March 27, 2023
Lizz Truss

Britain is in chaos. We don’t just need a new prime minister. We need a new government. That means a general election now.

This is not something I say lightly. But the Conservatives have pushed this country to breaking point and deserve to be ejected from office.

The Independent has launched a petition calling for a general election

The Tories have no mandate to embark on another round of savage spending cuts. And they mustn’t be allowed to make working people pay the price – yet again – for their gross incompetence.

We must never forgive – or forget – what they have put us through over the last several weeks. They gambled with people’s livelihoods, homes and pensions. And for what? To make the richest in this society even richer and to give tax bungs to the likes of Amazon.

The damage caused by the mini-Budget will be with us for years. But the rot goes much deeper than this. The last 12 years has been a disasterclass in governance. Let’s just look at the Conservatives’ record:

  • They have run our public services into the ground and taken a wrecking ball to our social security system.
  • They have let insecure work spiral and not lifted a finger to tackle exploitation.
  • And they are overseeing the worst pay squeeze in modern history.
  • Real wages are still worth £100 a month less than in 2008 and are set to fall by another £4,000 over the next three years.

That’s two decades – 20 years – of lost living standards.

This squeeze has been most acute in the public sector where key workers have suffered more than a decade of pay cuts and freezes. The average nurse working today is £4,000 worse off (in real terms) than in 2010. Is it any surprise we have a staffing crisis in our hospitals and across frontline services?

This historic collapse in earnings has left families hugely exposed to the cost of living emergency. As energy, food and fuel bills have ballooned, households have had nothing to fall back on. Their safety net has been ripped to pieces.

Liz Truss, when she was briefly prime minister, liked to bang on about growth. But the only things that have grown under the Conservatives are child poverty, hospital waiting lists and executive pay. Even now, as people struggle to heat their homes and put food on the table, Jeremy Hunt is pressing ahead with lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses.

City financiers don’t need another helping hand. The UK already has more millionaire bankers than all of Europe combined. But it speaks volumes about whose side this government is really on. The Tories promised after the Brexit referendum that they would protect and enhance workers’ rights. But they are attacking the right to strike to make it harder for working people to win better pay and conditions.

And they are threatening a bonfire of workplace protections – like holiday pay, protection from unfair dismissal and safe working hours. Having feigned outrage at the illegal sacking of 800 workers by P&O, the Conservatives have become the P&O party. They want to make it easier for bad bosses to treat staff like disposable labour and to get away with appalling behaviour.

Britain deserves much better than this. We need a government that puts the working families of this country – not their party – first. That means investing in skills, innovation and research. And making things here in Britain. It means harnessing the challenge of net zero to create good green jobs across the country. It means outlawing exploitative practices like zero-hours contracts and fire-and-rehire and giving everybody dignity at work. And it means building an economy that rewards work – not wealth.

Let’s start with making sure people pay the same amount on gains from wealth as they do from work, by equalising capital gains tax. That could raise billions of pounds to help invest in our public services.

For too long the UK has been held back by the Tories’ selfish, anti-worker agenda. We can’t just keep lurching from crisis to crisis. Change is long overdue.

Frances O’Grady is TUC general secretary


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