YFJ unemployed organiser and Jarrow marcher
An audience of 200 gathered inSalfordrecently to discuss and debate the latest unemployment figures on BBC Radio 5 Live. These figures showed that unemployment rose by 50,000 to 2.67 million in the three months to December.
Tory MP Sam Gyimah was asked whether he thinks that a poverty benefit of £67 a week is enough to live on. After stumbling around trying to squirm out of an answer he admitted it wasn’t. And both Lib Dem John Leech and Labour’s Emma Reynolds admitted they’d struggle on the Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) too.
All the main parties know that JSA isn’t enough to live on. When invited to live on JSA for a week inSalford, Sam refused to take up the challenge and, in a typical mainstream politician way, dodged the question and tried to move on.
One member of the audience talked about how, despite post-graduate qualifications and experience in numerous jobs including teaching, he couldn’t find work. He also described a consequence of unemployment when he spoke of a young woman who took her own life after hundreds of rejection letters.
When I got the chance to speak I challenged the Tories to invest in jobs and homes instead of cutting the public sector. Sam responded with the usual ‘we’ve been left this mess by the last government’ but when challenged to nationalise the banks and use their profits to invest in public services he had no answer.
Sam also had the cheek to claim that there are jobs out there. But a TUC study shows that if you include those wanting full-time work, the unemployment figure is more like six million with at most half a million vacancies. It’s not difficult maths - the jobs aren’t there!
The ‘schemes’ the government talked about to get people into work have now been seen for what they are – slave labour of the unemployed. Instead of ministers spouting impressive funding for these schemes, Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) calls for investment into creating real jobs.
Although the Tories were obviously disgraceful, what really stood out to me was the lack of opposition from the Labour Party. In a traditional Labour stronghold, even the slightest opposition, the slightest lean left, would have received huge support.
But there was nothing - proving once again that the Labour Party has long lost its links with the working class and doesn’t represent the people who fund it through the trade unions.
We need a new mass workers’ party with socialist policies that represents workers and the unemployed. The unions should pull funding from the Labour Party and join other leading trade unionists in supporting the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (see www.tusc.org.uk).