The general election of 2010 has been called. To no-one's surprise, on Thursday 6th May, voters will go to the polls to decide who will form the next UK government. For a very long time now, the Tories - the party of big business - have enjoyed a sizeable poll lead, backed up by good results in local and Euro elections. Yet the gap between the Tories and Labour has closed sharply in recent months. Why is this?
The Tories have always been the party of big business. For the last hundred years they have opposed every step forward for the working class and every reform.
In 1926 they took on the workers in the general strike and, having provoked a confrontation with the whole trade union movement to drive down wages and victimise militants, starved the miners back to work.
In the hungry decade of the 1930s they were the hard faced people administering the means test – in effect blaming the unemployed for unemployment, and cutting desperate people off from their scanty entitlements.
In 1948 they voted against the formation of the National Health Service.
In 1984 they took on the miners once again. Thatcher infamously branded workers fighting to defend their jobs as “the enemy within.”
They opposed the minimum wage. Their leader Michael Howard called it a proposal of “staggering economic illiteracy” and predicted two million extra unemployed. He was only two million out!
All their policies have had one aim – to bolster the rich and big business at the expense of the working class. Their tarnished image has kept them out of office since 1997, despite the failures of New Labour. They have tried to soften their appearance and shed the perception of the Tories as ‘the nasty party.’ Their leader David Cameron speaks softly and tries to sound like sweet reason. They would like to persuade us that they have changed.
Don’t believe them. Here is Cameron praising Thatcher’s government and glorying in the chance to take on the unions: “Margaret Thatcher’s government was defined by taking the side of the people against the powerful...She broke the stranglehold of the union barons and gave every worker an equal right and equal say. Vested interests broken - people empowered.”
This is the exact opposite of the truth. Thatcher used mass unemployment, in part created by her own government, as a whip against employed workers to try to smash the unions and drive up profits for big business. Workers now have very few real rights at work and what they have is only kept alive through resistance and struggle.
Cameron also repeats Thatcher’s homilies about ‘cutting your coat according to your cloth’ to show that he supports savage cuts in public spending. No wonder his chancellor in waiting, George Osborne promised, "We will be the most unpopular government in memory by the end of our first six months." Are we really supposed to vote for this? Don’t let it happen!
The Tories say cuts are necessary because the government has borrowed so much money. But New Labour has borrowed the money to bail out the Tories’ rich chums in the City, not to give to the poor. On the contrary, under Blair and Brown, Britain has become more unequal than ever. Don’t forget – however bad New Labour has been, the Tories would be worse
What else are the Tories promising? They want to raise the threshold on inheritance tax to £1 million. This will overwhelmingly benefit the rich. It will hand over £1.2bn to the top 2%. Giving tax relief on pensions gives the most to those who are supposed to pay the most tax – the wealthy. That would donate another £3.2bn to the top 1.5%. Abolishing Labour’s popular 50% top rate of tax would grant the richest 1% another £2.4bn.
The Tory programme is austerity for the masses, cuts in services that are vital for working class people with profligate tax cuts for the rich at the same time. Even by their own terms it doesn’t add up.
We understand how workers have been demoralised by thirteen years of New Labour crawling to big business. It is understandable that millions of people, with no recent memory of the Tories in government, sigh that ‘they’re all the same’ and may stay at home on polling day. But the Tories want to build on this mood of demoralisation to put the boot in further. Their big business backers need them to do this because of the crisis.
Don’t let the Tories get away with it. Vote Labour. But also help rearm the working class movement with socialist policies and sweep away the Tory menace and the system they represent.