From the latest issue of our paper, Socialist Alternative – email us at email@example.com to get your physical or PDF copy for a donation!
“It’s very hard to be the voice of change when you’ve been in power for 13 years.”
This truism came from a Tory MP sceptical about the emerging strategy for Sunak’s campaign in the run up to the general election. The word ‘change’ in fact featured 31 times during what appears likely to be the first of several speeches attempting to set out Sunak’s ‘new course’. Other U-turns rumoured to be under consideration include a major scaling back of HS2 (which turned out to be true) and even the withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.
But the first step was to announce the pushing back of a number of policies that are part of the supposed drive for Net Zero. There is a delay to the ban on selling new diesel and petrol vehicles, as well as to the phasing out of the installation of new gas boilers. Socialist Alternative has always been clear that capitalist governments would not prioritise Net Zero over profits for their big business backers – and here we have it made plain.
Naturally, Sunak tried to pitch this retreat as to protect voters from individual costs. No consideration, of course, of a government-funded scheme to fit new electric boilers in all homes, or of a plan for environmentally sound, integrated, free-to-use public transport to reduce the demand for cars. Not to mention no plans to reverse their intransigence on public sector pay – by offering a decent cost of living pay rise to doctors, for example, to end their ongoing strikes.
Those around Sunak are desperate to present these ‘changes’ as an exciting rebrand. The Prime Minister, they claim, is finally able to throw off the image forced upon him by his roles in other governments and be ‘his own man’, the type of Tory he really is at heart – sensible, steady, economically prudent, willing to make ‘tough choices’.
There is nothing new about a politician attempting to convince workers to applaud them for making the ‘tough choice’ to attack our living standards, jobs, climate security, in favour of some imagined ‘greater good’ (read: good for the super-rich).
The reality is that Sunak is the same as all the rest – committed to defending the interests of big business and the capitalist system. And while he is trying to distance himself in words from Boris Johnson’s populism, these ‘new’ policies are in fact making clear that he will continue to ratchet up the Tories’ reactionary culture wars as a central part of his general election campaign.
Disgustingly, Labour’s Keir Starmer has shown time and again that his response will only be to try to out-Tory the Tories. As we enter the party conference season, we can expect an avalanche of rebranded policies from all wings of the establishment, and none with the needs and wants of ordinary people at their heart.
Working class, young, and oppressed people need our own party – one that organises in workplaces, communities and on campuses. Such a party could fight for a socialist programme on jobs, homes and services; against racism, sexism, LGBTQphobia and all oppression and to end the climate crisis. Socialist Alternative is actively fighting for such a party.