by Sandra Webster
It is traditional for the chancellor to have a whisky as he delivers his budget. A stiff drink for someone bearing glad tidings. I hope it was water and not vodka Osborne was knocking back, though perhaps it was a gift from a non-dom Russian. Today I noted the delight in Osborne’s face as he delivered news and announcements that will impact on so many working class lives.
He made no apologies for preying on the most vulnerable. New claimants in the Employment Support Allowance placed in the “Work-related Activity” group will see their payments slashed to be the same as those on Job Seekers Allowance. Tax credits will be confined to the first two children in a family. Talk about eugenics in action. There will be free child care for 30 hours a week but parents of 3-year-olds will be expected to look for work.
Young people especially have been hammered: the government are scrapping housing benefit for under-21s, condemning under-25s to another five years of poverty pay and age wage discrimination, and impoverishing hundreds of thousands of more kids through cuts to the tax and child tax credit systems. Furthermore, an end to university grants will see fewer young poorer people able to afford further education and university.
It gets worse for for disabled people and their children, once a disabled person’s child reaches 16 they may lose their right to severe disability allowance, as their child is now an adult. The same happens for single-person council tax reduction. One day you are 15, but on the day of your 16th birthday, you are deemed to be a carer whether or not you are in receipt of Carers Allowance and your parent’s household budget is swiftly cut by £50 a week. The children of those of parents with inherited wealth and the security that provides will be protected. The choices of most young people and the rites of passage that means learning about budgeting and having a safety net will be more fragile, even tragic.
Meanwhile for the well-off, there will be no inheritance tax on estates up to £1m. Osborne sneered as he said the left didn’t understand that parents wish to pass on their wealth to their children. George, the difference is we believe in everyone’s children and equality of opportunity to develop one’s innate gifts; that is why we are socialists.
This was the ultimate divide and conquer budget where the poor once again have born the brunt simply for the crime of being poor. Those not in work, or in part time work were reminded over and over again that our one nation Britain had no place for them. Osborne continued to cause class conflict by announcing those pulling in £40,000 in London, or £30,000 for the rest of us will pay the market rates for rent.
Social housing was designed as a land ”fit for heroes” and was available to all. It is good we have a mix of folk with different backgrounds. The rights to a council house should belong to all of us. However, Thatcher’s grandchildren are just continuing her social engineering project when she brought in the right to buy council houses and began the largest selling off of collectively owned state property. Osborne further promised the sale of public sector assets will be “the biggest ever”. This is nothing short of stealing our collective property – that we all paid for, and at rock-bottom prices to his cronies and pals.
Finally, like all good magicians pulling the white rabbit out of the hat, the prestige. And this is one of the more galling efforts; the announcement of a £9 an hour minimum wage by 2020, but only for the over-25s. His language was that of a “living wage”. Osborne has done three things to the term “Living Wage” – he has co-opted the language of the left, devalued it and neutered it. Very clever politics.
I predict a huge increase in youth employment – as unscrupulous bosses swap out low-skill older workers with young people. Furthermore, employers will no longer have to pay national insurance contributions. These payments are crucial for continued funding of our NHS and sickness benefits.
There is another way. I looked today at the faces of Cameron, Duncan-Smith and other Tories celebrating the opportunity to further dismantle the welfare state, to further demonise the poor. We are here to challenge their rhetoric of hate and spread the message of hope and solidarity. The Tories may attempt to rewrite history. They improved conditions in the mills but it was the working class, collectively struggling for a better way who made it so. Now more than ever I want to continue this for not only my bairns but for all our bairns.
We can, and must, make a better world together.
Sandra Webster is the national co-spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party, and full-time carer for her two autistic sons.