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    Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain October 24, 2016.

    Boris Johnson Calls for End to Public Sector Pay Cap in Britain

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    Two days after 10,000 people marched through London to demand an end to austerity, cracks have begun to appear in the Conservative Party. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called for an end to the public sector pay cap.

    Although Mr. Johnson has not made any public statement, he is thought to have privately raised the issue with Theresa May, supporting his erstwhile friend Michael Gove, who is also pushing for an end to the pay cap.

    On Saturday (July 1), thousands of trade unionists, including many civil servants, nurses, doctors, cleaners, teachers, university lecturers and other public sector workers, marched from Oxford Circus to Parliament Square to call for an end to austerity.

    Protesters descended on central London for march against Theresa May on July 1.
    © Sputnik / Chris Summers
    Protesters descended on central London for march against Theresa May on July 1.

    A series of speakers were roared on by the crowd, in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, as they demanded an end to the salary cap which has meant public sector pay has fallen in real terms over seven years.

    "The Tories want us to believe that austerity is good for Britain. What a lie. What a scam," said Len McCluskey, leader of Britain's biggest union, Unite.

    Protesters descended on central London for march against Theresa May on July 1.
    © Sputnik / Chris Summers
    Protesters descended on central London for march against Theresa May on July 1.

    He said the country's national debt had "ballooned" while libraries have shut and nurses have been forced to use food banks.

    "Austerity is theft. It's the transfer of your hard earned wages away from those who deserve it and into the pockets of the few," said Mr. McCluskey to rounds of applause.

    Speaker after speaker mocked Mrs. May for "finding £1 billion ($1.2 billion) from the magic money tree" to give to Northern Ireland to appease her new allies in the Democratic Unionist Party.

    Mark Serwotka, leader of the civil service union PCS, was cheered as he called for a massive public sector strike to force an end to austerity.

    In the face of increasing public anger about the pay cap and cuts to public services due to austerity, some within the Conservative Party are keen to change tack.

    Mrs. May and her Chancellor Philip Hammond have insisted the one percent pay cap has to be retained.

    But Mr. Johnson has reportedly said he "strongly" disagrees and believes pay rises could be achieved in "a responsible way," without putting undue pressure on the public finances.

    The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted to Mr. Johnson:

    Dr. Philip Catney, a Senior Lecturer in Politics at Keele University, said the public sector spending cap remained a flagship policy of the Conservative Party.

    "The results of the election probably focused the mind a bit on this. Corbyn and his team have been quite successful in making people think about the consequences of austerity and in the last week we have seen a British Social Attitudes survey, which for the first time since the great recession, has shown more support for ending austerity than for increasing austerity politics," Dr. Catney told Sputnik.

    "The consequences on public service are now becoming fairly obvious to members of the public. They see their health service starting to lose their staff, they see their schools sending out letters asking for donations from parents to try to make ends meet.

    "Certainly Corbyn managed to articulate more effectively than many people thought he could do that austerity was hurting younger people, disabled people, and the Tories didn't help themselves with the dementia tax," he said.

    "Austerity is no longer the 'feckless people's charter,' it's now affecting broader swathes of people and the election result has certainly changed the narrative within the Conservative Party," Dr. Catney told Sputnik.

    "Cameron and Osborne were very good at holding off ministerial demands for increased resources. But now they are seeing a prime minister who is bloodied and they are going after her and are now saying, 'Can we not have a bit more money here and there?'.

    "Justine Greening and Jeremy Hunt are clearly not going to become prime minister so they are just fighting to try and increase their budgets, as is Michael Fallon… but Boris Johnson is probably positioning himself to take a more popular stand but it's not inconsistent with what he was saying during the Brexit campaign," said Dr. Catney.

    On Wednesday (June 26) Tory MPs were criticized on social media for laughing and cheering as the vote to cap public sector was passed at Westminster.

    Mr. Johnson flew back especially from Cyprus, where crucial talks on reunification were under way, in order to vote on the Queen's Speech and he voted down a Labour amendment which would have given nurses and other public sector staff a pay rise.

    As the Conservative Party is torn asunder by disagreements over whether to persevere with austerity, there has been talk of Theresa May being urged to set out a timetable for her own departure.

    She is being urged to stay on until June 2019, to push through Brexit, but few political commentators believe she can last that long.

    If Mrs. May quits Mr. Johnson would be one of the leading candidates to take over from here, despite his bungled campaign last year, which ended when Mr. Gove stabbed him in the back on the eve of his nomination.


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