After 180k COVID deaths, a cost of living crisis that has seen security tags on supermarket cheddar cheese, an interminable farce over lockdown breaches, and at least three of his own MPs mired in sexual misconduct scandals, all it took was two Cabinet ministers, ‘withholding their labour’ to force a change in management.
The political media establishment cynically engineered #Partygate –– a breach in Covid law that would’ve been widely-known to those in the Westminster-media nexus at the time it occurred –– to trigger the end of the Johnson premiership. If there’s some common denominator to glean from the resignation letters themselves, it’s crystal-clear the philandering blob of Eton mess served his purpose by supplying a charismatic personality to lead the reaction against Corbyn. He was always living on borrowed time –– the Professionals were waiting to take the reins as soon as the faintest chance of social-democracy was confirmed to be dead. Had it not been for the unprecedented pestilence of 2020, the Murdoch and Barclay press would’ve taken him away to the knacker’s yard shortly after he ‘got Brexit done’.
Now we have this hysterical situation in which a load of Conservative MPs, many of whom were in Johnson’s cabinet until the day before he resigned –– or in the case of Suella Braverman and Nadhim Zahawi, yet to even tender a resignation –– now compete for the job of Prime Minister, offering the Conservative membership, the most evil and morally bankrupt people in Britain, as many terrifying commitments as humanly possible.
Millionaire Chancellor Zahawi has pledged a psychotic “20% cut to all government departments”; Braverman and Sunak boast of similar commitments to ‘be the next Thatcher’. There’s eight different candidates for the obsequious ghouls in the media to coo over, but there’s only one political vision to extrapolate from this selection of merciless twats –– all of these politicians are committed to the cult-like belief in ‘austerity’; that governments exist to spend as little money as possible, and push our class into further immiseration.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the leadership contest has been the deployment of identity politics. We’ve already heard a smorgasbord of platitudinous drivel amounting to ‘my grandparents came to Britain, so that I could have the opportunity to sell off public assets and charter passenger jets full of refugees to Rwandan camps.’ Identity politics is metabolised by the ruling class with such ease because, as with all movements that abandon class-analysis, it has no genuine liberatory objective or momentum, and can be recontextualised however someone sees fit.
Is there anything positive about this story that we can take comfort in? Well, Johnson had an undeniably huge electoral mandate in 2019. Thanks to the wreckers in Labour, the Conservatives captured the Red Wall; he finally broke the Brexit stalemate which had made his predecessor step down. This guy could’ve had a political legacy to rival that of Thatcher. He could’ve qualitatively transformed this country for the worse. He could’ve transferred wealth from the masses to the ruling class on a cataclysmic scale to make the current cost of living crisis look like grumbling about Cabury Fredos going up another 10p.
The Conservative’s ‘leveling-up’ policy, a fearsome re-appropriation of Corbynism, could very well have sealed the Tories as the party of working-class prosperity, a prospect Labour had long-ago abandoned. We can be grateful that instead, Johnson squandered this historic opportunity, and his legacy is limited to relatively paltry bribes for new furniture at No.11, and a couple of staggeringly dull Downing Street piss-ups.
His successors wish to be the next Thatcher. As I said, Johnson could very well have been that next Thatcher. New Labour, the political formation led by Tony Blair, which Thatcher went on to say was her ‘greatest achievement’, cemented neoliberalism as the standard for ‘electability’ and ‘common sense’ in British political life. But now we have had three PMs over just six years in this country, each undeniably shaped after Thatcher’s image. Instead, we’re seeing a crisis of governance for the ruling class, a trend of increasingly short, impotent governments that shy away from ambitious national projects. This may benefit a section of the ruling class, but it still spells long-term disintegration in the management of capital. Can another Thatcher or Blair sweep into power ever again, and effectively administrate a gargantuan transfer of wealth from the working class to the super-rich, in this political environment of internecine Whatsapp groups, salacious blogs and Twitter pundit gossip, where everyone equipped with a smartphone can instantly annihilate your authority?
One milquetoast article in a pissant liberal newspaper proclaimed that the likely contest winner, former chancellor and current multi-millionaire ‘Dishy’ Rishi Sunak, would deprive Labour leader Sir Keith Starmer of his unique selling point: his ‘ambition’ to ‘make politics boring again’. The corpulent moron with silly hair is gone, the ‘Professionals’ are going to be in charge of the post-pandemic recovery. This analysis, whilst bleakly stultifying, reveals something about the condition of British neoliberalism: parliamentary politics will be a boring arena for boring people to talk about boring things and boringly administer the optimally boring amount of endless austerity and mind-numbing drudgery that is boringly judged as ‘common sense’ by people who own multi-million pound property in London. At a time of 11% inflation, fuel and food shortages and impending climate catastrophe, enthusiasm is now off the menu.
There must be an alternative, and indeed we see one in the actually existing socialist societies of the modern day. Cuba, despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, has more qualified doctors per capita than any other. The People’s Republic of China announces bold, multi-billion dollar, transcontinental infrastructure projects in order to create jobs and stimulate growth; the United States and the UK announce multi-million dollar Marvel film franchise projects and proudly reduce unemployment by making it increasingly impossible to qualify for benefits. There is a way to a better standard of living, of an improved political authority that actually earns the respect of its people. But that’s going to involve our class seizing power from the etiolated ruling class.
As we brace for a summer of Tory leadership competition, as millionaire MPs go on the TV to give their ‘statesmanlike’ policies to sentence XR leaders to life-imprisonment, to sensibly let agency scabs cross the picket lines and promptly plunge thousands of rail passengers off cliffs or into other trains, to rebuild the Concorde passenger jet to transport Afghan refugees somewhere far, far away, we also brace for a summer of intensifying industrial action. Johnson is finished, and his supporters and detractors alike may cherish him for defeating Corbyn. But our class is at its most advanced in living memory. The mounting privations that have taken advantage of the stagnant class-consciousness of this country, have begun to backfire, and abandoned by all of the forces in parliamentary politics, the working class has found new leaders, and new vigour to take the fight directly to the bosses, the capitalists, the politicians.
Like Johnson in 2019, the YCL is in a historic opportunity –– to lead and unite the advanced, working-class youth of Britain at a time of monumental industrial militancy.
And unlike Johnson, we don’t intend to squander it.
One day we’ll win the battle for a socialist Britain, free of bumbling Tory parasites –– them’s the breaks!
James Meechan, is a member of the YCL’s Glasgow branch