This is a government without legitimacy or mandate, which deserves to be reviled and stripped of office - read here in full Robert Griffiths speech in Cambridge 1 April 2011.

Well, Comrades, I must say, I'd like to begin by congratulating the Cambridge branch of the party, not just for organising this evening's meeting, but also for these other two terrific meetings that we've had so far today. And in this speaking tour, I think this is the fourth or fifth meeting that I've spoken at, and wherever the meetings are held, naturally – as you'd expect – I urge people to join the Communist Party and to help to strengthen the Communist Party and in that way to strengthen the whole of the left and the labour movement. But I'd have to add something to that appeal when speaking in Cambridge, because if you are on the left, and you are in this area, and you're not in the Cambridge branch of the Communist Party, boy are you missing out! Are you missing out on a terrifically dynamic and active local branch that has been growing quite substantially, and is able to arrange three meetings in one day. 


I'd also like to say that it's a great pleasure to follow such a superb contribution from Ben – in the meetings I've spoken at so far we have worked very hard to ensure gender balance on the platform (Cambridge have still got a little bit of work to do in that regard) but we've succeeded in most of the previous meetings – where we have failed, is in fact – where of course tonight has already been successful – we haven't had the proper representation of young people, so that the meeting can hear directly about the disproportionate impact of this government's policies on the generation that is growing up today, and at least that has certainly been put right in terms of the contribution that we had from Ben first. 


When I was driving up this morning from Cardiff, where I live, there was a phone-in programme – some of you may have been unfortunate enough to have heard it – on Radio 5 about the introduction today of higher prescription charges, NHS prescription charges in England at the very same time, on the very same day that those charges are being abolished in Scotland – all prescriptions will be free – and of course in abolishing prescription charges in Scotland, they are following what was done by the National Assembly in Wales several years ago. And as caller after caller phoned up to say how unfair this was, how disgraceful, why are the Scots and the Welsh getting preferential treatment, and so on. 


The tragedy was that not once was any arrangement made in the programme to explain that this didn't happen by accident – this wasn't a question of a 'postcode lottery', which is what some people were saying, “this is a postcode lottery”, you know, why should it be just dependant on what your postcode is as to why you can get NHS prescriptions free of charge. It's nothing to do with a postcode lottery; the reason why prescription charges were abolished in Wales several years ago, and are now being abolished in Scotland (while they're being increased in England) is because of deliberate conscious political decisions, which were taken as a matter of deciding what the priorities should be. The priority that was decided in the Welsh assembly several years ago was that, if we have to take the money from somewhere else, ensuring that the sickest people in our society, the people most in need of medicines, and so on, ensuring that they should be able to get whatever they need without having to worry about the cost, that is actually more important than some other items that we might have spent the money on. And not once in the programme was that point made! They had some idiot on from one of the medical Royal Societies who used to advise the New Labour government who said “well, of course, in an ideal world, there wouldn't be prescription charges anyway. In an ideal world...” Well, if that's the definition of an ideal world, I'm already living in one in Wales! [laughter] You know, because we have done it! It can be done. 


In fact, the chancellor could have done it last week; if he wanted to, and if there was enough pressure on him, from people and their trade unions and their political parties and so on, there was absolutely nothing stopping the chancellor from abolishing prescription charges in England. Scotland and Wales have used their devolved powers to do that, not because they've had a subsidy from the British government or from the good people of England to do that; it was a question of determining what your priorities are, and the chancellor could have said “well, we will scrap prescription fees in England, and that will cost about half a billion pounds a year, we will do that, instead of further reducing corporation tax on the profits of big business”. The chancellor could have done that easily – and this was the tragedy, that this issue was being used to divide working people, and their families, between England, Scotland and Wales, this was being used to divide working people, when in fact the alternative approach is to emphasise how this should be a policy we should all be fighting for, and which this government – this current government – could easily have decided upon in the last budget. 


But of course it didn't do that, because these are not the priorities of this Con-Dem coalition government. We described the budget the other day as a budget for the millionaires and big business – and of course, what else would you expect from a cabinet that includes 22 millionaires? Out of 29 members! 22 out of 29 members of this cabinet are millionaires – it used to be 23, when David Laws was chief secretary to the treasury, but of course he was caught fiddling his rent claim, his claim for rent, and he said he had to lie about how much he was claiming and so on, because he needed to cover up the fact that he had a gay relationship with somebody who happened to be the Landlord. Now I'm not making any homophobic point here at all, that would be completely wrong, the point is this though: if he wanted to keep that affair quiet, there's a quite simple remedy for a multi-millionaire; you dip into your own money and pay the person you're pretending to pay rent to out of you're own money! Why didn't he do that? He could have afforded it. Because he's a greedy, grasping crook! Like so many of the other MPs who were caught with their hands in the till. 


Anyway, it's down to 22, his place was taken by Danny Alexander, you might have seen him on the television; I don't know how long it will take him to save out of his pocket money to save enough money to become a millionaire, but we shall see. [laughter] 


So what did this millionaire's budget consist of? As I say, they could have abolished prescription fees in England, that wouldn't have been very expensive, they didn't do that; instead, they reduced corporation on big business profits (the main rate of corporation tax) from 28% to 26%, and they announced plans to drop it further within the next four years to 23%. That means a loss to the revenue of at least £2bn a year with immediate effect – 4 times the money that is raised by prescription charges – and in four years' time when the rate goes down to 23%, the projected estimate is that that will loose about £5bn to the inland revenue. You can compare this with corporation tax in other advanced Capitalist countries – in Germany, it is something like 29%; in France, it is something like 35%; in the USA, the home of monopoly Capitalism and free enterprise, as it likes to call itself, the rate of corporation tax is actually 40%; 40% of company profits have to be paid in corporation tax to the government; in Japan, it is 41%. And now we have have a government that actually wants to cut it – it is cutting it as from today to 26%, and wants to cut it to 23%, and they say we haven't got the money to do this, that and the other.


To some extent, it is all pretty nominal anyway – because, according to a recent survey of the top 700 companies in Britain, the biggest 700, 1/3 pay almost no corporation tax on their profits. They make profits, but they pay almost no corporation tax. Another 1/3 pay well below the rate of corporation tax, and another 1/3, roughly, comply (more or less) with the corporation tax regulations. But we have companies – profitable, hugely profitable companies – like Boots, Vodafone, Barclays, Tesco's – they make enormous profits, they pay next to nil corporation tax. Two, three, four per cent. They get away with that – well, of course, they have a whole international structure, a whole international apparatus of tax havens, shell companies, off-the-peg companies, they send funds all over the world, they take advantage of differential tax rates, they take advantage of tax havens so that they don't declare the full extent of their profits, and in that way they end up paying next to no tax. We know, from recent revelations for example, that Tesco's, which makes billions of pounds in profits, pays next to no corporation tax because they say “well, we have so many other things to pay for, we have to declare tax in Hungary because that's the centre of our management operations – is an office in Budapest – then we've got Switzerland, a lot of our funds have to go to Switzerland, because that's the centre of our financial operations, and so on. And then of course it comes out that that the number of Tesco's staff employed in this management centre in Hungary is precisely nil! There is not a single Tesco's employee or manager or director that is based in this office, that supposedly exists! Similarly, in Switzerland: how many Tesco's staff are employed, in what they say is the centre for all of their international financial operations – nil! Nil! I mean, this is laughing in our faces, isn't it? 


Quite clearly these are just completely artificial pretexts in order to avoid – in order to launder funds and avoid paying taxation. But they get away with it, they get away with it. There are no adverts around the place and adverts on television and phone lines to say 'come on, rat out big business! Report the fiddling that's going on! Tell us who the scroungers are' and so on, no that's not the treatment that big business gets. 


Then, what else the government did of course was to cut the latest instalment of petrol duty to the oil corporations, and said that the intention is that the benefit will be passed on to the motorist [laughter]. Now I don't know about you, I don't know if you've gone down to the petrol pump today and checked, I didn't notice any reduction in the price when I filled up this morning to come up here from Cardiff! It's not going to happen. It's obviously not going to happen. The oil corporations are going to say 'thank you very much for reducing the petrol duty, that will boost our profits even more!' That's what's going to happen. And those profits, by the way, at Royal Dutch Shell are running at £12bn a year. BP would have made similar, but the spill, the disaster, off the southern coast of the United States is something they're at least having to pay some compensation for. 


“Ah!”, but the chancellor says, “proof that we're all in it together is that I've just put a windfall tax on the oil corporations!” £2bn a year. Out of a profit of £12bn that Shell made alone, which was double the profit of the previous year, and they're heading for double the profit again by the end of the current financial year. Well, it's a windfall tax. But it will take only a small proportion that the British-based oil corporations make around the world. 


But what the chancellor also said, only in the small print (the Financial Times wrote all about it because that's their job, it didn't appear in most of the other papers), what the chancellor also announced to the oil corporations was that, in the event of the international price of crude oil falling below $75 a barrel, then he will reduce petrol duty – in other words, he's saying “I will guarantee your superprofits, because even if the oil price goes down, I will cut your tax accordingly!” He gave them a guarantee, so that at the same time that the oil companies are making all this noise about having to pay a windfall tax, they're keeping very quiet about the fact that their future super-profits were guaranteed by the chancellor in the last budget. Then at least he had the sense of humour to call it the 'fair fuel stabiliser'. [laughter]


“We're all in it together”, says George; we've got to learn to call him George, of course, George Osbourne. His name originally was Gideon, that doesn't have quite the common feel about it, so he's changing it to George. Of course, I've done the same, I used to be called Rupert [laughter]. I've changed it to Robert. 


But, no, as proof that we're all in it together, there was something in the budget for everybody – the rates of personal tax allowance went up. You may have noticed on the morning of the budget (so much for the great secrecy in which these things are supposed to be kept until the chancellor stands up) the papers that morning were announcing the extent to which personal tax allowances would go up – we would all be sharing in a bananza. It turns out what he was talking about, for an average houosehold on £25,000 a year, a couple, one of them working, one of them not, two dependent children, for that £25,000 total income household, they will now as a result of the increase in tax allowances enjoy the princely sum of an extra £7.40 a week. That is at a time when the Comsumer Price Index is running at 4.4% (that's the bogus measure of how much prices are rising all the time), which means that over the next 12 months, if it stays at roughly that level, that will average out as an extra £10 per week, for a budget of £25,000. So already that £7.40 is swallowed up by the current rate of inflation by the lowest possible calculation. 


If we look at the Retail Price Index, which at least includes the price of housing, and that is running at 5.5%, that averages out over the next year as an extra is £13 a week of cost to the family budget. That is almost twice the level that people will get as a result of the tax allowance change. If we looked at a price index that actually remotely reflected the reality of the rising the cost of living for the biggest section of our society – certainly the majority of people in our society, I called it in the Morning Star the other day a 'Working-Class Price Index', for want of a better term – the reality is, if you attach the proper weight that ordinary working-class – and quite a few middle-class families – have to attach to the household budget, in other words, if you disregard the rising cost of pony classes, and the rising cost of luxury holidays, and the rising cost of eating out in luxurious restaurants, and you actually attach proper weight to gas and electricity bills, and to the cost of food, and public transport, and petrol, if you have a proper price index that reflects the real cost of living for the majority of people, then that is rising at the rate of at least 12% a year, that's £25 a week, averaged out over the next 12 months. And we're supposed to be grateful for tax allowances that have given the average family £7.40 per week. Well, of course, we could say that the difference will not be made up by people having a wage increase, [laughter] or an increase in their pensions, or an increase in their benefits. And, of course, I didn't intend that to be a humorous line, but it's obviously gone down a little better than some of my previous jokes [laughter]. 


The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a right-of-centre institution (it's always presented as some marvellously neutral fiscal body, it's not, it's right-of-centre, but nevertheless there is a certain degree of integrity in their calculations), the institute for fiscal studies has said that already, even before the next 12 months bite into the incomes and the living standard of milions of people, that already the standard of living, the real income of most working-class households, many pensioner households, and many middle-class households, have seen the biggest fall in standard of living that people in Britain have experienced since the early 1980s. 


That's not enough for that well-known left-wing extremist, Mervin King, the Governor of the Bank of England, because he's actually on record as saying “oh no, by the time this government has carried out its public spending cuts, most households, most people in Britain can expect the biggest fall in the standard of living in Britain since the 1920s!” Not the 1930s, since the 1920s. That is what is in store for us if this government can get away with its current policies. 


Anyway, what Osborne outlined in that budget, along with all the other measures since the coalition government was formed, that was 'Plan A', it's been dictated to them by the city of London, in fact the messages were coming over loud and clear even when the discussions were going on between the three main parties after the last general election. The city was saying, loud and clear, that if you don't slash public spending, if you don't privatise as much as possible, Britain will loose it's triple-A credit rating, and when the government then tries to raise short-term money by issuing bonds on the bond markets, nobody's going to buy them – unless the rate of interest is phenomenally generous. These are the people, by the way, that we have bailed out with £1380bn worth of subsidies and guarantees and share purchases, and loans and gifts – 60 times the total amount that is going to be cut in public expenditure over the next 4 years. 


These are the people who have the nerve to dictate not just to the government, but to the people of Britain what needs to be done to get our, to get our public finances in order. And of course I may not be the oldest person in the room, but I've been around long enough to have had 40 years of lectures from these in the City of London about standing on your own two feet, about the independent sector, about private enterprise, about not subsidising lame ducks – and what happened when their system came close to collapse? They were there with the biggest begging-bowl in British history, the biggest begging-bowl in British history – and by God weren't they grateful for the public services and public finances and public money then? And they haven't even paid it all back, by the way – the banks alone still owe £131bn that was given to them directly during that financial crisis. 


Anyway, they've dictated this plan, they've dictated this offensive, Osbourne has said that there is no plan 'B' – and this is the only plan the City of London will allow. That's the reality, that's 'plan A', and this enormous cuts in real living standards, this enormous cuts in public services, £21bn worth of cuts this year – only £21bn, when you compare it to the £1380bn that we could find to bail out the financial system, but those £21bn worth of cuts are already beginning to do enormous damage to local communities and so on; you can compare that figure if you like to this year's profits, the financial year just gone, of the 6 biggest banks in Britain. They made £24bn pounds in profit. We're told that this is a society, this is an economy, that can't afford £21bn of public services. The banks alone have made a profit of £24bn! And, if we add up all of the cumulative costs of the public spending cuts over the next 4 years, it comes to £203bn – almost 2/3 of which, by the way, were planned by the last Labour government; £203bn. Well, the richest 10% of the population of Britain have a total personal wealth £4000bn. Not Communist Party figures – Office of National Statistics figures. The richest 10%, I'll go over it again, the richest 10% own £4000bn worth of private wealth – and yet they're saying we can't afford £203bn of public spending over the next 4 years. Well of course, if you tax the rich, if you tax big business, we wouldn't even have to tax them 'till the pips squeaked! A modest wealth tax, a 2% wealth tax, on the richest 10% of the population would raise all the money that we need not only to fund public services at their current level, but actually to double investment in important areas of our public sector! 


But it's not going to happen. Of course it's not going to happen, because this is a government that represents big business and the super-rich. We've already lost 132,000 public-sector jobs in the course of last year, there will be hundreds of thousands more to be lost; there will also be near enough half a million private sector jobs that will be lost as a result of loosing their contracts with public sector bodies. All of this is going to happen, and of course the danger is that this will plunge our economy back into recession – the government knows this, but they will not have a 'Plan B' because they're not going to be allowed to have a 'Plan B', should that come about. The offensive is much wider – Ben has explained some of the areas in which that is the case – trade union rights are certainly going to come under fresh attack, because we can't be in a position where workers can lawfully take action, and solidarity action, to protect jobs and services, and so on. And all of this, of course, is called by David Cameron 'the Big Society', when what he really means is 'the Big Business Society'. 


There was a rather dramatic example of how this 'Big Business Society' apparently is going to work, or this 'Big Society' is going to work: as I was driving down to another meeting the other night, I was listening to a live report where a community theatre group, a local community theatre group in Somerset, were about to hear over the internet, whether they were going to get any central English Arts Council funding over the coming year. If they weren't, they would have to go out of business, people would loose their jobs, local communities would loose the opportunity to go to attend plays, and so on. And the news came through: they'd been unsuccessful. Their grant was going to be abolished, and these people were utterly distraught, live on the radio. You know, they're all out of work, almost as from tomorrow! In a terrible situation. I was speaking in Somerset the other day, we had a great meeting, we had the local Labour mayor there, we had the leader of the Labour council, they're opposing cuts – they're not implementing any cuts – but they did tell me that the Somerset County Council had already taken the decision to finish all local funding of the arts. They weren't cutting the budget, they were abolishing the budget – no money for arts whatsoever in Somerset. So this local drama group, as it turns out, had already had to take the decision to sack some of their full-time organisers and bring in volunteers. Now, you might be spotting the irony here somewhere, right – they were going to be bringing in volunteers, which is exactly what the 'Big Society' is all about, isn't it! Bringing volunteers in. The reason they were given by the English Arts Council  as to why they were going to loose all their central funding, as well as their local funding, was: the arts council loved their plans, their historical record was fantastic, but they had too many volunteers instead of properly-trained professional staff to deliver the programme over the next 12 months! I mean, you couldn't make it up; catch 22! That's the 'Big Society', and that's how we'll see it operating. 


This is a wide-ranging ruling-class offensive against living standards, against public services, jobs, but also against culture. I mean, I did ask who was the head of what used to be the culture committee on Somerset County Council – I want to know if his name might have been by any chance 'Hermann Goering'; because that was one of his sayings, “When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my pistol”. Well, certainly the Hermann Goering's are alive and well, and living not just in Somerset I'm afraid, but the fallout from this disastrous programme is not just in terms of jobs and services – vital though those are – they are destroying the fabric of real, living, cultured local communities. That's what they're doing. And it's so easy to overlook that. 


Ok, finally: what's the response? What needs to be done? How can we best counteract what the government is trying to get away with? Well, we will not stop from arguing, wherever we can, meetings like this, mass demonstrations, through the daily Morning Star newspaper and so on, we will continue to insist – there is no financial necessity to make any of these cuts to public services on a general level across Britain. There is no case whatsoever for doing it. If we're worried about closing the deficit, there's a good case to close the public-sector deficit, because the more you borrow, the more interest you have to pay to all the dealers and gamblers in the City of London – it's quite a respectable objective to close the deficit, but you don't have to cut a single service, you don't have to cut a single welfare benefit or state pension, you raise the money by taxing the rich and big business, a wealth tax on the richest 10%, a windfall tax not just on the oil corporations; the armaments companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the high-street banks, they're all making enormous profits! 


The big food retailers, they're making massive profits! Why don't we slam a windfall tax on all of them, a 'Robin Hood' tax on all those – well, I got into trouble for actually saying 'socially useless' transactions that take place in the City of London. They're not socially useless, they're socially damaging. Because, at the end of the day, after they've all taken their cut, the high price of those commodities, of those financial goods, and all the rest of it, in the end that is passed on to us! I bumped into an old school friend not so long ago, I was in secondary school with him many decades ago, haven't seen him for a long, long time, and he told me that he'd been working in the City of London, he was actually in commodity trading. So, straight away, I didn't want to particularly carry on talking to him [laughter] but, it turned out that he said “you know, bit of a bad year last year, because I got stuck with a huge shipment of potatoes”. So, I said, do you supply potatoes to supermarkets or chip shops? “No, no”, he said, “I'm a commodity trader. I buy and sell contracts to take delivery of potatoes in 3 months' time, 6 months' time, 9 months' time, but I don't want to be stuck with a contract at the end! I don't want to take any delivery of any potatoes. I only buy and sell the contracts to take delivery”. So he ended up with shipments of potatoes. What did he do with them? He had them destroyed – that's all he could have done – he had them destroyed. Because if he'd have offloaded them at a cheaper price, it would have undermined the whole market in potatoes, and the whole market in contracts for deliveries of potatoes. So he presided over the criminal destruction of food stocks! And this is what happens in the City – these are the contracts that are traded. Most of the people buying and selling contracts for deliveries of metals, of foodstuffs, of currencies – they have no intention of ever being on the receiving end of those products when they're delivered! They just gamble and speculate, in order to buy it at once price and sell it on at another. 


That's the City of London, that's what most of the City of London is about; it's not just socially useless, it's positively damaging! And, of course, it's the policies dictated by the City of London that have had such a devastating effect on our manufacturing industry in the past, and are now having such a devastating effect on our public services. So a 'Robin Hood' tax would be the least we could do to tax all of the transactions that take place in the City of London, because as far as we're concerned, that would be the prelude to actually shutting down most of those markets. They used to have a socially useful function, they probably still could, but not on the scale on which they're now being conducted. 


There are all sorts of other measure – inheritance tax, capital gains tax, and so on, there are all sorts of ways in which we could raise enough money, not only to maintain our public services, but to link our pensions and our benefits to the real rising cost of living that people are experiencing, we could have a massive house-building programme of public-sector housing, and meet the needs of the millions of people who need accommodation in Britain, we could invest in public transport, we could invest in renewable energy. 


Britain is not a poor country; this is the 6th biggest economy in the world! The British capitalist class still own more economic and financial assets around the world, outside their own country, than any other capitalist class except the United States. I was looking at the figures in the blue book, the national accounts book. British capitalists today have £3000bn worth of economic and financial assets in other countries and around the world. Britain is a fantastically rich country. We could afford all that we have, and much, much more – the problem is, it is owned and controlled by a tiny minority of the population, and these are the people, incidentally, who pay for the Tory party, and these are the people who at one time were quite keen to take over as paymasters of New Labour. 


So, comrades, we have to reject the idea that there is any financial justification for any cuts in public services, in welfare services, and so on, in Britain. We've had that terrific march on Saturday, but that must not be the end of the campaign – which is, I think, what some in the TUC wanted it to be – that's got to be a launchpad for building a real, militant mass movement. These are early days; just because we haven't got huge community campaigns going everywhere – we've got some very good ones in a whole number of localities – but just because we haven't got huge campaigns going everywhere yet, these are very early days! People have yet to experience even the first round of cuts that are coming in from tomorrow, or coming in from next Monday if you like. £21bn worth of cuts this year, £40bn more cuts planned for next year! The cuts planned for next year will be twice as deep as the cuts that are going to be made this year. More cuts the year after, more cuts the year after that. And when people see what this means, in terms of their public transport, their libraries, their schools, their leisure centres, their youth centres, and all the rest of it; as people see what is being done, and as we, and others on the left and in the labour movement, show that none of this need take place, I'm absolutely certain that the potential is there! Not by next week, but over the coming months, the potential is there to build up a really mass, militant movement, rooted in local communities, but also involving the trades unions, and so on. 


And, of course, we will need to have coordinated industrial action in the public sector, we will need to have more generalised industrial action, because private-sector workers, and their families, and their communities, are going to loose out as much as public-sector workers, despite all the attempts to drive a wedge between them, and to blame public-sector wages and public-sector pensions, as if they're responsible for this financial crisis! The reality is that the interests of workers and their families are the same, whether they're in the private sector or in the public sector. We'll need more regional marches, more days of action – but we also need to put forward a positive alternative. 


It won't be enough just to oppose what this government is doing. We must show that there are alternative policies – the Communist Party puts forward a left-wing programme, the kind of policies I've already mentioned – and more, public ownership of key industries and all the rest of it, but also many of these policies are reflected in the People's Charter, that is now official TUC policy. They didn't want it to be, but the Communist Party and our left-wing allies won the victory 2 years ago at the TUC. The TUC has done nothing about it since, but all of a sudden, they've woken up, and they've decided, we've got something positive that is the alternative! They didn't want an alternative to New Labour cuts, but they do want an alternative to Con-Dem cuts. So the TUC is now actually beginning to promote the People's Charter, and we have 14 national trades unions, at the last count, affiliated to the Charter campaign, and we have a big meeting that I'll be at tomorrow, to in effect re-launch the People's Charter, with a whole number of trades unions leaders, MPs, and so on, present as well. 


The point is, the potential exists, as we build up a mass movement, and if we can get the kind of coordinated action that is needed from the trades unions as well, the potential is to really sow the divisions within this coalition government, and to begin to pull the rug from underneath them. 


And we make no secret of it in the Communist Party – this is an illegitimate government – nobody went out in the last General election and voted for a Con-Dem government. Not a single person did. And, in fact, of the millions of people who voted Liberal Democrat, many of them had been persuaded to do so because their candidates said, as the candidate in the constituency that I fought said, every hustings meeting we addressed, he said “don't vote for the sitting Labour MP, we, the Liberal Democrats, are the real opposition to the Tories”. That's what he said, so this is an illegitimate government – nobody voted for it, they don't have a mandate for these policies, they don't have a mandate for the public spending cuts, and they don't have a mandate for the privatisation of health and education. So as far as we're concerned, it's a government that deserves to be brought down.