Where has all the money gone?
I spoke to a young mother, while canvassing in Ferryhill. She works two part-time, minimum-wage jobs, in Chester-le-Street. There’s one unreliable bus an hour, and it costs her £19.80 for transport and childcare.
She leaves the house at 8am to drop her daughter off, and she gets home at 4pm.
It’s taking her 8 hours to earn less than £17.00 net wages.
And she can’t see where it ends. She said, “People say ‘you’ve got to learn to manage your money’ – but I’m on top of every penny.”
She’s working all hours to build a better life for her little girl. But she’s worried she’ll be in the same position in 20 years’ time. She can’t see a way out of it.
In the 70s and early 80s, we had park keepers. We had youth clubs. We had bus conductors, who helped with your pram, or your shopping.
My Mam worked part-time as a telephonist. My Dad was a shift worker at ICI. With four kids, they could still afford to buy a house when they were young.
I left school at 16, and worked in a factory. If you wanted new materials, you filled out an order. Someone in the typing pool (remember them?) typed a letter, put it in an envelope, and posted it to the supplier. These days, you just scan a code.
Productivity has leapt forwards with computers and the internet. Every job is way more efficient now. We even scan our own shopping. It must be saving shedloads of money.
So where has all that money gone? Why can’t we afford park keepers and youth workers and bus conductors?
Why are working people queuing up at food banks?
Because tax dodgers and oligarchs are asset-stripping our country.
Before Christmas, Storm Arwen left 5000 North East homes with no electricity for a fortnight.
Northern Powergrid makes £125 million profit a year, on a turnover of £355 million. It’s privately owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, previously known as MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, run by Warren Buffet, who has a personal fortune of $102 billion.
Over £100 million a year we lose from our region, which could have been reinvested in it.
It’s the same in the NHS. And probation. And PFI.
Outsourcing and privatisation isn’t about efficiency, and never was. It’s about the mega-rich taking our money, leaving people working two jobs, unable to make ends meet.
I know there’s a better system than this.
The Tories have been in power since 2010. And their austerity has smashed the UK’s resilience.
COVID hit so hard because of underfunded emergency planning and preparedness. Fire and Police budgets slashed. Ambulance services on their knees. Local authority capabilities destroyed.
And it’s not just about economic injustice. 732 sub-postmasters wrongfully prosecuted. The Government spending £1.6 million on lawyers to oppose the victims. No-one held accountable.
97 unlawful deaths at Hillsborough – 30 years to get to the truth. No-one held accountable.
Thousands of families bereaved through Covid, while No10 partied – and an inquiry kicked into the long grass.
What needs levelling-up is the scales of justice.
Britain needs a Labour government delivering long-term investment in the health and education of our people. And guiding Britain through a world more dangerous than I can ever remember.
World leaders have not stepped up to the challenge of climate change. Fossil fuel companies make £billions in profits. Tory donors are granted oil and gas exploration licenses in the middle of a climate emergency.
The sovereign nation of Ukraine has been invaded. Hospitals and nursery schools bombed. Nuclear power plants shelled. While Vladimir Putin imprisons children who protest for peace in Russia. He must face war crimes court, as all war mongers must. High office and powerful friends should offer no immunity. For anyone.
I want to see a Labour Government with the guts to stand up to billionaire oligarchs, whose financial greed and bullying fuels war and poverty, and destroys our planet.
We must hold our course for economic and social and climate justice. And not sink to throwing red meat to appease those who play from the handbook of hate.
What will be the future if we trade justice for a tabloid headline?
*Originally printed in the Journal and Evening Chronicle 7 March 2022