Essay by Eric Worrall
Some good news – Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss has promised to allow fracking if she wins. But this belated outbreak of political sanity comes way too late to prevent the coming winter of carnage.
Workers’ anger at cost of living as strong as time of poll tax riots, union boss says
Sharon Graham, head of Unite, on picket line with Felixstowe dock strikers, says people could rise up again as they did in the 1990s
British workers are at breaking point, with anger over the cost of living crisis reaching a level not seen since the poll tax riots of the 1990s, the head of one of the UK’s most powerful trade unions has said.
Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, said frustration at pay failing to keep pace with soaring inflation was spilling over into a wave of strike action that would extend from a summer of discontent into the winter.
Speaking from the picket line outside the port of Felixstowe, where thousands of dock workers are striking over pay this week, she compared the situation to widespread national anger over Margaret Thatcher’s controversial community charge, better known as the poll tax, more than three decades ago.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in towns and cities around Britain in March 1990, in a rebellion that culminated in clashes with mounted police in Trafalgar Square, central London. Regarded as key in bringing about the end of Thatcher’s premiership, the poll tax was introduced first in Scotland, then England and Wales before being dropped by her successor, John Major.
“I actually think there is a moment where people could rise to doing exactly the same thing again,” Graham told the Guardian.
The poll tax riots of the 1990s were a consequence of one of the few truly awful decisions legendary Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made. Thatcher attempted to replace property rates, UK property taxes based on the value of the property, with a flat tax levy on each adult – so every adult had to pay the same fixed sum every year, though there were discounts for students and registered unemployed. The problem was a lot of poor people couldn’t afford to pay. The implementation of and attempts to enforce the tax triggered a series of massive protests and riots, and contributed to the personal unpopularity which led to Thatcher’s downfall.
In the 1990s the discord was quelled by a change of leadership and a simple repeal of the tax – John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher. But it is not going to be so easy to fix Britain’s current problems.
When my family left Britain, my wife and I rejected options like Canada, because we wanted to be somewhere warm, warm enough that we could live without home heating if we had to. We considered the Caribbean, but ultimately settled on Queensland.
I’m not saying I predicted Russia would invade Ukraine, but it was very obvious from the gathering hostility to fossil fuel, and political commitment to useless renewables, there would be some form of widespread energy price crisis.
Unfortunately that crisis is now, and unlike the poll tax crisis, there is no quick fix. A problem which is the outcome of two decades of political green lunacy is not something you can set right overnight.
Even if Liz Truss wins the Conservative leadership contest, and immediately repeals the fracking ban, which is absolutely the right move, it will likely take at least a decade to set Britain’s energy supply right.
And we don’t know the depth of Truss’ commitment to restoring energy affordability. Even if she is committed, I believe there will be plenty of influential Conservative and Labour spoilers who have grown fat off Britain’s green energy push, through the green energy tithes they orchestrated, who will do everything in their power to derail the necessary energy policy correction, even if that means joining forces to ensure Truss takes a fall.
Anyone who thinks Washington politics is a snake pit has never experienced British politics. British politicians have had over 800 years of continuous government, dating back to the Magna Carta in 1215, to perfect the art of political conspiracy and back stabbing, and they are very good at it.