The Conservative conference has confirmed what we can expect from a Tory government: deep cuts, attacks on the working class, and radical right-wing politics.
The £23 billion of cuts Shadow Chancellor George Osborne will take Osborne only one sixth of the way towards his stated goal of halving the deficit.
In other words, for all Osborne's spin about openness and honesty, this is the tip of the iceberg. Listen to Jonathan Loynes of the Capital Economics consultancy: “It is clear much deeper spending cuts, probably involving huge cuts in public sector employment will be needed.”
Public sector workers will be the first, “soft” target in a more general assault on working-class living standards.
Osborne’s proposals include:
• A pay freeze for five million public sector workers, with only frontline workers and those earning less than £18,000 excluded.
• A cap on pension contributions for highly paid public sector managers. Given that Cameron has talked about ending the “pension apartheid” between public and private sector workers, this is clearly the softening up for a general gutting of public sector pensions.
• Bringing forward the raising of the state pension age to 66, from 2026 to 2016 for men and 2020 for women (this has been billed as a way to affording a restoration of the link between pensions and earnings).
• Cutting back child trust funds and child tax credits for what the Tories call the “middle class”, but actually hitting many working-class families.
Meanwhile, Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove has outlined plans to further disempower local authorities, and impose even more central control over schools, with micromanagement to the degree of insisting that all schools divide their students into ability-based sets.
He wants to give every school the right to become an academy, and create 20,000 extra school places by enabling charities, religious groups and businesses to set up schools — with all the obvious consequences. He wants to impose uniform and military-style discipline and to stop excluded children from appealing against their exclusions.
Elsewhere in the right-wing madhouse, we had ex-army chief Richard Dannatt slated for a peerage and a role in the Cameron government — and a row about Michal Kaminski, the far-right Polish politician who heads the group including the Tories in the European Parliament. Kaminski’s homophobia and anti-semitism have resulted in protests to the Tories from even quite moderate LGBT and Jewish organisations.
Cameron initially “branded” his Tory part as the “heirs of Blair” and sometime tried to position himself to the “left” of New Labour (not hard). But the economic crisis has reshaped the Tories, “re-Thatcherising” them.
The only way to stop them is class struggle. Not the pathetic pseudo-class warfare issuing from the likes of Derek Simpson, who jokes about champagne and the Bullingdon Club while whitewashing New Labour’s government of the rich — but a serious political and industrial campaign to stop the bosses’ attacks and pass onto the offensive.