The cruelty and greed of Westminster’s elite

Let’s all do the huddle: when the TV debates gave a platform to parties who opposed austerity, the public sat up and noticed, and the elite went into overdrive against them

Let’s all do the huddle: when the TV debates gave a platform to parties who opposed austerity, the public sat up and noticed, and the elite went into overdrive against them

by Ken Ferguson As hundreds perish in coffin ships in the Mediterranean, fleeing poverty and war, the elites running the EU call a meeting. These are the same elites who last year agreed to scrap the Mare Nostrum rescue operation which saved thousands of refugees on the grounds that having lifesaving services on call would act as an incentive for more refugees to try and escape.

In that one statement the cold callousness of the supposed humanitarians in both the Westminster and Brussels elites is laid bare, exposing the utter hypocrisy behind their brave talk of human rights, freedom and democracy.

As they bow to pressure from anti-immigrant forces such as UKIP and the French National Front and scapegoat immigrants as the source of all economic and social woes the drownings in the Mediterranean are simply the most extreme outcome of their anti-people policies.

That such horrors are justified by politicians and their acolytes should not really come as great surprise. They have a long history of exercising ruthless power and lying about what they are doing.

Here in Scotland, we saw this approach during the referendum and we are seeing it on a daily basis as the mainstream Westminster parties go all out to sell the idea that their austerity agenda of misery for the many and millions for the few is the only possible choice.

Even the SNP, despite its anti-austerity pitch still lay stress on dealing with the deficit albeit slightly more humanely and over a longer period of time. At the heart of the election battle is the simple question—what side are you on?

In staged events, “leaks”, briefing by insiders and cheesy and cheesier “campaign events” the austerity message is hammered home with carefully spun “facts” about more jobs, economic success and an endless round of claim and counter claim.

However these events stand in sharp contrast to the reality experienced by millions of people every day as they suffer the direct consequences of the cuts imposed by the professional politicians in the cosseted Westminster bubble where poverty is as rare as hen’s teeth and subsidised dining rooms are the norm rather than food banks.

Across the UK close to a million people now need food banks and 157,000 people are on Scotland’s housing waiting lists. Last year more Scots were sanctioned by the benefits system than were fined by the courts and thousands of those who supposedly benefited for from the so called “jobs boom” actually face zero hours, miserably paid near serfdom.

Against this miserable prospect it is hardly surprising that when the TV debates gave a platform to parties who opposed austerity—from the Greens, SNP and Plaid—the public sat up and noticed, and the elite went into overdrive against them.

Whatever the outcome on 7 May however, any conceivable anti-austerity programme faces the implacable opposition of big business, the city and the cross-party deficit reduction consensus.

It remains to be seen if a much bigger SNP Westminster group could force concessions from a minority Labour party still smarting from its Scottish defeat. As we discuss elsewhere in this Voice, the great unspoken in this election is the ability of working people to organise to defend and advance their own interests for decent pay, proper non-casual jobs and an end to unchallenged bosses power rather than totally depending on politicians promises.

Key to this is the repeal or defiance of the anti-union laws which make collective action all but illegal and so marginalise trade unions that millions who need them are discouraged or even afraid to join them.

Of course winning the best most progressive government is central but the left must both set out its own distinctive agenda and seriously address the urgent task of winning the conditions to build a powerful movement to win a decisive break with neoliberalism and it various supporters of whatever party.

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