Boris Johnson has talked of ending austerity, bolstering public services and appealing to the working class, but on all the evidence so far that is a threadbare velvet glove on an iron hand.
NHS spending is set to increase, but by nothing anywhere near what is needed to fill the shortfall from its 2010-20 cuts. The tide of privatisation will continue to roll forward.
The NHS is probably the best protected part of the public sector. The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that by 2024, non-NHS spending will be 14% lower than in 2010.
The provisional local government funding settlement published in December includes a small real-terms increase, but it is minimal in the context of council budgets’ collapse over the last decade. Councils will continue to have to make cuts.
The Tories have said virtually nothing about social care. They have said nothing significant about the housing crisis, quietly forgetting even their manifesto promise for a small surcharge when foreign buyers of homes in England pay stamp duty.
Nothing, either, about benefits. Under Theresa May the Tories paused the roll-out of Universal Credit. Sometime soon that rollout of Universal Credit will be restarted, going alongside a range of pre-programmed cuts in the substantive underlying benefits and hitting some of society’s poorest people.
The government has also effectively dropped their “promise” of a £10.50 minimum wage even in 2024, inserting a note in the background material for the Queen’s Speech saying “provided economic conditions allow”. The much vaunted increase to the existing minimum wage sees it still falling well short of what George Osborn promised by 2020.
The Tories’ Brexit policy, geared towards a hard and possibly No-Deal exit from the EU, is likely to sharpen the squeeze.
Johnson also talks of reshaping government in a more authoritarian direction.
The Queen’s Speech promised a ban on all-out strikes in transport, curbing the right to strike for one of the groups of workers that has used it most over the last year.
We have had the trailing of measures to redistribute constituency boundaries in the Tories’ favour, suppress voter turnout through new ID rules, and curb the BBC. There has been speculation about forms of attacks on universities and students’ right to organise.
The Tory manifesto promised to review “broader aspects of our constitution”, including “the relationship between the government, parliament and the courts”, and an “update” of the Human Rights Act of and administrative law.
This is the context for Johnson’s henchman Dominic Cummings’ appeal on his personal website for “weirdos” to apply to him for jobs and form a special phalanx loyal to the project.
If waiting for a Labour government to sort out the problems was ever an answer, it isn’t now. The labour movement should rally for a fight back.