It’s normal for a political party to promise a number of reforms in its political programme and then to renege on them when elected.
However, Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership have made it clear that they are promising no change whatsoever if elected at the next election. In fact, Starmer has embraced the outlook of Tony Blair and is an advocate of capitalist growth in the UK, using the mantra “growth, growth, growth”.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has emphasised that private partnerships would be used more and more in the National Health Service if Labour is elected, and promises “reform”, that is, further privatisation of the NHS.
Starmer is also reneging on his previous promises on workers’ rights. He has now delayed the introduction of a drastic overhaul of how different types of workforce should be treated by their employers. This means that gig economy workers would not receive protection under an incoming Labour government, and any legislation for workers with employers like Deliveroo and Uber would be “delayed”, translation, kicked into the long grass. The National Policy Forum (NPF) of the Labour Party decided on these delays at a meeting in July.
The original promises were meant to do away with the fake self-employment that casual workers in this sector have to put up with, and to implement a single status of employment. At least 3.7 million workers are facing precarity and poverty because of the gig economy. The original promises would have meant that workers in this sector were in line with workers in other industries. For example, these rights would have been assured from day one of starting a job, with parental leave, ability to claim unfair dismissal, and a guaranteed wage. Currently this only happens after two years continuous employment.
Elsewhere, the Labour government in Wales is threatening to cut public services including in the NHS, using the excuse of a £900 million budgetary deficit. Mark Drakeford, First Minister in the Welsh government, has called for all ministers to look for 5% cuts in their departments.
Similarly, the bankrupt Labour council in Birmingham, is using a deficit of £870 million to freeze what they call ‘non-essential’ payments. Children with Special Needs and Disabilities have now had their school transport cancelled. The council frittered away £100 million on a shoddy IT system and splurged another £250 million on last year’s Commonwealth Games. It is now blaming council workers for demanding pay rises. Birmingham Council has been complicit with the Tory government in implementing austerity over more than ten years.
Workers need to be aware that they should be prepared to struggle and fight as much under a probable incoming Labour government as they are under the Sunak regime.