GEORGE OSBORNE’S thumbs-up sign and pat on the back for his successor Philip Hammond after the Spring Budget was announced shows that, for the Tories, it is business as usual.
The usual claptrap about balancing the books, listening to business, living within our means and fairness masks a reality that working people still pay for the fallout from the 2008 financial collapse sparked by the private banking sector’s reckless speculation.
Hundreds of billions of pounds were thrown at the banks, either in direct aid or quantitative easing to guarantee their stability and boost profits.
For banks’ boardrooms and speculative arms, exorbitant rewards are once again the order of the day, but for the public services and their workers hung out to dry by New Labour and then by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
Moderately paid public-sector workers forced into the straitjacket of a 1 per cent pay cap while inflation soars around them continue to experience a real cut in living standards.
Yet, despite May’s hypocritical words of sympathy for working people who are “just about managing,” Hammond has nothing for them.
Nor does the Chancellor offer any respite to the vital services that he and May, like Osborne and David Cameron before them, starve of adequate finance as they impose so-called efficiency savings.
Hammond has been giving a nod and a wink for days to questions about dealing with the acute crisis in social care.
Theresa May even teased Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions about it, hinting at the bonanza to be announced shortly, but what was the reality?
The Tories, who, with their wretched Liberal Democrat accomplices, had filched £4.6 billion from the social care budget since 2010, have deigned to return £2bn over the next three years.
Hammond’s announcement of a social care green paper is portrayed as a stepping stone to debate about tackling future needs, but it is, in reality, a desperate attempt to kick the can down the road because the Chancellor is bankrupt of any workable ideas.
The National Pensioners Convention demand that social care be seen as concerning us all, like health, and be financed through general taxation is incontrovertible.
The government’s already well-trailed plans to starve local authority schools of vitally necessary funding while throwing cash at free schools and grammar schools indicates its ongoing divisive direction for state-sector education.
Its lurch backwards to the 1950s contradicts professional opinion, educational experience and the wishes of most parents and could prove a weak link, given that many Tories too understand the superiority of comprehensive schooling over selection.
Hammond’s ability to find £320m for this traditional right-wing hobbyhorse while restricting cash for refurbishment of existing state schools to £216m tells its own story.
It mirrors the targeting of £325m to implementation of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) for the NHS in England — known widely as Slash, Trash & Privatise.
Labour Party divisions caused by New Labour MPs’ refusal to accept the leader chosen by the membership have encouraged the Tory government to dispense with any pretence of moderation.
It is pressing ahead with a hard-right agenda, confident that a fractured opposition will be powerless in Parliament and at the ballot box.
Jeremy Corbyn called the Budget correctly as displaying “utter complacency about the state of our economy.”
Last weekend’s quarter-million-strong NHS rally must be followed by more mass mobilisations and electoral challenges to the ever more brutal anti-working-class agenda of this government.