TORY chancellor Philip Hammond made a climb down in his budget speech yesterday to Theresa May, but there was no climb down over continuing the austerity attacks on workers and keeping the hated Universal Credit system.
In the run up to the budget, Hammond appeared on interviews where he spelt out in lurid terms that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would spell disaster for Theresa May’s much lauded claim that she would end austerity. All her boasts of putting billions into the NHS and all the other public services driven to the point of destruction, Hammond threatened would be trashed if there was no deal to remain in the single market and customs union.
The so-called ‘Brexit dividend’ would vanish overnight as any spending commitments on NHS funding, social care and infrastructure were entirely dependent on securing a deal imposed by Brussels. Hammond insisted that if there was no deal he would hold an emergency budget which would introduce permanent austerity.
Just hours before Hammond rose to his feet to deliver his budget, May was forced to come out openly to ‘slap down’ her chancellor. She issued a stern rebuke to Hammond, insisting that all of his Budget spending commitments would be funded by the Tories and that there would be no emergency Budget, even in the event that no deal was reached. This unprecedented public row between the prime minister and her chancellor immediately before the budget showed just how split the Tories are.
May is desperate to keep feeding the working class with illusions that austerity has worked, that British capitalism has been rescued. She is driven above all by the fear of the working class rising up against the years of Tory austerity, that has plunged millions of workers and their families into poverty, and bringing down this hated Tory government.
May is as desperate as Hammond to keep terminally weak British capitalism within the EU; where they disagree, is the best way to do this. Hammond rejects the approach of stringing negotiations with Brussels out and keeping the Tory Brexiteers onside until capitulation to Brussels is inevitable.
Hammond’s approach is to rely on stoking up the same wall of fear that the Tories, Labour leadership and the TUC used in the 2016 EU referendum. Then, workers were threatened with every dire consequence if they voted to leave – millions of jobs would go overnight, services would close down and the mass of workers thrown onto the streets to starve.
The working class was not intimidated by this concerted campaign of fear and delivered a massive blow to the ruling class when they voted to leave. Yesterday, Hammond backed off from an outright confrontation with May and was careful in his budget speech to avoid saying that all the money he was promising to spray around next year would depend entirely on the UK staying tied to the EU. He did, however, throughout his speech insist on saying that austerity was ‘finally coming to an end’ while insisting that ‘discipline must remain’, in direct opposition to May’s insistence that it had been ended for good.
This was a very specific and deliberate warning that leaving the EU without a deal that tied Britain forever to the bosses and bankers of Europe would result in all this promised money disappearing overnight and permanent austerity for workers. The discipline Hammond wants, is a disciplined working class that will do as instructed by the Tories and their capitalist masters.
The reality is that British capitalism has never been more bankrupt – with UK manufacturing in recession, thousands of low paid workers relying on food banks and the vital public services like health systematically run down to the point of destruction.
Yesterday, Hammond delivered not so much a budget as a litany of lies about how the Tories had saved the economy how austerity had worked and how Universal Credit was the greatest advance in social security. It must be answered by demanding the TUC call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the capitalist class, immediately break with the EU and go forward to socialism.