Tory conference – more weasel words than workers’ party

This week in Birmingham is meant to be a relaunch for the Conservative party. And yet like most relaunches, what we’re seeing is merely rebranding – a fresh coat of paint being slapped on an unappealing facade.

Theresa May entered Downing Street three months ago promising to do things differently.

She was going to stand up for working people. She was going to be on the side of ordinary families. It’s a trick new Tory leaders often deploy, but it’s never long before they show their true colours.

So now we see Theresa May – who just months ago was in favour of remaining in the UK – offering not just “hard Brexit” but the very harshest of Brexits.

Raising the metaphorical drawbridge and waving goodbye to the jobs, trade and economic growth that are part of our EU membership. And while her “Great Repeal Bill” (which doesn’t do what it says on the tin) at least ensures that UK law will incorporate EU law once we leave Europe, it provides no long-term security for rights at work.

In short, we should all be incredibly sceptical about those who claim to lead a “workers’ party” but supported the Trade Union Act, or who think the best way to get people onto a living wage is to rebrand the minimum wage rather than simply pay people more.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is trying to play a similar game – talking left whilst acting at least as right wing as his predecessor. So while we welcome moves to boost spending in infrastructure – including much-needed investment in transport and homes – you have to wonder why it was that the Tories spent the last six years attacking Labour for promising very similar bricks and mortar spending.

No doubt sensing the economic turbulence that lies ahead once Brexit truly begins, the chancellor knows he’ll need something to kickstart the economy, if only to limit the very worst of the damage caused by the UK leaving Europe.

The reality of the May/Hammond project is that it incredibly similar to the Cameron/Osborne project, and nobody is fooled. So we’ll see more austerity. More brutal pay freezes. More tax cuts and benefits for the better off whilst the hardest hit are hit even harder.

And rather than tackling low pay – the Conservative party has left low-paid public sector workers worse off than they were before the financial crash.

This – rather than the weasel words on stage this week in Birmingham – is the reality of a Tory government.