Tony Benn, writing in the Guardian, has outlined the foundations of the emerging Coalition of Resistance. This is exactly what the progressive left need – a movement which offers a comprehensive oppositional force against the current ideological policies of the ConDem government. On the day that the government is musing around the possibilities of scapegoating social housing, forcing people out of their home without actually realising that to sort out the housing crisis they should invest in capital spending to create more social houses, instead of reducing capital investment. And on the day that the LibDems claim that they are somehow a force within the government that can ‘tame’ the Tories is proven to be incorrect, as Simon Hughes’ criticisms is soon retracted later in the day, there really is the need for this type of resistance.
But the right leaning Tory mouthpiece, The Tax Payers’ Alliance, have soon hit back at the coalition’s aims. Branding the letter to be ‘radical’ and signed by “washed up socialists with little relevance to the practical debate over how Britain deals with a serious fiscal crisis.” The Tax Payers’ Alliance try to disprove the progressive coalition’s following remarks around welfare spending:
The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. This is nonsense. Ordinary people are being forced to pay for the bankers’ profligacy.
In response, the Tay Payers’ Alliance answers by saying:
The fiscal crisis is simply the result of a massive growth in spending. You can see that sharp increase, and how it went far beyond that in other developed economies, quite clearly in the OECD statistics.
This actually doesn’t answer the specific point on welfare spending of which they had quoted. This is probably because once looking at the figures, welfare spending has actually remained stable, and there is a case for more, not less, welfare spending.
Again, in a rather lousy attempt to defend the government’s policies, the Tax Payers’ Alliance argue in response to the progressive coalition’s rightful worry that the budget will disproportionately affect some groups more than others:
The more plausible claim here is that the cuts will affect some groups more than others. Though the evidence that cuts will particularly affect some of the groups they name is a bit thin on the ground. How exactly will the cuts announced at the Emergency Budget disproportionately affect LGBT people? And pensioners?
Very weak and trivial response, which actually can be challenged. For example, take pensioners – they are going to suffer from the index link change to their pension. There are many influential campaigning bodies, such as Fawcett society, who are set to launch a legal bid against the government’s budget, and it has emerged today that Theresa May has even raised concerns to Osborne about the fairness of the budget.
Their response to the Coalition’s progressive aims are even more vexing:
There are plans for cuts in defence spending already, pulling out of Afghanistan and abandoning the replacement of Trident wouldn’t get us close to the amount needed to deal with the fiscal crisis. Further hiking taxes on the rich tends to lose money, independent forecasters expect the 50p rate to reduce revenue. And if there were huge amounts of revenue to be had from closing loopholes, do we really think that Governments desperate for revenue over a number of years wouldn’t have closed them already?
For starters, pulling out of Afghanistan is not only an economic decision, it is much more complex decision. The war is becoming more and more obviously, a lost cause – we claim to be there for all sorts of reasons. However, one of the main reasons is to stop terrorism over here, well fighting a guerilla type war is only going to increase it, terrorism works via cells all around the world so trying to blast them out whilst killing lots of innocent civilians is just purely illogical. Furthermore, Trident is another complex more than economic decision, it is morally and environmentally vacuous to carry on with such pointless ‘defense’ mechanisms. Lets face it, who would actually press the button?
Also, the current row over Trident shows how damaging it will be economically. If the MOD incorporate it within their budget, it will take up a large part of their budget, and result in cuts that really do matter. Increasing tax on the rich doesn’t lose money, that is just a right-wing scaremongering tactic. You only have to consider Sweden to see how their increase in taxation on the rich, resulted in the deficit going down and didn’t scare away investment. Actually, through lowering taxes for the rich, such as the corporation tax, we are actually seeing those who were largely responsible for the economic problems, the bankers, getting off and actually making a profit.
It really was a poor defense from a right-wing Conservative voice piece. This coalition is just what is required for the progressive left, it provides us with a real collective movement to fight the regressive government. It is representative of the pluralistic requirements, and how tribalist aims should be abandoned when it comes to collective visions.