Sunak’s big budget day selfie: who do they think they’re fooling?

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
2 March 2021

Rishi Sunak, the millionaire Chancellor, would just love to win a “golden globe” - not to mention “The Crown” itself.

    Hence his starring role in the Treasury-tax-funded promo movie for “The Budget”, to give everyone a delightful preview of how he’ll henceforth be“Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the British people”!

    Of course, everyone knows what Sunak is “protecting” - and for whom.

    It’s certainly not the workers who have been taking care of the population - or producing the bosses’ profits - throughout the pandemic, and very often in Covid-insecure conditions.

    As far as the latter is concerned, it’s ironical that it was the bosses’ Financial Times which pointed out that while the government was proposing 10-year jail terms for those who lie about travel and £800 fines for people having a coffee and a chat on park bench, the Health and Safety Executive hadn’t brought a single prosecution against any employer for breaking Covid-19 rules, despite 179,873 infringements! It gave out just 218 enforcement notices.

    As for the latest localised spikes in infections (Tamworth, Warwickshire...), in fact the government’s embedded scientists still don’t admit that these are related to workplaces, whose workers were told to go to work because they “couldn’t do it from home”. So no, it isn’t variant viruses that pose the real danger, but “normal” bosses and their profits-protection squad, provided courtesy of Johnson&Co.

    Sunak says he is “very sad” about the “750,000 workers who lost their jobs”due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, he is not sad enough to increase the Universal Credit payment they get, to make it up to a living wage, is he? He was not even prepared to guarantee, in advance, that tiny £20/week “uplift”! As for the 6m still on furlough, they only get another stay of execution - because that is all it is - and their bosses get another chance to pocket the difference. Ministers keep talking about “wrapping their arms around the people”- but it’s the “protection” of a stranglehold!

Kicking youth into touch

So what about Sunak’s great initiative which he claims will “kickstart” job creation? Is this oh-so-kindly guy really hoping to be father (Godfather?) to a“kickstart generation”?

    Well, more like “kicked in, right from the start”! In fact, by this January, only 1,868 young people had actually begun a job placement under his Kickstart job scheme, launched back in September. It was meant to be offered to 110,000, according to the DWP!

    Bosses get to take on unemployed 16-24 year-olds for 6 months (only) - and they come totally free of charge! The Treasury not only picks up the tab for the lower-rate (£6.45/hour) minimum wage - meant to be their “pay” (and by the way, for only 25 hours/week) - but hands the obliging boss a little gift of £1,000 per worker, calling it an “admin fee”!

    Of course this scheme, like all the others, is just the usual smoke and mirrors. And Sunak is just one more government fool, paid to try to pull the wool over our eyes. The budget can never be a budget for the “people” and for “business” at the same time. It’s a contradiction in terms.

More Catholic than the Pope

In this context, the intervention of “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” over the issue of raising corporation tax was enlightening. Because it placed Labour resolutely in the camp of business, where it has always been, of course - even if it usually maintains its pretence of representing “labour”, given that’s where its votes and money come from.

    Yes, Labour’s spokespersons fell over themselves to show how opposed they are, “in this time of crisis”to increasing the tax which capitalists pay on profits. At 19%, Britain’s corporation tax level is among the lowest of all the rich countries. But never mind that!

    And of course, there have been some super-profits made by British companies over the last 12 months. Online retail, supermarkets and delivery businesses have been making a fortune out of the pandemic. Speculation on the stock exchange has yielded sky-high profits. And the pharmaceutical companies have a great big vaccine bonanza to come...

    So squeezing the rich might be a good idea, given that Sunak keeps reminding everyone of the £285bn extra government debt incurred due to the pandemic... But even 4 years away from an election Labour’s shadow ministers decided to come out of the closet as “True Blue”, telling the Tories to leave the rich alone!

    Perhaps it is just as well. Because it is a reminder that there is no way that voting for any of these parties will change anything, not at local, nor regional level, nor in Westminster. And that it is only collective fights on the ground, which can make gains for the working class and finally tip the balance in our favour.