Thanks to the parliamentary “two jobs” scandal, Johnson’s poll ratings have taken a hit. Almost 60% of those questioned said they “disapproved” of him.
So now he is aiming to regain popularity by leading the government U-turn against MPs’ “right” to take on lucrative extra work... within limits, of course!
It’s already forgotten that while an elected politician, Johnson himself has received £4.3m(!!) from “outside interests”. In fact at least 200 out of 650 MPs have “added earnings” to supplement their £81,932/yr basic pay. One has to wonder: how on earth do the remaining 450 manage on that pittance?!
Tory MP Owen Patterson, who set the whole thing off after refusing a 30-day suspension for his lobbying (of Randox Lab, which got government contracts to process Covid tests), may have resigned, but his £100,000 “tip” was nothing compared to “Sir” Geoffrey Cox MP’s earnings. This former Attorney General continues to defend his right to a £1m top-up from representing clients while “holidaying” during lockdown on the Virgin Islands!
What cannot help the government’s dodgy image is the repeated excuse made by Johnson’s International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, that a 2nd job brings a “richness to our role in parliament”! She seems totally unaware of the meaning of her words!
As it happens, though, the issue isn’t how much money MPs might add to their earnings, but how many hours they might spend doing it. So as long as they are not “paid” (or found out!), they can carry on being “consultants”, which is a convenient cover-all for all manner of dubious dealings! No wonder Johnson felt he had to tell COP26 attendees that “Britain is not a corrupt country”...
Jobs galore? But what kind?
Of course the media has said little or nothing about the fact that for most working class people it is no “luxury” to have to take on a second, third or even fourth job. It’s a necessity for many, just to make ends meet. But the “normal” life of the working class does not make for exciting headlines...
And by the way, if anyone does need a second or third job, we are told that right now is a great time to be looking for one! Yes, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is busy congratulating himself over his “growing” economy: he has done such a good job that instead of companies cutting jobs as a result of the end of furlough, it appears that there are more jobs than there are workers able to do them...
Never mind that many - if not most - of these 1m vacancies are either unfillable because of Brexit’s ongoing skills’ shortage (e.g., HGV driving) or they are low-paid, part-time, zero-hours, agency positions... In other words, they do not provide a proper living for the workers who take them. Which is another (very good) reason why they are vacant!
Our wages need inflating!
To top it all, this week the latest inflation figures were published. And - as if the working class was not already well aware of it - they show that the cost of living is going through the roof!
By the government’s chosen low-as-possible index - CPIH - the rate is 3.8% (CPI=4.2%). But the “old” measure - RPI - shows a 6% increase! That’s the highest rise in 10 years.
In fact energy bills are going up by double that - by 12% - and the shortages of petrol, diesel and even basic foods are driving prices up by 20, 30 or even 100%!
The Bank of England governor has apologised(!), in advance of putting up interest rates, supposedly one of the “tools” he uses to try to counteract inflation. And of course that means the loans workers take to try to pay bills will get more expensive and the cost of new mortgages will rise.
Yet despite the nonsense that wage rises are driving inflation already, in fact they are at rock-bottom levels! And pay “offers” remain so low that they actually amount to a pay cut!
Like for instance the 3% offered to NHS staff who’re literally working themselves into the ground! That’s a de facto 3% pay cut. Or even worse, the 2.7% pay “rise” given to postal (key!) workers - backdated to April 2020 - who can expect just 1% “more” from April 2021! As for railway workers who also worked through the pandemic, the government already announced a network-wide pay freeze - which is why some of them (Caledonian Sleeper) are currently on strike.
Yes, fighting now - and all sections together - for wages that keep up with prices is the only way to prevent living standards from falling. There is a lot of catching up to do! And with demand for our work so high, this is a good time to do it. As always, however, there is nothing to expect from union leaders. The initiative will have to come from the shopfloor - and the sooner, the better.