Ian Lavery·Labour MP for WansbeckThu, 25 February 2021, 4:55 pmhttps://delivery.vidible.tv/htmlembed/pid=56c05598e4b0c05883d0646f/56be00124076e70ee4171d93.html?vid=6022a9a5d91dc03216c35541&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3dsponsorship_name&m.fwsitesection=composer&m.sound=muted
After a grim year, with the herculean efforts of our NHS to vaccinate Britain, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. But whilst the country basks in the vision of a summer without restrictions, the government are keen to use the opportunity to get back to a Britain that works for the bosses.
The pandemic has overwhelmed a failing system that, for too many people and businesses, who try to do the right thing, simply does not work.
This past year key workers have carried the country on their backs, yet far too many are low paid and suffer dreadful working terms and conditions. For those on low pay and in precarious work, the pandemic has meant new challenges. Some workers have been forced into unsafe workplaces, others laid off and others who have found 80% of their wages impossible to exist on. For many more who have been able to work from home, financial pressures may have been less significant, but the stress of home schooling and isolation have still taken their toll.
Our public services, charities and many businesses are on their knees and most expect the coming storm that will last beyond the virus to engulf them. High streets in held-back communities were already under huge pressure as they compete with the internet, but Covid has accelerated their demise.
The billionaires class of society have seen their wealth grow by trillions, while workers have seen trillions wiped from their wages.
As with any crisis, however, there are those who have done very well. It has been well documented that companies like Amazon have seen their profits soar. Others in the online shopping game have seen their top line grow exponentially. Supermarkets likewise have seen a surge with online ordering and the closure of non-essential retail pushing consumers towards them.
On top of this, the web of cronyism that goes to the heart of government has funnelled public money to companies with links to ministers. And companies like British Gas and British Airways have been using despicable fire and rehire tactics to undermine workers’ wages terms and conditions.
Is it really any wonder that through the course of the pandemic, the billionaires class of society have seen their wealth grow by trillions, while workers have seen trillions wiped from their wages?
Throughout the course of the crisis the spirit of wartime Britain has been invoked. After that global catastrophe Britain set forth to never again return to the privation of what had gone before. We stand at a similar crossroads today.
A Labour Party comfortable in its own skin would have no hesitation in backing the taxation of high level spiv-ery to fund a better future.
Next week’s Budget is an opportunity to set the course of our economy for a generation to come. We know the Tories will not deliver the fundamental change to a system that fails much of the nation. But will Labour finally shake off its timidity and argue for the future we need?
The signs are not good. Many people are already questioning what Labour stands for – the much-trumpeted relaunch has not provided an answer. If the rumours are correct and we end up with the grotesque sight of Labour whipped into voting alongside right-wing Tory rebels to defeat a meagre corporation tax rise that would only affect those who’ve done well out of the pandemic, then I fear for the future.
There is always another way. In the Challenge for Labour produced by No Holding Back, we proposed a Covid profiteering tax and an outsourcing tax to tackle head on those who have done well and exploited the crisis for financial gain. A Labour Party comfortable in its own skin would have no hesitation in backing the taxation of high level spiv-ery to fund a better future. To think we are potentially lining up to vote down even milder measure is mind-blowing.
The country depends on Labour to argue for, and point the way to, a better future. Quite simply this must be built on a partnership with society, paid for by taxation – not a partnership with business, paid for by society.
Ian Lavery is the Labour MP for Wansbeck. Follow him on Twitter at @IanLaveryMP
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.