Big business and the wealthy have far too many voices, we need our own!

23 September 2013

When it comes to choosing their political representatives, big business and the wealthy are spoilt for choice. Not only do they have the Tories - together with their right-wing twin, Ukip - and the Lib-Dems, but they also have Labour.

This is precisely what Ed Miliband has been at pains to demonstrate both in his address to the TUC conference and, this weekend, from the platform of his own party conference, in Brighton.

Of course, Miliband is treading a fine line. He knows that a large number of Labour's votes come from the working class and he has to sound somewhat more "socially-minded" than the Tories, for fear of losing these votes. But "sounding" is what it's really about. Because it's the unspoken details which hide the devil...

The farce over the minimum wage

So, for instance, on the minimum wage. In Brighton, Miliband denounced the fact that, since 2010, the coalition has failed to increase it in line with inflation - otherwise it would be 45p higher than its current £6.19/hr. Which, by the way, at £6.64/hr, would still make it a pittance, on which no-one would be able to make a living.

But never mind. Does this mean, however, that a future Labour government will immediately upgrade the minimum wage accordingly? Not at all, says Alan Buckle, the man appointed by Miliband to "resolve", and who will "consult" with companies on the "best way" to restore the value of the minimum wage... at some point in the future.

Yes, we musn't expect this to be quick, because, guess what: this Buckle is none other than the deputy chairman of accounting giant KPMG, which makes billions out of helping big companies use legal loopholes in order to massage their figures and reduce their taxes! And this is the guy that Miliband has chosen to uphold the interests minimum wage earners? More likely, this choice is designed to tell the bosses that they shouldn't take too seriously what he says from the platform!

Likewise with the "zero-hours" contracts that Miliband chose to target in his speech at the TUC conference. A Labour government will "ban" them, he said. Well, not quite, in fact - only in certain cases. And in order to "investigate" with businesses in which cases they should be banned, Miliband has appointed another bigwig, by the name of Norman Pickavance. But this Pickavance is a former Human Resources manager with Morrisons supermarket chain. Sure, this is a guy who knows how important "zero-hours" contracts are for company profits and isn't likely to rock the boat by proposing a blanket ban on these slave contracts! Once again, Miliband has made sure that the bosses get a reassuring message!

We can only trust ourselves

But there's more. Miliband and Ed Balls have repeated that they would never, ever, go back to "excessive" spending - as if spending under past Labour governments was ever "excessive", except when it came to subsidising the bosses and funding the Iraq war! Likewise, they have stopped short of committing themselves to reversing Osborne's tax cuts for companies, or revoking his new subsidies.

And as to the coalition's welfare cuts, the only commitment Labour has ever made was last weekend, when Miliband promised to cancel the "bedroom tax", probably because it's only expected to bring in £548m a year and is hugely unpopular.

But the only other announcements made by Miliband last weekend are just as unlikely to worry the capitalist class.

For instance, he promised to increase the £5,000 fine for companies which fail to pay the minimum wage, to £50,000. But he didn't say why it was, that during the 10 years following its introduction in 1998, not one company was fined. Yet wasn't Labour in office during all those years? So why should bosses be worried?

Another promise was to sack Atos, the company which is currently running the government contract for assessing the eligibility of the disabled and long-term sick to benefits. Labour's health spokesman correctly pointed to the fact that two in five assessments lead to an appeal, and that 42% of those are successful. But he didn't mention that it was a Labour government which actually gave Atos its first contract, without ever objecting to its obvious mistreatment of claimants' rights.

So, yes, Labour is, just like the other parties, another voice for the capitalist class. This leaves us, workers, with the need to make our own voice heard, by all necessary means.