By Clare Laker-Mansfield
Division, scandal and crisis: these are the most striking features of Theresa May’s government today.
If faced with mass protest by workers and youth – this shambolic Tory regime could be forced from power. Indeed, they could be pressed into calling a general election at any moment. Our movement must therefore go on the offensive.
On 15 November students demonstrated to demand free education. Socialist Students is calling for this to be followed with huge protests on campuses around the country on budget day, 22 November.
But crucial in building a movement to force the Tories out are the trade unions. As a first step, the Trade Union Congress should call and mobilise a huge national demonstration – to demand an end to the public sector pay cap, and to build support for mass, coordinated strike action.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell could also play a major role in seeing the government out of the door. As well as seeking to exploit Tory divisions in parliament, they should be calling for workers and young people to mobilise on the streets.
But even without such developments, it remains possible this weak minority government could collapse under the weight of scandal and infighting. May faces battles on multiple fronts.
As the EU Withdrawal Bill enters its ‘committee stage’ reading in parliament, rebellion is in the air among Tory MPs. Already, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has been forced to concede that parliament will be granted a ‘take it or leave it’ vote on the final deal.
But this has only served to embolden the so-called ‘soft Brexiteers’ – with no indication of any appetite for compromise on either side of the Tories’ gaping divide. Other points of contention include the question of whether the government ought to increase its ‘financial offer’ to the EU.
Meanwhile, May’s former chief of staff has written a scathing attack on the chancellor, Phillip Hammond, in the lead-up to budget day. Writing in Murdoch’s Sun ‘newspaper’, Nick Timothy lays into “Fiscal Phil” for what he argues is his rigid approach and lack of willingness to improve “economic justice.”
Timothy and May are, of course, no friends of the working class. They certainly have no real interest in delivering a more fair or just society. What this really represents is a disagreement about how to respond to the electoral revolt that took place on 8 June.
Timothy seemingly favours loosening the screws of austerity in a desperate attempt to regain credibility and halt the rise of Corbyn. But Hammond is clearly fearful that any concessions to working class people would only whet our appetite for more, feeding into the desire for a fundamental break with austerity.
This is something the Tories, whose raison d’être is to defend the interests of the super-rich 1%, are unable to offer. In truth, neither approach offers them a way out of this quagmire.
Rumbling on is the scandal over sexual abuse and harassment in Westminster. Among the latest revelations are allegations that a television producer was groped by a member of David Cameron’s staff in 10 Downing Street itself.
May’s deputy, Damien Green, remains under pressure over similar accusations. The prime minister’s weakness is laid bare by her inability to sack or appoint cabinet ministers at her choosing. This includes the ongoing farce over Boris Johnson‘s appalling blunders over the status of a British woman jailed in Iran.
This crisis for the Tories is itself a reflection of the deep crisis faced by the capitalist class as a whole. For the workers’ movement, this should be an opportunity to fight for a fundamentally different type of society.
This means organising to force the Tories from power. It means conducting a battle not just against the representatives of the 1% in the Conservative Party, but those Blairite Labour MPs whose politics has more in common with that of Hammond and May than with the ideas of socialism.
And it means fighting for a fundamentally different type of society – for socialist change.