IN ADVANCE of the budget next week, former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond delivered a shot across the bows of the Tory government with a warning that they cannot carry on blagging about the strength of the UK economy, and that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must risk unpopularity and tell ‘some difficult home truths’ to the country.
Hammond was chancellor after the resignation of George Osborne, the main architect of Tory austerity inflicted on workers to pay down the national debt, run up bailing out the banks after the world financial crash of 2008.
Hammond faithfully carried on with austerity policies until 2019 when he was booted out by the new Tory leader, Boris Johnson and kicked up into the House of Lords.
In an interview with the BBC, Hammond said that dealing with the coronavirus pandemic had been the financial equivalent of ‘fighting a war’ but, he insisted, handing out money was easier than collecting it for ‘a populist government’ and urged the Tories to ditch ‘very extravagant’ promises.
Hammond is demanding that the bill for bailing out British capitalism has got to be paid off quickly, and that the Tories must start getting on with the job of slashing wages, ending the furlough and allowing the UK economy to go bust overnight – with the working class to pay the bill.
When talking of the huge national debt of over £2.1 trillion, a debt increased by the furlough and all the support schemes, Hammond insisted it was unlikely in the ‘foreseeable future’ that the government would be able to ‘do anything that will actually see the debt starting to fall’.
But, according to Hammond, this is not a problem. He said: ‘But what matters is not the absolute size of the debt, but the size of the debt relative to our economy.’
He went on: ‘If we can grow the British economy over the coming years then, just as we did after the Second World War, we can make the debt fade in significance.’
The idea that British capitalism can ‘grow’ its way out of the crisis is patent nonsense, designed to lull the Labour and trade union leaders into hoping for a peaceful way out of the crisis.
The fact is that the UK economy crashed in 2020 by a record 9.9%, the biggest slump in modern times, and over twice as much as the previous largest annual fall on record. Seven million people are currently furloughed and when this, ends unemployment will rocket up to 10 million as companies go bust.
British capitalism is crashing into a massive recession and mass unemployment when all the support schemes come to an end, as Hammond is demanding. Hammond is not alone in his attack on Johnson for being too timid and ‘populist’.
According to the BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, a serving Tory minister told her that there was a growing group at the top of the Tory party that were worried the government had become ‘addicted to spending’.
A massive split is emerging within the Tories as this powerful section, with Hammond acting as spokesman, prepare to either push Johnson or dump him in order to carry out the requirement of the ruling class, which is to carry out a class war against workers.
While the Labour Party and TUC leaders are reduced to simply begging Sunak to continue furlough indefinitely, the working class is showing it is not prepared to passively accept 10 million unemployed and see its wages and conditions ripped up to bail out the bosses.
The strike wave that is developing across the bus industry is a sign of the working class on the move.
What is required is a clear-out of those trade union leaders who cravenly kow-tow to the Tories, replacing them with a new leadership that will mobilise the power of the working class in a general strike to bring down this weak, divided Tory government, and bring in a workers’ government that will nationalise the banks and major industries and establish a planned socialist economy.
Socialist revolution is the only way out of this crisis for the working class.