Jon Trickett - Don't let the Tories get away with it on May 3rd
Yesterday’s papers revealed two shocking new truths. The first was that there has been an explosion in wealth amongst the very richest in our society. The Sunday Times reported that the wealthiest 1000 people gained an estimated £155 billion in the last three years alone, at a time when millions of ordinary people face increasing austerity and collapsing standards of living.
The second is that the Tory Mayoral candidate, Boris Johnson, in the Sunday Telegraph, wants to line the pockets of the very richest even more by cutting their taxes far further than Osborne dared. His eagerness betrays his true Tory colours.
Looking back to the crisis it is easy to see in retrospect that the collapse in the markets was used to increase the power of an oligarchy of elites. The millionaires were rewarded whilst the millions are paying more. The Sunday Times rich list shows the wealthiest 1000 gaining fabulous new wealth. But it’s austerity for the rest.
This consensus is beginning to break up. Throughout Europe there is increasing evidence of growing resistance to the austerity. An insurgent spirit is emerging which challenges the decision by those who act on behalf of the 1% to impose austerity on the 99%. Equally the argument for growth and jobs is increasingly powerful.
The French elections are only one of a series of events which indicate that a new mood is beginning to emerge.
Here in the UK we have our own elections of which London is certainly amongst the most important. The background to this election is the debate taking place within the Tory high command which would strengthen the elites and intensify austerity. The Treasury has made it clear that they want billions of pounds more in spending cuts.
At the centre of this Tory debate is their mayoral candidate. Boris Johnson has worked tirelessly over almost two decades to present a comic outsider persona - harmless, affable and entertaining. He has attempted to harvest the anti-politics mood which is at the heart of the wider insurgent spirit which is growing everywhere.
But let’s be clear; Boris Johnson’s positioning is a dangerous deception. He is not a harmless buffoon. He is part of the oligarchy. His policies are to the right of the Coalition. He emerged out of the very core of the 1%, and is located at the centre of the most dangerous group within an already dangerous Conservative Party.
Already there is a nascent battle for the soul for the Conservative Party and for the succession when Cameron leaves. A Boris Johnson victory would embolden Osborne and unleash a further dynamic within the Tory party to tighten the austerity.
For those who find this argument exaggerated or hard to believe, we should recall that he was amongst the first to advocate a tax payback to the richest in our country.
It was Boris Johnson who took up the cause for a reduction in the 50% tax rate almost as soon as Labour announced the higher rate. He was the ideological pioneer who prepared the ground for the recent Tory budget. Long before Osborne took the decision to cut the top rate of tax and put huge sums of money back into the pockets of the top 1 per cent, Mayor Johnson was calling for double the tax giveaway for the very richest, supporting a cut to just 40%.
Now we see once again Boris acting as a right wing outrider for the 1% with his suggestion of further tax reductions in this week’s Sunday Telegraph, aimed not a helping the millions of Londoners but the vested interests in the City.
Under the Coalition led by Boris’s Tory colleagues, the UK has slipped back into a disastrous and avoidable recession. Millions of Londoners are facing huge pressure on their family budgets thanks to the complete failure of Tory policies (endorsed and promoted by Johnson) to protect the interests of the public and deliver jobs and growth.
After all, let’s remember that Boris himself is a major beneficiary of the reduced rate. But it is the millions of ordinary people in London and elsewhere who will pay for this tax gift to the very richest.
Boris’s now infamous “chicken feed” comments, referring to the £250,000 per year income he receives for a second job writing for the Telegraph on top of his Mayoral responsibilities, confirm just how obscenely out of touch he really is.
While he rakes in this “chicken feed”, more than 400,000 London pensioners have lost money through the Tory ‘granny tax’ to pay for a tax cut for the super rich. And almost 120,000 London families face losing all of their tax credits because of the Tory tax credit cuts.
And let’s not forget, Boris was a strong supporter of Section 28 on the basis that “we don’t want our children being taught some rubbish about homosexual marriage being the same as normal marriage”. Referring to black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” just a few years ago highlights again how out of touch he is.
It is irresponsible of many in the commentariat to ignore these issues and to pretend that the mayoral election is only a battle between two personalities with no real national consequence for the wider society. Do not believe this even for a second.
We can’t let the Tories get away with it. A second term for a Tory Mayor will have consequences for us all. On Friday Mr Clegg encountered mothers who are going without meals in order to feed their children. He said you would have to have a cold heart not to be affected, as if their plight had nothing to do with the Government of which he is the Deputy Prime Minister.
But the voters must not think, like Clegg, that they can wash their hands of responsibility for their actions on Thursday if they fail to vote against the Tories. Let every elector in London understand that their actions on Thursday can either accelerate the austerity or contribute to the resistance.
It is time to resist.
Jon Trickett MP is Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
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