MP’s ‘Can’t live on £60,000 a year’.
This was the defence put forward by Tory MP and former foreign secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, to the latest ‘cash for access’ scandal involving both him and Jack Straw Labour MP, also a former foreign secretary.
Both these prominent figures in their parties – Rifkind chairs the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee – were caught in a sting operation run by Channel 4 and the Telegraph newspaper which involved them being approached by a fictitious Chinese company seeking to expand into Europe and looking to use their political influence in return for cash.
Rifkind was filmed telling the undercover journalists that he had ‘lots of free time’ that he was ‘self-employed’ and that ‘no one pays me a salary’.
Rifkind, who is actually paid £67,000 a year, told the reporters that he usually charges ‘somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000’ for half a day’s work – gaining ‘useful access’ by using his political contacts to give access to every British ambassador in the world.
Straw claimed that he operated ‘under the radar’ to use his influence to affect a change in EU rules that benefitted a commodity firm which pays him £60,000 a year.
On the same day that Rifkind was pleading poverty, the TUC released figures showing that in some parts of Britain half the jobs are paying less than the official living wage – currently £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.
Rifkind, Straw and the rest can’t live off £67,000 a year of taxpayers’ money but they are happy to see wages cut to levels that mean even those achieving the ‘living wage’ are existing on over £50,000 a year less!
This does not even begin to take into account the unemployed forced to live on jobseekers allowance of just over £50 a week – about £3,000 a year or what Rifkind and Straw rake in on an daily basis on the side.
Nor does it take into account youth who the Tories intend to force off benefits and into community work schemes for 30 hours a week, with an additional 10 hours forced on them to look for non-existent jobs.
While the TUC will take the high moral ground over this scandal, the fact remains that the responsibility for this situation, which is seeing millions of families across the country forced into abject poverty, lies squarely with the leadership of the trade unions.
They have fought might and main to hold back and divert any fight over pay cuts and the introduction of poverty level pay.
Every call for strike action over pay cuts and wage freezes has met with overwhelming support from the working class.
The strikes last year in the public sector and NHS saw sections of workers like midwives, who have never been on strike in their lives, coming out in the most determined way.
The response of the trade union leadership at every turn has been to confine such action to one day strikes followed by calling off any further action – so terrified is the union bureaucracy of leading any struggle that confronts the government.
On the question of a living wage, the TUC has completely dropped its own official policy voted on unanimously at last year’s conference for a fight for £10 an hour legal minimum wage, instead these leaders just call for an increase with no figure attached – in other words no real fight just a succession of pleas to the coalition to be reasonable and help the poor workers.
Greek workers are learning just how reasonable and benevolent the capitalist system is when it comes to making the working class pay for capitalism’s crisis.
There can be no relief for the working class under this bankrupt system – the only answer is to mobilise the hatred and determination of workers into a general strike to bring down the government and cleanse the cesspit of the bourgeois parliamentary system by going forward to a workers government and socialism.