A NARRATIVE OF SOLIDARITY: THE WORK PENALTY, JUNIOR DOCTORS AND BRITISH STEEL

by Josh Wilson

Politics is about narratives. The problem is that these narratives have a real impact on people’s lives. We are likely to have a decade of Tory rule, a decade of the systematic destruction of our welfare state and all modes of the redistribution of wealth. Corporation tax rates have reduced significantly under this government, as well as the tax rate for the richest in society. We have seen significant cuts to public spending across the board including local governments, arts and higher education. But the Tories are good at narratives. They have weaved a myth of austerity despite it going against the economic consensus. We are still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 and yet people seem to barely talk about this and be more concerned by spending levels than an out-of-control banking system.

On a majority of just 17 seats in the House of Commons the Conservatives seem confident, but I believe this confidence can be knocked using a few counter-narratives. A narrative of solidarity, one that illuminates the Tories as a party that is anti-poor, anti-worker and only on the side of the richest in our society. The three policies that are key to this narrative are the work penalty, junior doctors’ contracts and the British steel industry.

the Tories are good at narratives. They have weaved a myth of austerity despite it going against the economic consensus

The work penalty is the name coined for the cuts to tax credits that are going through parliament at the moment. A move that could see some of the lowest paid workers in our society lose up to £1,300 a year. They were slammed on Question Time by a mother who would be significantly affected by the work penalty, and the policy was significantly altered by peers in the House of Lords. The narrative running counter to the ‘necessity’ argument spouted by the Tories is gaining momentum. This has led to some change in the government’s rhetoric, saying they will tone down the impacts. But we have to build on this momentum and crush this policy all together.

( © Express )

( George Osborne © Express )

Further to just crushing one policy, we have to connect the dots and create a cohesive argument against the entire austerity agenda. The changes in the contracts of junior doctors, which will essentially mean a pay cut, is another example of the out-of-touch Conservative thoughtless approach. The NHS is untouchable in British politics. The nurses, doctors, administrators, assistants and everyone in between are national heroes. They save our lives and are our safety net. They’re people we hope to never have to see but are glad they are there in case we do. Going after junior doctors with the severity that may lead to them taking industrial action or leaving the NHS entirely is playing with fire, and we have to make sure that Jeremy Hunt gets burned.

Not happy with that alone, the government have stood by idly as thousands of jobs have vanished into thin air with the remnants of the British steel industry collapsing. Since September 2015, 5,000 jobs have been lost or put at risk in the industry with plants closing in Redcar and Scunthorpe. There are international issues at play with debates surrounding the dumping of steel from China. But we have to remember that these numbers are in fact thousands of families that have gone from a level of stability to crisis over night.

( © Hamish Fenton )

( Redcar © Hamish Fenton )

There are of course arguments that British steel died a long time ago and this was just the final stage. What this really shows is that the government doesn’t care about the working classes, the North or the British industry. If this really was inevitable, why has there not been a concerted effort to diversify local communities surrounding the plants and offer real alternative jobs? Why isn’t the government investing in infrastructure that will offer sustainable employment to people in these areas and around the country? If the government is not willing to subsidise the industry, we have to demand investment in alternatives.

These three policies are attacking some of the hardest working people in this country. The work penalty attacks the working poor, and we have to stand side by side with every single person affected. The change to junior doctor contracts attacks the foot soldiers of our NHS and we have to stand with them in whatever action they wish to pursue. The collapse of British steel is a human tragedy and an economic disaster, and we have to stand with the workers and their families that have lost their jobs.

We have to support these causes and start to weave our own narrative, one of solidarity

We have to support these causes and start to weave our own narrative, one of solidarity. Every issue is connected, and we have to expose the Tories for the nasty party we know them to be. This will need the Labour Party to do media leg work, the wider Left to start the conversation on social media, and us all to stand fully in solidarity with all those impacted by this government’s savage cuts. Through this connected narrative of solidarity we can start to shake the Conservatives’ confidence, reduce their belief and ability to implement whatever they wish, and protect the poorest and hardest working in our society from their ideology of inequality.

 

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