The sound of ideologies clashing?
Two days on, it is clear that the government has just delivered one of the most ideological budgets ever. Less a pragmatic attempt to restore some balance to the nations public finances, more of an experiment in drastic state shrinking at a time when its public spending that has been responsible what growth there has been in the economy. And because of this the budget isn’t fair – the government may argue that ‘we’re all in it together’ but after Tuesday its clear that some are in ‘it ‘ more than others. The banks, who never let us forget caused this crisis, get away relatively unscathed whilst the rest of the working population face VAT increases, pay cuts and squeezes on benefits. The lowest paid and the most vulnerable in society will carry the biggest burden on Mr Osbourne’s road back to putting the UK’s balance sheet back in the black.
And of course the real pain is still to come with the average 25% cuts in departmental budgets. It’s from this here that real jobs will be lost and public services, on which the poor and vulnerable rely disproportionately, will be reduced. Quite what the reaction of the public will be when the cuts become manifest is difficult to predict exactly, although the fury that consumed some when their local councils announced that their bins would only be emptied every fortnight might give us an indication.
So what of the response of the trade union movement? This will be based on two principles, obviously protecting the jobs, pay and conditions of members but speaking up for the most vulnerable and protecting the services upon which many of them rely. To do this effectively unions will have to broaden their traditional constituencies and build alliances with other organisations with whom they can find common cause. Ironically, the best defence against these cuts maybe the mobilisation of the Big Society. This may not be the one that David Cameron imagines but instead the one that really exists; where teacher and parent, carer a cared for stand together. Where workers in the public and private sector, both victims of the recession and now the budget (as they are told to pay more tax and work longer), resist attempts to divide them.
On July 5th, at STRONGER UNIONS 2010, the TUC will be hosting an event that will give unions, activists and organisers and others the chance to discuss the challenges created by firstly the result of the General Election and now the Budget; and – based on CORE union activities of CAMPAIGNING, ORGANISING, REPRESENTATION and EDUCATION – our collective response to them.
To register for the event email Debbie Cleary at the TUC on [email protected]