Covid-19: No going back to 'Business as Usual'

A statement from Haringey Solidarity Group. Not sure what others are doing, either individually or in their groups, but once lockdown is reduced, there seems a lot we could fight for keeping. And we probably need to get a lot better organised as the attacks on the poor could come fast and hard

Submitted by Kate Sharpley on May 13, 2020

For years we had to accept “austerity” as Britain didn’t have any money. Ordinary people had to “tighten their belts” while the rich became super rich. But Britain was “skint”. We ‘couldn’t afford’ pay rises or increases in benefits. Hospital beds were lost, NHS staff were treated like scum. Jobs we knew were important were seen as “low skilled” so bosses paid minimum wage and use zero hours’ contracts. Prisoners and asylum seekers were “evil” so the only option was to lock them away.

Well isn’t it funny (no) what a virus can bring about!

Look how politicians change their tune when it suits them. Millions are having to claim Universal Credit (UC). Because these new claimants ain’t the “great unwashed” or “scroungers”, suddenly even the government realise living on £75 a week isn’t possible. So up goes Universal Credit a week by £20. After no increase for 5 years, suddenly we can increase it by nearly 30%. Funny that! Working Tax Credits is also increasing by the same amount, as apparently Boris & Co were forced to realise that was too low as well.

“Conditionality” requirements for UC have also miraculously been dropped. These were stupid hoops you had to jump through to get your benefit. The main ones were about what you had to do to find work. With corona virus they claim there isn’t work around so the conditionality will be relaxed. There never was a range of decent bloody jobs around – it was just a way to make us suffer and a way to kick people off UC for not “complying”.

The “minimum income floor” for the self-employed has also been suspended. Before corona most self employed over 25 on UC were assumed to earn minimum wage (presently £8.72 an hour) for 35 hours – or £305.20 a week. Earn less than that and tough, benefits are still worked out on £305.20 pw. Tons of self employed lost huge sums and the government made a killing. But now our glorious leaders had to realise this is a bit out of order for our hard working “deserving” self employed.

Before corona, if you were sick most of us didn’t get paid for the first three days. What a surprise, now the state will pay us sick pay from day one. Why was it ok with every other illness (many also being contagious)? NO ONE should have to go to work when they are unwell, EVER.

Before “C Day” (corona virus to most of us) we were told criminals, asylum seekers and “foreigners” were all evil people who need to be locked up in case they continued their evil ways. What rubbish. Funny then that now 8,000 prisoners are now “low risk” and it’s Ok to let them out of the hell hole we call prison. That’s about 5% of the prison population of England and Wales.

The Tories have also released at least 300 people from detention centres. The speed and scale of the release is unprecedented in recent years. Detainees and charities estimate that more than a quarter of those currently locked up will be set free.

And talking about our ‘foreign’ friends, normally getting an extension on your visa is really difficult as the racist politicians claim we are “swamped” by foreigners. Now NHS workers will get an automatic one-year extension. The Home Office announced on 31 March that around 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics who have to leave the UK by 1 October 2020 will get a free one-year extension. Family members are included and there are no fees involved - where there’s a will there’s a way.

And only recently apparently we are flying in up to 600 people from Romania to help pick our crops. Even the Sun and Daily Mail had to bite their lips and agree these workers were needed.

Then there is that homelessness “problem” the state and successive governments can never “manage” to solve. But wait what’s this? Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have found £1.6bn of additional funding for councils to respond to pressures during this national emergency. Apparently 4,000 of an estimated 5,000 homeless have been housed in hostels and hotels in a matter of weeks and they hope to house them all soon. How is this possible in such a small space of time we hear you ask?

As for all those companies manufacturing crap for us to buy. All of a sudden their products are pointless and they all want to “help” by manufacturing testing kits and PPE. If they can make useful stuff now, why have they been making, promoting and ripping us off with rubbish for years? We even heard a proposal to ask armament factories to switch to making ventilators - a proposal we heard made with a straight face and no-one called them a hippy dreamer or dangerous radical.

And finally, quoting the New Statesman’s sister publication City Metric “On the morning of 23rd March 2020 the rail franchising system that has been in place in Britain since 1996 came to a rather unceremonious end. With travel limited to only critical workers it was likely that government would have to step in. And step in it has. Rather than taking the franchises back in-house (as with LNER and Northern), the government has essentially re-awarded the franchise holders with quick-and-easy “stay-put, we’ll pay you” contracts. This isn’t full-blown nationalisation.” But it is as good as.

If we can manage to do all this when we are meant to be in the worst financial crisis we have been in since the war, then we can bloody well do it when this crisis is over. Austerity was never about money or protecting us – it was always all about moving money from the poor to the rich.

But now they have gone and started making things slightly better for a few of us – we need to make sure they don’t go back on these when corona virus is a distant memory. But of course they will. Unless we get organised and fight the bastards. Because we know this and they will want to put us back in our place once it is all over.

We might all have our own campaigns. Some may see disability rights as most important; some housing; others refugees. All are equally important. We don’t want a hierarchy of needs. Fight for your particular cause yes – but link up with others. An injury to one is an injury to all. The state always tries to divide us. Too often we fight amongst ourselves and miss the real enemy. We need to stick together because once Covid 19 is over the state will come for us like they have never done before. And we need to be ready and supporting each other.