There is no magic money tree, say the Tories: unless it’s to bribe extremists to keep them in power, or to renovate the palaces of multimillionaire monarchs. Today nurses take to the streets to demand an end to a pay freeze that has slashed the living standards of these life-saving, care-giving national heroes. One such nurse confronted Theresa May – whose lack of emotional intelligence is only matched by her lack of authority – on national television before the election. There was no magic money tree, was May’s robotic response. If the nurse had been met with a middle finger, it would scarcely have been less insulting.
Let’s be absolutely clear. The Tories’ programme of cuts – austerity, whatever you want to call it – is a con, a lie, an ideologically driven act of sadism that has caused immeasurable and unnecessary hurt and pain. The Tories are keen to portray Labour as shambolic and wasteful spendthrifts. In this they are aided and abetted by the party’s post-crash failure to defend its own spending record. Then the Tories lost their majority, and lo! They did conjure up the magic money tree to shower gifts on their homophobic, anti-choice, climate change-denying, sectarian friends.
While nurses are driven to food banks in one of the richest societies that has ever existed, the Tories have almost doubled the Queen’s income. We live in a country that cannot provide affordable, comfortable and safe homes for millions of its own citizens, but the Tories can suddenly find tens of millions more each year to help renovate Buckingham Palace. There is a magic money tree for palaces, but not people.
The money soon to be showered on Northern Ireland will undoubtedly help the Six Counties
The cost of the Tories’ calamitous failure will be significantly more than £1bn, of course. As Nick Macpherson – a former Treasury official, puts it – this is just a “downpayment. DUP will back for more ... again and again.” And neither can they be trusted with taxpayers’ dosh, having wasted nearly half a billion on a failed energy scheme.
But do you know what? The money soon to be showered on Northern Ireland will undoubtedly help the six counties. It will improve public services, education, the health services and infrastructure. It will undoubtedly lift living standards and fuel economic growth. That is what public investment – so mercilessly slashed by the Tories – achieves.
And if it’s good enough for Northern Ireland, it’s good enough for the rest of us. We can ask the most well off, for whom the crash was only ever something they read about in newspapers, to pay a bit more money; the same with booming big business. The billions are there: for housing, education, infrastructure, police – and, yes, to pay our nurses a decent wage.
The Tories are nothing more than a racket for their wealthy backers, a crude political instrument to defend the interests of Britain’s shameless vested interests. They will happily locate a magic money tree if it’s their own political survival that’s at risk. But what is good for the partisan interests of the Conservative party is not good for the nation.
The Tories’ Ulster spending spree should embolden all of us who always believed austerity was an ideologically driven con. On Saturday, thousands will march with the People’s Assembly to demand the end of the failed Tory experiment. The Tories have legitimised their arguments. Austerity is over for Northern Ireland, it’s over for the Queen, and now it must end for everybody else too.