Bankers’ bonuses hit £7bn as austerity bites UK

By Julian Samboma

As Britain's coalition government slashes spending and jobs in a widely-criticised austerity drive, the nation’s bankers are set to award themselves £7 billion in bonuses this year.

There has been hardly a pipsqueak form the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which, incidentally, is chock full of millionaires. They say sacrifices have to be made to get the economy back on track, but it seems it is ordinary people who are shouldering the burden.

The have-nots and have-lesses

It is estimated that over 1.3 million people – 500,000 in the public sector – will lose their jobs as a result of the cuts. University tuition fees will be hiked threefold to £9,000 a year, while the welfare budget will be slashed.

The failure, or refusal, by the government to order the bankers to get their snouts out of the troughs at a time of increasing hardships for working people should not come as a surprise for a government which will not close tax loopholes for non-domiciles.

Even as they slash £84 billion from the budget over four years, they are turning a blind eye to tax evasion, which some analysts say defrauds the state of over £70 billion every year. You get the point when you learn that tax exiles such as Lord Ashcroft are major donors to the Conservative party.

This is another index that what is unfolding is an assault on the have-nots and have-lesses in a class war being prosecuted by generals the people themselves elected last May.

Phone-number bonuses

The case of the bankers awarding themselves phone-number bonuses is particularly galling because they were failed enterprises that had to be bailed out by taxpayer funds.

Previous governments could say the banks were independent, profit-making actors in the market economy and could not be told what to do. This government does not have that excuse, for the very simple reason that the banks are now owned by the taxpayer.

They could have read the riot act to the bankers but Vince Cable (right) – the Lib Dem business secretary responsible for the banking sector, who talked a good game while in opposition – decided to sing from the banker’s hymn sheet instead.

Resistance to cuts

And this is after last week’s demonstration by students against the proposed fee hikes, a policy which Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had promised voters they would oppose in government.

The National Union of Students have now mounted what they call a campaign for parliamentary recall against Lib Dem representatives in university constituencies. It’s not known how successful they will be, but I wish them luck.

Aside from last week's student demo which attracted international headlines after Conservative Party HQ was attacked, resistance to the cuts has been simmering in the background. But the level of outrage by ordinary people has been on the low side. A recent poll showed over 50% of respondents supported the government's welfare cuts.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Would popular outrage rise dramatically if all the dots were connected for people to see the links between government cuts, the banqueting bankers, the fat cats in tax havens and their situation? Possibly.

If people cannot connect the dots, who should do it for them? Obviously not the pliant and auto-censoring media establishment. Official labourism, in the form of the unions and the Labour party itself, cannot offer a qualitatively different alternative as their Tweedledum leaderships are as tied to the status quo as the Tweedledee capitalists leading these attacks on working people. 

It is clear that the solution lies in the self-activity of working people rising to the challenge posed by the present alignment of forces.

--Article first published as Bankers’ Bonuses Hit £7bn as Austerity Bites UK on Blogcritics.