8 June 2007

Unemployment in Britain

In 1979 election perhaps the most effective piece of Tory propaganda was the poster of the meandering dole queue with its double entendre slogan “Labour Isn’t Working.’ Allied to the alleged ‘crisis of ungovernability,’ the Tories cynically used the scandal of the then historically high rate of 4.7% unemployment to argue for capitalist economic therapy. Today after Thatcher, Major and a decade of New Labour unemployment stands at 5.5%.

Of course the meaning of the ‘crisis’ of the late 1970s was not how ordinary people were affected (the Thatcher government, after all, went on to double unemployment), but that the high rate of unionisation and labour unrest were threatening business interests and profits. The 1979 election (when the Tories won 44% of the vote) saw the zenith of Tory ability to convince workers (particularly better paid ones) that market solutions alone would solve economic problems. But for most of the twenty-eight years since then unemployment has exceeded the 1979 figure. Yet today when capitalist power is secure and politically unquestioned the amount and misery of unemployment can be safely forgotten.

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