Boris Johnson’s new narrative on wages is a trap which Labour must avoid falling into

The government’s policy is all about undermining the rights of migrants: the path to higher wages, they say, runs through ending free movement, writes Michael Chessum

Monday 11 October 2021 12:09
comments
<p>Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the Tory Party conference </p>

Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the Tory Party conference

Beware politicians touting uncontroversial slogans. The message being broadcast from Tory Party conference - that Britain needs a pay rise - is just such a slogan. Between 2007 and 2015, British workers suffered a 10.4 per cent decrease in median earnings, a pay cut second only to Greece in the developed world, and only last year did wages get back to their pre-crash levels.

The problem with Boris Johnson’s new narrative on wages - and why it is also a trap for Labour - is that behind the bland statement of fact, lies a deeply reactionary agenda. While the prime minister’s rhetoric this week might have upset some employers, the government’s actual policy is all about undermining the rights of migrants: the path to higher wages, they say, runs through ending free movement and creating a labour shortage. So some obvious facts must be restated.

The attack on our standard of living did not come from abroad: falling wages and underfunded public services have been seen under successive Tory governments. The post-crash austerity administrations led by David Cameron and Theresa May failed spectacularly in economic terms, but they succeeded in driving down public sector pay, squeezing benefits, and pushing millions into precarious employment.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments