Beth Farhat column: General election was a missed chance

Regional secretary of the TUC says the election will make the country more divisive

Iain Buist Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC
Beth Farhat, regional secretary at the Northern TUC

One nation? Not so sure...

Last week we had a chance to vote to change the leadership of this country.

Over the last five years the Tories have given us failure on growth, failure on wages, and failure on the deficit and have created a new culture of low expectations, with weak growth and weak wage rises.

We need a government that invests in our country to boost growth, supports our public services and properly funds our NHS. The gap between the richest and the rest has never been wider.

We have to hope now that David Cameron’s pledge to govern as a one nation Prime Minister will be his first major U-turn - for his campaign and manifesto was anything but.

His main political tactic was to talk up nationalism and deny the legitimacy of Scottish voters. And his programme for government is as divisive as they come.

The welfare cuts that he has refused to outline only add up if taken from those in low paid work and the vulnerable, and will be used to fund tax cuts for the better off.

His proposals on trade union law are so draconian that they would make legal strikes close to impossible. This puts him far to the right of almost every mainstream party in advanced democracies, and is likely to leave many of his more thoughtful backbenchers uneasy at a time when living standards are still running well below pre-crash levels.

He will face an unprecedented campaign from Britain’s unions against this attack on the basic rights of people at work.

The prospect of a referendum on Europe will be destabilising for business and the economy. Many of our best jobs and workplace rights depend on EU membership.

Other parties had a disappointing result with talented and serious figures from both Labour and Liberal Democrats losing their seats. Opposition parties should not rush to glib explanations for what looks like a complex result with very different trends in different parts of the country.

But while they will need time and energy to rebuild they should not go quiet and allow the new government to win arguments uncontested - especially as we still only see a slow and patchy recovery that could be easily derailed by deep rushed spending cuts.

Beth Farhat
Regional Secretary Northern TUC

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