The unarguable case for ending cuts to pay and services

You can’t make those policies popular, no one will vote for them, it’s electoral suicide. So goes the mantra when you argue for proper funding for our public services and those who work in them.

But the general election result, where the only landslide was the instant collapse of Theresa May’s mandate and authority, had already cast doubt on this so-called wisdom peddled by the political and media elite.

Now polling by the TUC is revealing the extent of support for exactly the sorts of things we have campaigned on for years: investing in public services, lifting the public sector pay cap and ending exploitative employment practices such as zero hours contracts.

As the Huffington Post reports, even 68% of Conservative voters say they back ending “restrictions on pay increases for public sector workers”, with a massive 80% of people who voted Tory earlier this month but considered voting Labour.

Similarly, when asked to choose between “maintaining decent public services” even it means putting up taxes, or keeping taxes low if it means “squeezing them to find savings”, more people support the former, even Tory voters.

Austerity has failed, in more ways than one. The professed immediate aim of the Tory-led coalition government’s brutal spending cuts - to improve “efficiency” - has been shown time and again to be a sick joke. But if, as seems likely, the political motivation to do things on the cheap and hack back regulatory safeguards contributed in any way to the Grenfell disaster, it is much worse than that, it is a catastrophic failing of the state.

Another, less openly admitted, aim of the austerity project was to drive the final nail into the coffin of progressive ideas and the labour movement, consigning us to irrelevancy for years to come. It was supposed to finish what Margaret Thatcher started, cementing in the minds of the public the idea that we live in a country where resources are scarce and paying Paul inevitably means robbing Peter.

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour’s general election campaign blew a huge hole in the side of that ship. No it does not mean austerity is over. But the game is up, the case has been well and truly made and is unarguable.

People can see that depriving public servants of a pay rise for seven years is not only unfair, it is counterproductive. They want to return to a time when public services were available in their community when they or their families and friends needed them. They are prepared to pay for decent services but, importantly, they recognise the money is already there but being shared among those who already have it.

It is no longer possible to successfully argue that you can’t make these ideas popular. The public understand they are not only possible, they are inevitable. The only question now is, how long will it take the government to catch up?

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