The leadership election in the Tories has now come down to Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss. Workers and young people happy to see the back of Johnson will look on in dismay at the options left to be Prime Minister. In the context of corruption and a regime built on one law for the rich and one for the poor, Sunak has been damaged by his wife’s “non-dom” status, allowing for ‘legal’ tax avoidance of millions. The alternative is another Oxbridge-educated Tory.
The ‘anti-woke’ agenda
Many of the candidates – including those now eliminated have tried to market themselves as the ‘anti-woke’ candidate. Candidates who believe the “good and bad” of the British empire should be taught in schools and follow the right wing in the United States’ handbook in wanting to ‘ban’ what is dubbed ‘Critical Race Theory’ in schools.
However, it has been on transgender rights, particarly the right for people to self-identify their gender that candidates have been seeking to outdo each other. In this the Tories are seeking to tap into the backlash whipped up by the press against the movement for trans rights. It is also a reflection of how much a section of the Tory party has been Trumpified. Whereas only years ago the Tories comically tried to argue they stood for LGBTQ+ rights, they have unceremoniously dropped the rainbow flags.
Division over economic strategy
The debates also reflect real division in the Tory party over the way forward for a crisis ridden British capitalism. A British capitalism that is likely to be the worst hit in the coming recession, while facing a multitude of crises including on the national question – particularly in Scotland, which raises an existential question over the future of the UK. On issues such as Britain’s relation with the EU there are real differences, typified by the contrasting approaches to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Sunak represents the section concerned about provoking a trade war and Truss reflecting the more hawkish section of the Tory Brexiteers.
Likewise there are differences over economic strategy, with Sunak reflecting a nervousness about implementing massive tax cuts which could plunge the UK into recession, whereas Truss and others are enthusiastic about such tax cuts. This is reflected by Boris Johnson, at his last Prime Minister’s Questions, where he strongly backed the need for tax cuts. This was a parting shot against Sunak and seen as an endorsement of Truss.
Sunak, the former Thatcherite hard liner, has even been labelled a ‘socialist’ by his opponents in the Tories and he in return has labelled Truss’ ‘something for nothing’ economics as socialist. Both of course further capitalist economic policies which are proving incapable of stopping Britain and the global economy entering recession.
Workers striking back
Added to this is the important strike wave we are beginning to see on the cost of living crisis. The strike of RMT workers will now be joined by the other key railway unions and the strike has seen an increase in support among the public. There will also be industrial action of workers in BT. Postal workers and nurses will be balloted for strike action. The nervousness this is causing is reflected in the comment of one Tory minister who said “If we get this wrong, we risk a de facto general strike.”
Just as the Tories cannot afford to get it wrong, neither can the workers movement. There is a need to coordinate action on the cost of living crisis and to expand action to other sectors, in order to take on the Tories while they are weakened and divided. A mass movement can ensure it is not just Johnson that is removed from power, but the Tories as a whole.
It also poses the need for the building of a working class alternative. That wont come from Starmer’s Labour, who have been focused on looking respectable and as far away from striking workers as possible. The recent Forde report also illustrates the length the apparatus of the Labour Party went to in order to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.
A real alternative can be built with and by the very layers the Tories hate – workers. By workers and young people moving into struggle.