By Jennie Formy, Unite political director
Austerity, bedroom tax, racist slogans on vans, the Lobbying bill, reducing the NHS to little more than a logo, privatisation of the Royal Mail; and so it goes on and on. And when we think of any of these attacks on anyone who has the misfortune to get in the way we know these policies are driven by Tory ideology. We also know that Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats have not pulled Cameron, Osborne, May and the rest of them, back from these policies. Far from it they’ve willingly signed up to a government that leaves even Margaret Thatcher in the shade.
Just look at the fundamentally anti-democratic ‘Transparency of Lobbying Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’, more aptly described as the ‘gagging Bill’. Or perhaps the ‘let Lynton lobby Bill’, failing, as it does, to do anything to tackle the influence of the lobbyists for big business. A cynical and highly political bill unleashing further attacks on trade unions and silencing protest – even from charities – and an utter disgrace. As the Shadow Leader of the House, Angela Eagle said;
“This is a draconian, illiberal Bill that lets vested interests off the hook but prevents civil society from having a say. This is shocking even from the Tories, but the Liberal Democrats should be truly ashamed. In a bill that is neither liberal nor democratic, they would rather fight the Tories' corner than fight for free speech”.
The justification for the Liberal Democrats to become part of the coalition is that they did it in the national interest to rescue the economy. It’s clear that the truth is that what they really wanted was to get their feet under the cabinet table and into the back seat of the chauffeur driven car.
Now his aides are briefing that Nick Clegg wants to take credit for an emerging economic recovery. He says he’s proud of what he achieved, and has told his conference that his party must stick with the deficit reduction plan. For the Liberal Democrats it was the price worth paying for government.
Well tell that to the one in five young people without a job, unable to afford soaring tuition fees or to go to college without the support of the scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance. Or to the ever increasing number of people – estimated to be over 5 million - on zero hours contracts, or those treated unfairly at work but unable to get justice following savage attacks on employment rights, blocked from employment tribunals by fees of £1,200 just to register a claim. Ask the thousands being forced deeper into poverty or evicted because of the pernicious bedroom tax, or the disabled having to face the humiliation of ATOS assessments if the price they’re paying is worth it.
Worst of all, it simply isn’t working. Prof. Robert Skidelski pointed out in the Guardian (14.8.13) that Britain’s economy is now 3.5% smaller than it was in 2008; far from solving our problems, austerity measures have made things far, far worse.
Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and right at the heart of government, is now trying to persuade us he cares about zero hours and the living wage. And Vince Cable accused the Tories of having ‘cynical, ugly politics’. That’s one thing I agree with him on, but he seems to have forgotten the part he and his fellow Liberal Democrats have played, propping up that Government, doing nothing to curb any of the excesses but instead adding to them.
Come the 2015, Election people won’t be fooled. They know that in reality our country faces long term economic problems while in the short term wages continue to stagnate and fall, prices continue to rise and communities everywhere suffer huge cuts in essential services with tens of thousands dependent on food banks and Wonga loans to get by.
So Nick Clegg, you and the rest of your spineless Liberal Democrats can say what you like about fairness and democracy; you’re not fooling any of us.
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