Watching well heeled, well paid and pompous Tories on the news all morning trying to convince us there is no money left in the cookie jar to support millions of workers facing the sack due to increased Covid19 restrictions made me think about nuclear weapons and the narrow contrived parameters of political discourse in the UK.
Not one journalist had the cojones to ask how the UK can afford Trident but not to support low paid hospitality workers? Or how these politicians expect us to believe ‘we are all in it together’ while they get a £3,300 wage increase to over £85,000 a year but millions face destitution?
Only four years ago the British Parliament took a momentous decision which committed the taxpayers across the UK to spend just under £7 billion a year for the next thirty years to upgrade the nuclear submarines which they inaccurately call an independent nuclear deterrent when in actual fact the heinous missiles carried by the submarines, are leased from the United States of America and are effectively under their control. The minimum cost of that decision has been carefully estimated at £205 billion with a wise observation attached to remind everyone that Ministry of Defence estimates invariably overrun.
My detestation of nuclear weapons and implacable opposition to their existence is rooted primarily in the moral and legal grounds that weapons which are capable of indiscriminately killing millions and destroying whole environments and countries if deployed should be outlawed. Only a small minority of the world’s sovereign countries possess such deadly weapons, ten of the United Nations one hundred and ninety-nine members, and efforts to convince all those rogue nations to disarm and decommission should be re-doubled urgently.
Nuclear Weapons Costs Are Astronomical and Unacceptable
However sometimes the cost argument needs to be highlighted. Today is one of those days in response to the Tory Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick’s dismissal of the protestations of North England politicians that the new Covid19 lockdown support package is woefully inadequate to save jobs and protect living standards.
In the face of drastically increased cases of Covid19 and the associated threat to overwhelm the health services in the worst affected areas, tough restrictions mirroring the March lockdown are expected to be announced for large parts of Northern England. The hospitality sector faces devastation. Not just the jobs of those working directly in pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels but the tens of thousands in the supply chains for those outlets and the thousands of live entertainment performers who normally work in those establishments face a bleak future. The Tory government response has been pathetic.
Jenrick said on Sunday that “the national debt is rising” and that “we can’t do everything” to protect all jobs. He told Sky News:
“We can’t do everything. We’re in a deep recession, the national debt is rising. “I think most reasonable people would see that the chancellor’s put in place an unprecedented package of support. “This is a good safety net for those individuals but we understand that it will be very difficult for them. The winter is going to be a very challenging one and we can’t promise to protect every job or every business”.
Well Mr Jenrick, if you are in a “deep recession” and the “national debt is rising” why the hell are you continuing to write annual cheques of £7 billion for an immoral, illegal and outrageous nuclear weapons system which can never be used lest the world is destroyed in the process? Cancelling Trident immediately would release more than enough funds to officially support Covid19 ravaged jobs and livelihoods while positively contributing to a safer world as a result.
Two Thirds of Low Wages Are Even Lower Wages
The package Jenrick and Johnson are offering up amounts to only two thirds of the already low wages in the affected sectors and it applies only to those businesses instructed by law to close. It will not even offer an ounce of support to the myriad of supply chain industries and the live performers whose incomes are now slashed to zero. Living on low wages is a hard-enough task. To be expected to live on only two-thirds of low wages is well-nigh impossible.
Scotland entered a much more comprehensive series of Covid19 restrictions for a period of 16 days from Friday. Across two thirds of the country hospitality has all but closed and households are again advised to visit other households only for essential reasons. It is effectively a 2nd lockdown.
The financial support package details are still being examined from the £40 million fund the Scottish Government says it has scraped together from its own reserves. It appears to be more helpful than the measures announced by Jenrick but while attached to the United Kingdom Scotland is financially unable to do things radically different from the English Tories and that fact must hasten the day we declare our independence and free ourselves from any further contributions to immoral nuclear weapons systems and other unacceptable frivolities like Royal Family handouts and House of Lords subsidies.
Supporting Workers Sacked Amid Covid19 Pandemic is Least Govt Must Do
Lives versus livelihoods. Public safety versus private freedoms. Concern for society versus conspiracy to better control society. The March consensus which inspired widespread community initiatives and weekly clapping for carers in the battle against Covid19 has all but expired and the unity of purpose and concern which earmarked that initial lockdown period has seriously dissipated after seven long months of new norms which have effectively outlawed social interaction and exerted huge strains on families, relationships, businesses and educational establishments. The sense of unity of purpose in the war against Covid19 is more patchy now than ever. In such circumstances properly supporting those losing their jobs and businesses through no fault of their own is a priority. Affected workers and small businesses deserve real and effective financial support. Failure to provide such support will only deepen Covid19 restrictions division and fuel greater resentment.
Amid such testing and unprecedented times with personal freedoms being restricted and health and care workers expected to perform their jobs in the face of health risks to themselves and their families I really long for a TV journalist with some guts and understanding of the wider context to challenge a Tory politician rambling on about what can and can’t be afforded from the public purse at times of crisis like this with a question like:
“Well in such acute economic circumstances surely the time has come to scrap the Trident nuclear weapons programme and redirect the £7 billion annual expenditure towards saving millions of jobs and supporting already severely challenged households struggling to survive on low incomes the likes of which you have never experienced in your life”?
Given the cosy billionaire ties, connections and relationships between those who own and run our mainstream media and the politicians elected to protect the British Establishment I guess I’ll be waiting a long time before I witness such a realistic question be posed.