In My View… by Rich Clarke of South East Cornwall Labour Party
Millbrook village hall was full of tears. We were watching a film called I, Daniel Blake. Many of the audience had voted Lib Dem or Conservative; but we were all struck by the film’s portrayal of a guy who wanted to work, who had done the right thing, paying in all his life, then being denied benefits. Sadly, it’s not just a movie. I talk to people working for local charities. This kind of thing is going on now, and it’s going on in South East Cornwall. Wages in Cornwall are lower than Slovenia.
Whereas Labour want increased wages to bring people off benefits, the Tories can’t even get their so-called reforms right. According to the government’s own independent watchdog, the national audit office, Universal Credit is inefficient, costing four times as much to run as the old system, so despite the hardship it causes: “Universal Credit has not delivered value for money and it is uncertain that it ever will.”
Picking on the most vulnerable would be bad enough, but the economy has also stopped working for the rest of us under the Tories. We are getting poorer, with the cost of living going up faster than our incomes.
Wages and inflation are recorded every three months. Whenever wages sneak above inflation our Conservative MPs are quick to tell us. What they don’t say is that under the Tories this hardly ever happens. Real annual wages are £700 down in the last decade before tax, and the government is taking £1000 more each year off the average family than when Labour was in government. However it has not been bad for everybody under the Tories: the wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK has almost trebled from £256 billion to £724 billion since 2009. No wonder more and more people are wondering whose side the Tories are on!
Do the Tories know what is going on? Most don’t. If our Cornish Conservative MPs are worried about their constituents getting poorer why do they keep voting against our interests?
The only money-raising measures Conservatives can bear the thought of are the ones which hit working and middle class people. They came after working families, reducing in-work benefits. They came after the young, with cuts to school budgets and increased tuition fees. When they thought they would win the election easily they tried to take old people’s homes with the “dementia tax” – until they were forced to rein back by a backlash and Labour’s resurgence.
So what’s the plan? The best ways to stimulate growth are to invest and to put money in the hands of the people, because spend it, whereas the super-rich hide it offshore. We know in Cornwall we are underpaid and investment is hard to come by. The Labour Party will set up a South West investment bank and make it law that every region gets equal government investment. Our £10 minimum wage will inject money into our struggling economy as we did in 1998. The Tories and the Lib Dems originally voted against the minimum wage which brought billions of pounds into neglected and underpaid Cornwall.
This crazy is government has to borrow £40 billion, while the corporations and the super rich are dodging £120 billion each year, We need that money back from offshore tax havens, in Britain, for investing, for employing, for growing our economy.
At the next election we have a choice: voting for the same policies which are making us poorer every year or putting our faith in Labour’s vision of a fairer society and a prosperous economy that works for all.
First published in the Cornish Times, 14/12/18