One hundred and forty-eight Tory MPs have finally moved against UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. It is not growing poverty, soaring energy bills, or Johnson’s endless parties and lies that have pushed them to act: they are only desperate to try and save their own skins at the next election.
When the prime minister gets booed at Jubilee events the writing is on the wall. While Johnson has survived this first challenge, he is badly wounded, and it is clear that it has acted as the starting gun in the fight over his successor.
Despite the Tory rules currently stating that another leadership contest cannot be held for 12 months, he is likely to be forced out sooner. Theresa May lasted just six months after a more ‘decisive’ victory in a vote of confidence. As we know Tory MPs have no compunction about changing the rules when it suits them!
For a brief period after the 2019 general election, Johnson’s success at the ballot box appeared to paper over the deep splits in the Tory party. Now they are once again openly at each other’s throats. Ditching Johnson would not solve this; the lack of a clear successor reflects the huge differences between the various Tory factions. While they agree that it’s their job to defend the capitalist system and that it should be working-class people who pay for that system’s many crises, they are divided on pretty much everything else.
Ultimately this crisis, in what was once among the most successful political parties in the world, reflects the growing unpopularity of the rotten profit-driven capitalist system the Tory party defends. It is a system that is working for a few at the top but for no one else. While the wealth of the 250 richest people in Britain are now worth as much as the richest 1,000 had back in 2017, the rest of us are suffering the steepest fall in living standards since 1956.
Many working-class people will conclude, correctly, that it makes no major difference which of the Tory gang of crooks is prime minister. That’s true, but splits at the top are an indication of weakness. They should give the workers’ movement confidence that we can build a movement capable of kicking them all out of office. The trade union demonstration on 18 June should be a launch pad for coordinated strike action to fight for RPI inflation-proofed pay rises for all and to get the Tories out.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer’s overwhelming motivation is to prove to the capitalist elite that, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, he would be a more reliable representative of their interests than Johnson’s Tories. That may be true, but the interests of the elite are diametrically opposed to those of the working-class and middle-class majority. Starmer has systematically ripped up Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto pledges. Nationalisation of the energy companies, abolishing anti-trade union laws, mass council housebuilding – none of those demands feature in Starmer’s programme. Starmer hasn’t said one word in support of trade unions currently involved in or preparing for national industrial action – like the RMT and the CWU. Nor has he opposed Tory threats of even more anti-trade union legislation – introducing minimum service levels, in order to try to undermine effective strike action.
Meanwhile, numerous Labour councils have attacked their workforce’s pay and conditions, leaving workers with no choice but to strike. Coventry Labour council has spent more than £3 million on an attempted strike-breaking operation against the Unite refuse workers’ strike, many times more than it would have cost to meet the workers’ demands.
It is possible that Starmer, like Johnson, could be forced out, in his case resigning if he receives a fine for ‘beergate’. However, there is no prospect of his removal reversing the consolidation of Labour as an out-and-out capitalist party. The rule changes which Starmer pushed through the 2021 Labour Party conference – scrapping the £3 ‘registered supporters’ category that propelled Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership in 2015; lengthening the membership qualifying period to vote in a leadership election to six months, and raising the threshold for MPs’ support to 20% of the parliamentary party before a candidate can even get onto the ballot paper – mean that there would be no left candidate in a new leadership contest. On the contrary, the candidates to the fore so far are even more crudely pro-capitalist than Starmer, like Wes Streeting who, as shadow health minister, has extolled the supposed virtues of private companies profiteering in the NHS.
Therefore, while kicking out the Tories would be rightly cheered by millions, replacing them with a Blair 2.0 New Labour government would not offer a solution for the working class.
As we face the biggest cuts to living standards in over 50 years, it is very clear that we need to urgently build a fightback, mobilising the 6.6 million currently in the trade unions and beyond, in coordinated strike action to demand inflation-proofed pay rises for all and a £15-an-hour minimum wage.
At the same time, any attempt to introduce new anti-trade union laws, or to use the existing ones against trade unions taking action, must be met with a determined collective response by the whole workers’ movement. If the right-wing national trade union leaders fail to act we need a ‘coalition of the willing’ left-led unions to show what is needed.
However, an industrial struggle needs to be combined with beginning to build a political voice for the workers’ movement. Working-class people need our own party which will fight for our interests in parliament and in the council chambers. A party whose political representatives take only the wage of the workers they represent, rather than the bloated salaries of the Westminster elite. The Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) fights for every step towards such a party.
We call on all the trade unions currently looking for an alternative to the left of Labour to take steps to found such a party. At the same time, we put the case that, for any workers’ party to fully stand in the interests of our class, it will need to fight for a socialist society which takes the wealth out of the hands of the capitalist elite and is democratically run by working-class people to meet the needs of all, not the profits of a few.