A brilliant new Labour MP is shredding the Tories

Zarah Sultana
Fréa Lockley

Zarah Sultana, one of the newest Labour MPs, is absolutely shredding the Tories. Less than a month into 2020, she keeps stepping up to speak truth to power.

“Shameful record”

In a parliamentary debate about in-work poverty on 27 January, Sultana asked work and pensions (DWP) secretary Thérèse Coffey:

What recent assessment her Department has made of trends in the level of in-work poverty?

DWP under secretary Will Quince simply trotted out the same old Tory response. He failed to answer the question, and insisted there are “3.8 million more people in work”, which totally ignores rising levels of in-work poverty.

Sultana took him down. She pointed out:

just 33 working hours into January this year, FTSE 100 bosses had already earned more than the average worker makes the entire year. And since [the Conservative Party] came into power, wages have faced their biggest peacetime squeeze since the Napoleonic era. But now there are more than 4 million people in work, but nonetheless in poverty.

“But it shouldn’t be a surprise,” Sultana continued, “that the economy works for the super-rich and fails for everyone else, when the party opposite is funded by one third of UK billionaires”.

And to finish Quince off, the Coventry South MP added:

So given this shameful record, why should my constituents believe a word this sovernment says on tackling the scourge of poverty pay?

Poverty rising

Full Fact reported that around 14.3 million people in the UK now live in poverty. Of these:

  • “8.3 million are working-age adults, 4.6 million are children, and 1.3 million are of pension age”.
  • “Working-age people in poverty are increasingly likely to be in working families”.

Tory MPs continually boast about “record high” employment. Yet, what they fail to mention is the number of these jobs that are precarious zero-hours contracts. As The Canary reported, not only is the UK’s wage growth far behind other countries, but 844,000 people in the UK are also on zero-hours contracts. Many people on low-wages now rely on Universal Credit.

In 2015, Iain Duncan Smith, then DWP secretary, claimed that Universal Credit “guarantees you will always be better off in work than on benefits”.

But as the past five years have shown, under Universal Credit, work doesn’t necessarily pay. Universal Credit has forced some people to use food banks and made others homeless.

And according to the Financial Times:

The 2010s saw living standards in the UK grow at their slowest rate since the second world war, even though… employment grew at a record rate.

Fat-cat bosses

According to the High Pay Centre thinktank:

FTSE 100 CEOs only need to work until just before 17.00 on Monday 6 January 2020 in order to make the same amount of money that the typical full-time employee will in the entire year.

But even this shocking figure doesn’t tell the full story. Because it’s based on an average full-time salary of “£29,559 in 2018, equivalent to £14.37 an hour”. Given that the current hourly minimum wage is £8.21, even Boris Johnson’s proposed raise to £8.72 won’t take most workers anywhere close to £29,000. This also masks the surge of insecure zero-hours jobs.

In 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics, the “proportion of low-paid part-time employee jobs” was triple that of full-time jobs. Dig deeper, and the government’s own statistics reveal:

Between April 2018 and April 2019, 35.7% of full-time employees experienced a real-term pay decrease or pay freeze.

This was, at least, “a reduction from 43.3% in 2018”.

Spot on

In 2019, Labour’s Ian Lavery quite rightly called the Conservatives the “party of the billionaires”. And Sultana’s spot on, because the Tories truly do have a “shameful record”. Johnson’s majority government pivots on the rich getting richer while even those working continue to get poorer. We can’t trust them at all. But at least with MPs like Sultana in the Commons, someone’s holding them to account.

Featured image via Twitter – Zarah Sultana MP

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. The Tories keep saying the best way out of poverty is work but that’s not so when the wages you earn are not enough to live on. Then work is just another route into poverty, and the harder you work the further into poverty you go.

      I remember ex-Tory Minister for Transport Steven Norris complaining back in the ’90s he was considering going back into business because his minister’s salary of about £80k at the time wasn’t enough to live on.

    2. Aren’t there modern models, due to growing robotic-automation in so many areas of industry and public services, to pay ‘non-workers’ a living wage-salary not to work? Haven’t such models been tried out in Scandinavia and Switzerland amid varied “Yay” and “Nay”?

    3. So this woman is really “shredding the Tories”? OK, has she reduced Boris’s majority below 80? No? So how is she shredding them? Or maybe she is just making a lot of noise to which nobody is listening! This sounds like desperation.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.