littered with Tory-esque sleight of hand

  • Post last modified:July 8, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

New chancellor Rachel Reeves has already started as the Labour Party means to go on: courting big business while making flimsy promises to the rest of us – ones that sound nice on paper but in reality are little more than sound bites. It shows that, as many predicted, Keir Starmer’s government is now on the centre-right.

Moreover, though, it shows that independent media is needed more than ever – as no other outlets are calling the new Labour government properly out. One particular Tory-esque sleight of hand sums the situation up perfectly.

Rachel Reeves: the ghost of Tory past

We’re not going to dwell on the detail of Rachel Reeves’ speech too much. However, there was excitement over Labour’s housing building plans – with much of the corporate media running with this. As most outlets reported, Reeves confirmed Labour will get housebuilders to construct 1.5m new homes in the next five years.

Of course, what most – if not none – of the corporate media failed to point out was this is exactly the same target as the Tories had. So, what else is different? Well – not a lot.

Labour will reintroduce mandatory house building targets for councils – another Tory policy that was only stopped in 2022. It will build on the so-called ‘grey belt’ – something the Tories wouldn’t do. Oh, and it’s pledged to recruit 300 planning officers – again, another Tory-esque policy (think new police officers), because it won’t make up for the 3,100 that were lost in the past decade.

The point being, there isn’t a fag paper between the new Labour government and previous Tory ones.

Moreover, the chancellor has said that none of this housing will be built by, or funded by, the government. It will be built by the private sector.

The myth of social housing

Rachel Reeves and deputy PM Angela Rayner have made a point of stressing that they won’t let construction companies just build homes for sale, but ‘affordable’ and ‘social rent’ properties too – but have not so far given any detail. Once again, this is all very Tory noises off.

However, there’s a far deeper problem here which none of the media picked up on. But why would they?

Social housing is broken. Most housing associations are terrible, leaving residents in squalor while turning a tidy profit – despite their alleged not-for-profit status. New social housing is cheap and shoddy, old social housing is falling apart, and the sector is riddled with institutional racism and classism.

If – even IF – Reeves had said ‘we’re going to get housing associations to build 100,000 new social rent properties each year’, this still would be a disaster. The sector is at best not fit for purpose – and at worst, a parasitic scourge on 21st century Britain.

However, none of the corporate media would have picked up on that; they barely picked up on the lack of concrete commitments to social housing more broadly. Why? Because the majority of journalists working in the industry would have never lived in social housing.

Reeves’ tepid commitments around house building are just one example of how the new, mandate-less Labour government is not a functioning political force at all. Prisons are another. Instead of building more, or releasing people early – why not address why people commit what the system defines as ‘crime’ in the first place?

Mr Brittas! Mr Brittas!

The Labour Party, including Rachel Reeves, is now like a group of corporate middle managers – think the Brittas Empire if you’re old enough to remember, but set in Westminster.

They’re charged with merely steadying the ship – sorry, Wes – to a point where the P&L is looking OK-ish again, because the board of directors know the company’s model is failing but have to prevent too many losses otherwise the shareholders will revolt.

That company is, of course, Western corporate capitalism – and we are all the shareholders.

But none of the corporate media can say that – because the clue is in their name. So, it’s down to independent media to call it out.

In fact, the role of outlets like the Canary in the next five years is probably going to be more important than it was under the Tories, or even when Jeremy Corbyn was running the Labour Party. As Extinction Rebellion summed up:

it’s the system that needs to change, not the government.

Labour will merely be managing our decline under corporate capitalism: a short-sighted and 20th century-style focus on growth; an obsession with work, and a disdain for anyone who is not productive in the capitalist sense.

All those ideas should have been consigned to the dustbin of history post-2008. Yet here we are, watching Labour repeat the same mistakes again.

Independent media: holding Reeves and the rest of the corporate capitalists to account

So, outlets like the Canary will literally need to be those little birds in the coal mine once again: showing up the system’s flaws, while showcasing the alternatives – much like we did with our #CanaryCandidates series: interviewing 25 independent MP candidates in the general election.

However, we can’t do this without your support. Please. We’d urge you to donate as much or as little as you can every month, so we can get on with the work of holding the Labour Party – and the failing system it is wedded to – to account. Someone has to – because the corporate media won’t.

On that, the Canary team is taking a break until 15 July. Most of us live with, or are affected by, chronic illness – and we need to recharge our batteries. However, when we come back we’ll have some new features to introduce, and a renewed vigour to make sure that the truth about how the system, and administrations like Starmer’s one, are destroying us is exposed.

So, if you can support our mission to disrupt power like Rachel Reeves’, then please do so here.

Featured image via the Canary

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