IT was not long ago that we stood on our doorsteps applauding the workers who were battling to keep us safe from a previously unimaginable national crisis. Two years later, we should be showing the same support for those workers forced to strike in the face of shameful UK Government inaction on a crisis which could yet bring more catastrophy than the pandemic.

This disaster, however, comes devoid of the rhetoric aimed at reviving the so-called blitz spirit.

If there is one thing the cost of living crisis is proving, it is that we are very much not all in this together.

Families are reeling from previously unimaginable fuel and food price rises while looking helplessly at fast-approaching increases that will dwarf those already imposed.

Small businesses recognised as the lifeblood of local communities are being forced to close because they can simply no longer afford to keep their doors open. Some – like the Kings Arms in Fenwick, whose owner Mikey Lennon has seen his electricity bill rise from £960 a month to more than £3000 – have hit the headlines. But for every one of these, there are hundreds more quietly giving up the fight.

Town centres already stripped of once-thriving shops and bars are becoming more like ghost towns every month. Businesses cannot afford to stay open and customers cannot afford to buy from them anyway.

While we are haunted by nightmares about the consequences of simply running out of money, the energy giants are celebrating their good fortunes. Look at the profits.

This month, BP reported its biggest quarterly profit for 14 years – $8.45 billion (£6.9bn) between April and June. Shell profits also hit a record high of $11.4bn (£9.5bn) for the same period. Shareholders were promised payouts of £6.5bn, which is of little comfort to the rest of us. The company’s chief executive Ben van Beurden showed the empathy for which multinationals are famous when he replied to a question about the contrast between his staggeringly high profits and the difficulties millions face paying their bills.

“It is what it is,” van Beurden said.

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Centrica, which now owns British Gas, reported operating profits of £1.3bn for the first half of 2022.

E.on – Britain’s biggest energy supplier – has made profits of more than £3bn in the first six months of this year. They expect profits for the whole year to be £6.6bn.

A tweet by Evolve Politics (@evolvepolitics) this week made the point that E.on could cut energy bills by £1700 for every customer and still make a profit.

It won’t do that, of course. There is too much money to be made from all those new customers automatically transferred to E.on when all those smaller energy providers – you know, the ones who were supposed to bring prices down by offering consumers a choice – crashed and burned earlier this year.

That was another failed experiment, another broken promise, another financial gamble which left the public to pick up the bill while the Government shrugged its shoulders and turned its attentions to new schemes aimed at filling the pockets of its rich friends at our expense.

At one time, we would have looked to the government to protect us. I’d be a liar if I claimed to ever have faith in the Conservative Party but there were once limits on its greed, even if they were imposed by fears it would lose them votes.

They don’t need to worry about that now after getting away with what amounts to daylight robbery in the shape of rabid raids on the public purse.

Do you honestly think it is a coincidence that these huge energy price rises come hand in hand with the rise in the energy price cap?

The changes to that cap is not, as was claimed, because those poor energy suppliers faced increased costs. It was a device to open the door to unjustified and almost unregulated rises for the public.

Then there was the unpicking of the triple lock which used to link pensions to inflation.

Of course we were told that the removal of that lock was only temporary – just long enough to let the Government off with recognising the need to reflect the cost of living crisis in the next pension rise.

And don’t even consider the possibility that the huge rises in energy company profits will at least increase the tax take and possibly allow the Government to ease the pain the most vulnerable are feeling.

BP hasn’t paid a penny in tax for its North Sea operations for five years. It actually received money from the British taxpayer in 2019. Shell hasn’t paid any tax on its operations in the North Sea for four years.

With such a lax approach to persuading the energy firms to pay their taxes, its hardly surprising that the Westminster Government has done virtually nothing to help ease the financial problems facing the general public.

Rishi Sunak made a few noises about extending a windfall tax on energy companies but the current tussle over who will succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister has all but paralysed any rescue plan.

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Liz Truss has made it plain she wouldn’t be supporting any extension of the windfall tax, itself a woefully inadequate way to tackle the problem. Such a tax certainly didn’t appear to be on the table when the Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi met energy companies and was more concerned to discuss investment and stability of support.

Today’s brand of conservatism is very different even from the days of Margaret Thatcher’s ideological revolution. It has moved further to the right and will do so again if, as seems likely, Liz Truss moves into Number 10. Modern Tories are perfectly prepared to sit on their hands, even if more and more families are forced to use foodbanks, literally to stay alive.

And, just at a time when the Labour Party are urgently needed to offer an effective opposition and campaign vigorously for desperately needed help, we have it confirmed that Labour are also a very different party these days. They have become a party very obviously on the side of the bosses and not the workers, a party who will not support industrial action (even in the direst of circumstances), a party which has turned its back on its supporters just when they need it the most.

Labour are instead eager to join forces with the Tories to make sure that no matter how clearly it asks for a democratic vote on its future direction, Scotland will never have it.

How shameful is it that the former party of justice and hope have moved so far away from those principles that it will stand shoulder to shoulder with those who bring despair to the needy and the vulnerable in a bid to stop Scotland banishing the politics of greed?

And never forget that Scotland produces at least 97% of its own electricity needs from renewable sources. If you can see any logic in why we are facing such massive fuel bill rises please explain it to me. And don’t witter on about the free market. We control – or should control – the economic system rather than the other way around.

As an independence supporter, I am determined that Scotland should have control over its own future. That process is already under way and it is inconceivable that it will end without that prospect being put to a democratic vote.

But we need drastic action to force our present government to wake up to the scale of the cost of living crisis and protect those facing devastation and poverty. We have looked to the Government and been turned away. We have looked to the official Westminster opposition and found them unwilling to support us. We now need to take what action we can ourselves.

Energy companies like E.on could cut prices by £1700 per customer and still make a profit

Consumer rights campaigner Martin Lewis has some vital advice for us all – instead of refusing to pay your energy bills and risking being cut off, use the complaints system to tie energy companies in bureaucracy and red tape.

Every one of us should follow that advice. But it will also take political action to end the madness which has taken over our economy and weaponised it.

When trade unions go on strike – and more and more are doing so – they are using the only power we have left to force immediate change. That’s why we should stand in solidarity with every one of those workers withdrawing their labour to protect those who could literally starve or freeze to death in the coming winter.

This is not a country we choose to live in. This is not a country we should accept that we must live in. While we prepare to leave we must join the fight to protect those at the mercy of a Westminster Government whose ambition is clearly to dismantle everything we hold dear.

Four steps we need to take: Support a general strike. Demand a General Election. Kick out the Tories. Vote Yes in a referendum.