and the Lib Dems certainly, but also against union leaders who call off strikes for which they have huge ballot majorities, and against a Labour Party that will not join the fight and whose councillors implement Coalition cuts.
Over the winter the labour movement leaders sold out the struggle or let it go off the boil. But a hot Spring and Summer are brewing – a real opportunity to follow the example of the electricians and build up rank and file organisation in the workplaces and the unions, a real opportunity to break sections of the unions from Labour and lay the foundations of a new workers party, a real opportunity to unite anticapitalists in a variety of groups and parties – or none – in a coherent political alternative.
Linking these together we can transform the movements of workers and youth into a powerful force that can defeat the Coalition, drive it from office and pose the question of power – the power to create a society and a world without exploitation, racism, sexism and war.

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