Wednesday, 20 October 2010

So What Happened There Then?

Having watched the Chancellor's Speech, and read some of the commentary, for example, that of Paul Mason, I'm sort of left asking the question, what was that all about? The devil, as someone said, on Paul Mason's blog, is undoubtedly in the detail, but you get the impression this was all some big piece of media manipulation.

As I've been arguing for the last year, the main hit is to Welfare. That was obvious, because Welfare recipients are atomised and pretty defenceless. There is no Claimants or Unemployed Workers Union with any economic or industrial muscle. Moreover, every Government, in such circumstances proposes Cuts, to FUTURE Welfare Payments, because, being in the future, it is open to all sorts of variation and manipulation. The other target, as Paul Mason points out, is Public Sector Pay and Pensions. Experience of Public Sector unions is that they may fight to save jobs, and, where that involves closure of services, it opens up the possibility of linking up with other workers affected by the closure, but, when it comes to pay and Pensions, they have been loathe to take action. Moreover, its pretty unlikely they could get the support of other workers simply to defend pay, and certainly not to defend Pensions. According, to the document, photographed on Danny Alexander's lap, it appears that they are proposing 480,000 job cuts, ONLY if some equivalent saving cannot be found from pay and pensions.

The other big area where they are proposing Cuts, again predictably, is in Local Government. Predictably, because that way they distance themselves from the consequences. Moreover, experience, in the past, has been that campaigns, against localised Cuts, are difficult to link up into a single campaign.

Overall, the impression is that they have done pretty much what I've been arguing. They've talked up the Cuts, only to come out with a statement that is nothing like the blood on the carpet everyone was expecting - they even announced some quite sizeable investment projects! The likelihood is that even some of these Cuts will slip in the coming years. The big task for the Left is to develop a strategy to oppose the actual Cuts that will materialise at Local level from the reduction in the Local Government settlement, and to offer alternatives to just defence of the status quo.

It will be interesting, also, to see the consequence of the proposals on Housing Benefit and Social Housing. A couple of weeks ago, Dianne Abbott on "This Week", pointed out that most of her constituents on Housing Benefit were actually in work! They were in low paid jobs. But, cutting Housing Benefit will mean they will be unable to pay the high London rents on their accommodation. The likely consequence of that is that they may have to move out of London to where cheaper housing is available, but the consequence may mean they have to give up their jobs, due to commuting costs. If that happens London, and other such centres, will find they have an acute labour shortage, not just for high value, skilled workers, arising from the Tories Immigration Cap, but of all those workers needed in low paid, low status jobs, that keep the City running.

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