Tue | Dec 6, 2022

Dawn Butler | Tories are not on the side of working people

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2022 | 12:05 AM
In this photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss gestures in the House of Commons in London, Friday, September 23, 2022. Britain’s new government on Friday announced a sweeping plan of tax cuts it said would be funded by borr
In this photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss gestures in the House of Commons in London, Friday, September 23, 2022. Britain’s new government on Friday announced a sweeping plan of tax cuts it said would be funded by borrowing and revenues generated by anticipated growth, as part of contentious moves to combat the cost-of-living crisis and bolster a faltering economy.
MP Dawn Butler
MP Dawn Butler
1
2

When I discovered that Liz Truss had won the Tory leadership election to become Britain’s prime minister, my overwhelming feeling was one of sadness.

I’m not sad that Truss had won. Frankly, I would have felt the same no matter who won. But I am sad for our country, knowing how little will change under the new prime minister.

This is no fresh start. Truss served loyally under Boris Johnson, refusing to resign as foreign secretary during the partygate scandal, as she claimed she was a ‘loyal person’. She was a key and supportive part of Johnson’s failed government, over and over again.

After the chaos, lies and failures in the Johnson years, it is clear this is not the change that we need during an energy crisis, with many more crises to come.

My constituents in Brent are already worrying about how they will get through the winter.

While the freeze on energy bills for homes and businesses announced last week by Liz Truss is welcome, capping household energy bills at £2,500 for two years from next month, I fear this is about self-preservation for the Tory party rather than a desire to help struggling households and businesses.

I am pleased the Government is freezing energy bills, something the labour party has long called for, but it cannot be right that energy bosses and shareholders continue to reap their excess profits while working people foot the bill further down the line through borrowing.

Liz Truss says that ‘profit’ is not a dirty word – but excess profits while people are expected to freeze to death this winter should be.

We need a long-term solution in which households are protected from corporate greed, otherwise it is only prolonging misery. That is why I have long supported a windfall tax, a tax on excess profits.

The next few months will be a test of whether this Tory Government has any heart. After 12 years of cuts, underfunding and neglect, the energy crisis isn’t the only problem on the horizon.

Inflation is at its highest in decades, with consumer prices 10.1 per cent higher than the year previous. With wages stagnating, households simply won’t be able to afford vital goods and services.

The Tory Government’s inaction so far has been completely inadequate. We need strong action to prevent suffering. The solution must be a proper pay rise for workers. It’s time to put people before profit, especially when that profit is obscene.

The NHS is once again facing a winter crisis with record hospital waiting lists, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as increasing delays to emergency services. All while social care remains dangerously underfunded.

It’s time for the Government to properly invest in all parts of our health service to protect patients, and they can start by giving the amazing, hard-working and dedicated NHS workers the substantial pay rise they so badly deserve.

And, if this Government truly cares about working people, it will not proceed with plans to undermine hard-fought gains for workers’ rights by axing EU protections, either. I joined several picket lines in recent months, including with the RMT, TSSA and CWU unions, because I fundamentally support workers’ right to strike. Sometimes the only way workers can make their voice heard is by withdrawing their labour.

I do find it ironic, though, that Truss has threatened to raise union ballot thresholds from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of employees for industrial action, when she herself failed to win support from 50 per cent of eligible Tory members.

But I am clear that any attack on workers’ rights by this Government must be opposed by us all, as they won’t stop there. We cannot assume that, because Truss is a woman, she will be any more protective of people’s rights.

She had been Women and Equalities Minister since 2019 and, during these years, she not only axed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, but the UK has continued to trail behind on the gender pay gap.

After 12 years of Tory Government, we need real change. If they won’t look after people now, then what is even the point of the Tories? During the coronavirus crises, Johnson told us that we need to accept that people will die. I say no we don’t – especially when it is a political choice.

When I stood up in the House of Commons last year and called Boris Johnson a liar, no one wanted to listen, and I was thrown out. A year later, following Party Gate, I was proven right. Almost everyone in the country now recognises him for the liar he is.

Now, Liz Truss is prime minister and I fear the same damage that she will do to our country. Because all the signs so far point toward the same old Tories and the same old lies.

I believe Conservatives are con artists, plain and simple, and are not on the side of working people. We need a caring and compassionate Government, but I fear Truss will be no different.

It’s up to Liz Truss and the Conservatives to prove me wrong. Sadly, just like when I called out Boris Johnson on the truth, I fear I will be proven correct once again.

Dawn Butler is Labour Member of Parliament for Brent Central and writes a monthly column for The Weekly GleanerPlease send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com