Monday, 29 July 2019

The UK Left Needs a Strategy to Fight this Extreme Right Wing Tory Government

Although I think it fair to say that you can never be sure that new UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, means what he says, all of the signals coming out of the new regime point to the most extreme right wing government in modern times has been formed. The make-up of Johnson’s Cabinet, for instance, containing many characters who were on the far right fringe of Tory party only a few years ago, should set off alarm bells amongst all in the broad UK left.

This is not just about Brexit either, although that is a part of the general direction of the Tory government, a first step in the move to deregulate employment and environmental standards and reduce human rights protections in the UK. 

Logic suggests that is the only way that the UK can move to attract investment and growth in the economy, from a right wing perspective. A kind of super-sized Singapore on the edge of Europe, under cutting European Union (EU) standards, so as to be able to compete in our newly isolated position.

To those on the left who do support Brexit, and I know that many relish the idea of the EU being out of the way, so that full on clash with the Tories becomes inevitable, I say you are playing a dangerous game. What if the Tories win this battle, using simplistic racist messages and encouraging delusions of the long gone days of Empire - the country could become a very nasty place indeed.

Whether you support Brexit or not, a campaign against the Tories vision of the future needs to be started now, and it should be of the broadest left if we are to be successful, whatever reservations we have in general about the more centrist elements of this broad alliance. I should add that I’m not suggesting an electoral alliance of some sort here, although that will probably be a part of it, but we need to mobilise civic society as well, outside of electoral politics.

It may well be, that this will be largely a campaign in England and Wales, with the Scots having a possible escape hatch in seeking independence, but I see no reason why this cannot dove-tail with resistance south of the border. Indeed the possible loss of Scotland should add weight to the need to defeat these extreme Tories across the UK. We can choose to meekly accept our fate, or we can fight this government tooth and nail, for a future worth living. I know what I will do.

It is highly likely that there will be general election soon, perhaps as early as the autumn, as Johnson aims to capitalise on the ‘honey moon’ period that all new prime ministers get. Conversely, it may be forced on the government if they pursue a hard no deal Brexit, with probably enough ‘liberal’ Tory MPs prepared to support a no confidence vote in the government, which almost certainly will lead to a general election. It is possible that some cooperation will happen between anti-Tory parties, but this may not be enough on its own   

For those who are anti-Brexit, they should support the anti-Brexit demonstration on Saturday 12 October in London and other places around the country. I see no reason why those who are pro-Brexit, but anti-Tory, should not organise their own demonstrations against the government. It needs to be spelt out what this Tory government has install for the country. Demonstrations like this have a limited effect, but are valuable in giving the feeling to protesters that they are not alone, and can boost confidence that success is possible.

I think the template here should be the anti-poll tax campaign of 1990, which not only stopped the policy itself, but also brought down the once all-powerful prime minister ,Margaret Thatcher. These type of campaigns are best if a simple single issue is the focus, and I would suggest that in this case it should be the future of the NHS. We know that any post Brexit trade deal with the US, will have to include the opening up of the NHS to US private health care corporations. We really don’t have much more to offer the US, so this is a highly likely scenario.

In the anti-poll tax campaign, there were different strands of people against the poll tax. Those who rioted in Trafalgar Square, those who refused or in some way avoided paying the tax, and those, mainly Tory voters in northern England who stood to pay much more tax under the policy. There was stiff resistance in Scotland too, which piloted the new tax. Hence the need for a broad based campaign. We need to re-create something along these lines.

If we can manage this, we have a good chance of success. We have to try, not doing so is unthinkable.  


  1. I don't really know about strategies for opposing this extreme right wing government. What is clearer now through what I have heard coming out on BBC tv news, is that now BoJo is in office, his government is going for 'no deal Brexit' as Plan A rather than as Plan B.

    Maybe I'm biased in that direction -- i.e., perceiving the worst in BJ and Gove, etc -- but having read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) but I've perceived the way neoliberals lick their lips at the prospect of demolishing our human rights as too costly in 'austerity government'. We've already had what the UN Disability Committee Chair called 'human catastrophe' for disabled people in the UK in 2016, and Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty's report on the UK more recently. Central driving forces in that can be seen around the cabinet table above.

    Perhaps part of the strategy against Boris Johnson could be a highlighting of its dodgy connections and campaign funding, such as the influence of the Westminster Russian Forum, climate change deniers, etc. on Tory policy.

    Linked to the matter of campaigning on the NHS, Clinical Commissioning Groups are getting more and more tightfisted. Tony Greenstein has pointed out in his blog,

    "the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group has decided on a policy that any drug that can be purchased over the counter is no longer going to be available on prescription. It doesn’t matter what it costs, you will not be able to get it. It would appear that it does not depend on what your ailment is either. This is in order that the CCG can ‘save’ approximately £500,000, absolute chicken feed."

    He says in the same blog post, Life And Debt: Stories From Inside America’s GoFundMe Health Care System

    "You may remember that line from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi –
    ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’

    "That applies like nothing else to the NHS..."

    Yet we also need to point out that a driving force in 'advising' successive UK governments on 'welfare reform' since the 1990s has been dodgy US health insurance giant, Unum.

    One of the things I'm dreading as a survivor of the DWP's "The help you need it, when you need it," is the prospective lowering of basic State Pension to even current Jobseekers Allowance levels. After all, one of the statements Tories used in bringing in abolition of Council Tax Reduction funding for local authorities proposed in 2013 was, "existing pensioners will not be affected." More recent state pensioners are affected and might be so pissed off as to not bother voting.

    We need to do more to highlight the plight of those hit by 'welfare cuts', so that the callousness of neoliberalism can be highlighted and non-voters can be inspired to vote rather than to denounce all political parties.

    Alan Wheatley

    1. This government has done many bad things, and will no doubt even more in the future, if it lasts long. The point about focusing on the NHS is a tactical one. I remember Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson saying in the 1980s that 'the only religion that the English have, is the NHS.'

  2. You could make this a petition and if you can get your own party to adopt it they could make it an open letter to all the organisations you have in mind. You might as well include all the unions, trades councils, left wing parties (Labour, Green SNP , Plaid Cymru, SWP, SP, CPB etc, local branches thereof) , Momentum and whaterver campaigining social justice organisations you can think of (XR?) plus the left pres apart from that (Tribune if it still exists, The Prole Star, The New satesman...)

    If you can set up an electoral alliance it needs to be formally different umbrella organisation from the one responsible for other forms of campaigning. This is because there will always be people who are willing to take part in the one but not the other and you don't want to limit your allies to those who agree maximally with you. What is more, there is a danger that the grassroots activism becomes subordinated to the electoral aspect which will doom the whole project. let's ay these ougyt to be different bu t linled campoaigns, with some organisations being in both.

    1. I think people will be involved in different parties and political groupings, that would be the aim of any campaign against the Tory government.