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More than a decade of Tory rule has left Britain in permanent crisis

In the age of big excuses, it is imperative we remember Britain’s particular crisis is rooted in the actions of Conservative power, writes Jake Woodier

5 to 6 minute read

Rishi Sunak wearing a shirt and tie standing behind a desk

With every passing day, Britain feels like it is plunged further and further into chaos. The proverbial thread continues to unravel with no end in sight. Climate change, soaring bills, spiralling inflation, poverty wages, crumbling public services, food banks running out of groceries to give out and a vacuum of power created by a Conservative cock fight.

To add to the misery and chaos, on 26 August, millions across the country were dealt yet another hammer blow as news of the government regulator hiking the energy cap did the rounds, wall-to-wall, bulletin after bulletin.

Indeed, the current crisis was partially triggered by the war in Ukraine sending fossil fuel prices spiralling across the global energy markets, inflation quickly following suit. Interchangeable government figures have been parroting this line as the cause of tens of millions facing hardship in the UK. Yet, this is a crisis that was conceived in the UK and overseen by a Conservative party frothing at the mouth to asset strip a nation in order to enrich their own class.

To add insult to injury, these same people have been egregiously telling us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and feel grateful we’re not in the sight-lines of Russian soldiers. Or if this isn’t enough of an admonishment, they’re using their right-wing media mouthpieces to intimate that we’ve become too accustomed to some of the very basics of life such as a warm home and even plentiful drinking water while drought grips most regions.

A crisis with precedent

The collective memory of those with a platform appears to be relatively short judging by commentary and reporting across much of the airwaves. The lack of critical analysis is quite astounding for those that lived through the last decade. It must be remembered that the Conservative party have been in a dominant form of power in the UK for the last twelve years, and their immediate mission was to unleash brutal and relentless austerity upon the nation.

As a measure of the progress in their self-described mission to ‘level-up Britain’ and be the party of ‘working families’, the number of people receiving three days worth of emergency food has risen from under 62,000 in 2010 to more than two million in 2022. This only accounts for the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank network, indicating that use across the board is likely much higher.

Candidate after candidate has lined up to stake their horrifying claim to be Margaret Thatcher’s heir-apparent

All the while, the number of children living in poverty has reached 31 per cent (up from 27 per cent in 2010). In this time, council budgets have shrunk by an average of 26 per cent (with central government council funding falling roughly 38 per cent) and essential services have been left in tatters or abandoned completely, purposefully dismembered for private contractors to make a killing out of under delivering.

Further grim conditions are to come, with the worst projections estimating up to two of every three households will be fuel poor by January next year. Given current luck with droughts and extreme weather, we’re undoubtedly in for a winter of severe storms and weather conditions that will only make rationing heating feel all the more challenging for households.

Against this backdrop, a tiny proportion of the UK electorate – Conservative Party members – are due to impose a new prime minister on the nation in the wake of Boris Johnson’s almighty downfall. During the so-called contest for Britain’s Premiership, candidate after candidate has lined up to stake their horrifying claim to be Margaret Thatcher’s heir-apparent.

Their frenzied claims against so-called ‘woke culture’, championing of nationalism and promises of tax cuts have reached fever pitch, with members likely sweating through euphoria while a nation looks on in horror. Despite the crisis Britain is mired in, a complete lack of leadership or alternative vision exists unabated in the hallowed political spheres.

Organising resistance

Yet, one only needs to look outside of the halls of Westminster or drab constituency offices to find organisation, planning and serious resistance to shit-show Tory Britain. With inflation spiralling, costs for basics rising and payrises non-existant or paltry, union comrades across different sectors are taking the fight to bosses and government.

The future for Britain’s working class may well be hinged upon the success or not of some of last institutions with some semblance of power and resource that can be wielded for the wider good. Transportation networks grinding to a halt, post going undelivered and legal services unavailable, alongside the potential of walkouts from teachers, nurses and many more across the economy has the potential to force the hand of the powerful and rich. Talks of coordinating action across unions, in the conspicuous absence of moves toward a general strike, can only strengthen the hand of workers.

Alongside action from historic institutions, those unfamiliar with such spaces or without trust or belief in them are organising resistance on their own terms. Spiralling energy costs that will make the all too common sound bite of ‘choosing between heating and eating’ feel inappropriate has led to ordinary people drawing their own line in the sand.

Literally faced with no other choice, tens of thousands so far are pledging to withhold payment to energy suppliers. Where do the companies think the money is coming from anyway? It is hard to imagine people in their hundreds of thousands, or even millions, won’t be drawn to this type of action through choice or necessity. Glimmers of hope can be found in other resistance from the newer, more agile workers’ unions and tenants’ rights groups organising some of those at the sharpest end of the economy.

Radical transformation

This crisis is founded in years of economic dogma that is the antithesis to a radical socialist vision for people, country, and global order. Without long-term, considered, and planned interventions, we will suffer through the next chapter of neoliberal Britain time and time again. Bouncing from one crisis to another is a sure-fire way to continue oppressing people and fail to address the biggest crises of our time – so severe that our entire existence is threatened.

Escaping such hell requires writing the following pages ourselves, based on human and planetary needs. Our economic system requires transformation from the bottom-up that prioritises the collective and the whole, rather than extracting from the majority for the asset strippers, rich and powerful.

Jake Woodier is a deputy director of Tax Justice UK and a Red Pepper co-editor

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