UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Here’s Why We Are Marching - Budget 2011

Don’t believe stories that Tories never lie to themselves. Headlines in the Daily Mail that the budget was a “tax give away “or in other papers that cuts in fuel duty were a “surprise” tell more about the fact that people are waking up to the level of devastation that this government is carrying out than anything else .

Someone has to reassure those who voted Tory that there is something in this for them. But elsewhere the Financial Times tells the real story. “Osborne sticks to Plan A”. That’s because this ideologically motivated government has no Plan B.

The biggest myth of all remains the often repeated mantra- “There is no alternative. We are clearing up Labour’s mess.” But vague promises of jam tomorrow for ordinary families by meagre changes to personal income tax will hardly mitigate the increases in VAT, and in cuts in benefits and tax credits.

Plan A remains the plan to scorch the earth below the public services that this country relies upon. Osborne’s mishandling of the economy is a story told in rising unemployment, particularly in the million young people thrown on the scrapheap, in the rising inflation that cuts the weekly budget of every public sector worker and pensioner, in the public sector jobs and services squandered in the name of Tory ideology.

Osborne barely applied a sticking plaster to the haemorrhaging British economy. This isn’t just cutting too far and too fast. This is a conservative counter revolution, designed to turn the clocks back to the pre Welfare State days of the 1920’s.

Forget the so called “squeezed middle” beloved of headline writers. This government serves the banking bonus earners, and the rest of us are consigned to the oblivion, to fend for themselves. Nothing in this budget that mitigates the effects of the Comprehensive Spending review.

Talk to teenagers about to sit exams, wondering if it would be easier to flunk English rather than saddle themselves and their families with huge levels of student debt.

Talk to NHS patients, waiting for hospital treatment, and alarmed by stories of cuts in their local NHS hospital. Talk to our own members, wondering if they will still have a job next week, or how their family budget can be made to stretch, as basic prices rise on gas electricity and food, and their weekly wage is gradually diminished as inflation rises.

Talk to mothers wondering if cuts in tax credits or cuts on nursery places or Sure Start schemes will mean that they cannot afford to work any longer.

Talk to those already living at the margin wondering if Disability Living allowance will be arbitrarily cut or if cuts in Housing Benefit will render them homeless. We are not a “squeezed middle” or a “marginalised underclass” in Ian Duncan Smith speak. We are the working people of this country, and are being treated with contempt.

There is an alternative. http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/18887.pdf . UNISON’s alternative budget shows that there is a way in which the principles of social justice, fairness and equality are addressed. It is not however an alternative that will get press or media headlines, unless we make our voices heard. That is why Saturday’s march is important. We can make an opportunity for ourselves to put the alternative in to the spotlight.

We are not marching for a minority, or to make special case for a marginal group. We are marching for the majority, to defend our rights to our share in the benefits of our labour, to defend social justice and the benefits of social redistribution.


Jane Carolan