On Wednesday 3 March 2021, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the 2021 budget. As we all know, this budget comes at a time of both a health crisis and an economic crisis, during the third national lockdown and with the UK’s coronavirus death toll now far exceeding 100,000.
The budget contains hardly any measures designed to protect workers, with the majority of government support going to business owners. As expected, the Labour Party’s response has been completely worthless.
While the budget does include some necessary measures to deal with the pandemic such as an extra £1.65 billion to assist with the vaccine roll-out, these come alongside major giveaways to private companies through business rates relief, grants, and loans of up to £10 million. Crucially, this assistance is not tied to any requirements or incentives for job retention, allowing the bourgeoisie to use these funds to bolster their profits while hanging their workers out to dry.
Any measures designed to protect workers (of which there are few enough) are time limited, leaving the working class facing a potential cliff-edge when furlough ends in September.
Also pledged is £28 million for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, clearly a prudent use of public funds.
Although it had been previously suggested that additional spending announced in the budget would partially be paid for through raising corporation tax to 25%, this tax rise will actually be delayed until 2023.
The budget demonstrates a contradiction at the heart of capitalist, free market ideology which decries the evils of government intervention. Whenever the system is facing a crisis, the capitalist state steps in to save it. While those who supported Jeremy Corbyn and his proposals for very mild reforms such as the National Education Service were mocked and slandered as planning to destroy the UK economy, far greater spending by the Tories is apparently now respectable governance in the eyes of the capitalist class.
Labour’s response has been predictably unimpressive. This was foreshadowed before the announcement of the budget, when it was expected that corporation tax was to be immediately raised. Keir Starmer said that Labour would not support the tax rise, even comparing it to the austerity measures of George Osborne. An absurd argument that nobody who suffered under Osborne’s austerity could possibly take seriously!
Like Starmer’s persistent demands for schools to reopen during a pandemic, his opposition to the Corporation Tax increase is yet another example of Labour demonstrating its pro-business credentials. And again at the expense of its working class base.
Now that the Tories have decided to postpone the corporation tax rise, Labour have nothing meaningful to say on the contents of the budget itself. In Starmer’s Parliament speech on the budget, his criticism was limited to suggesting that the budget only provided temporary solutions rather than “rebuilding the foundations” of the economy.
No mention was made of the precarious position faced by the working class due to the pandemic. Starmer simply praised the extension of the furlough scheme and delay to the rise in corporation tax. At one point, he criticised the government for letting down the financial services sector! It is clear which class Starmer is trying to appeal to.
Starmer’s speech on the budget is typical of Labour’s weak opposition to the Tory government since his leadership began. Labour has consistently failed to criticise the government’s policies, instead focussing only on their implementation. Labour accuse the government of a lack of competency, rather than recognising that because the Tories are the party of the bosses, they will always act in the bosses’ interests and against the interests of the workers.
Although bourgeois in its class perspective, the Labour Party has its roots in the working class and the labour movement. It should be fighting for socialism rather than presenting itself as a “government in waiting” for the capitalist class and the forces of British imperialism.
Starmer has almost completed his bureaucratic purge of the left, aiming to transform the Labour Party from a socialist mass movement into a safe pair of hands for British Capital. We must unite to defeat him and his treacherous clique now, before there is nothing left of the Corbyn movement to save.