Jacob Rees-Mogg in 2013. Photo: Flickr/LadyGeekTV Jacob Rees-Mogg in 2013. Photo: Flickr/LadyGeekTV

Lindsey German on the nasty party, Lid Dem mendacity and striking lecturers 

You wouldn’t think we had anything to thank Jacob Rees-Mogg for, but surely we can give him credit for getting the election campaign off with a bang and for demonstrating in plain sight exactly what the multi-millionaire elites running the Tory party think of the rest of us.

His remark to Nick Ferrari on LBC that anyone with ‘common sense’ would have got out of the burning Grenfell Tower despite advice to stay put is one of the most crass and insensitive possible.

The class privilege just oozes out of Rees-Mogg at the best of times, but this managed to infuriate not only the Grenfell survivors, who claimed quite rightly that he was suggesting their loved ones had no common sense, but also the millions who empathise with those at Grenfell.

Rees-Mogg has probably never been in a tower block so has no idea that escaping fire in a building of over 80 flats with one dark staircase filled with smoke is not remotely the same as stepping out onto the lawn of your manor house in the event of fire. And his narrative, following on from attempts to blame the firefighters rather than those responsible for the building for the tragedy, is classic ‘blame the victim’. The attitude that they could have supposedly saved themselves if they had shown more ‘common sense’.

This unpleasant episode sums up what the election is all about: are we going to continue Tory rule, with attacks on and privatisation of public services that people need, with scapegoating of the poor and migrants, and constant pressure on working people to work harder in insecure jobs, while they are forced to accept expensive and inferior housing? Or are we going to fight for an alternative which would try to redress the balance of wealth and power, tax the rich and corporations, develop green policies in areas like transport and housing, increase workers’ rights and strengthen trade unions?

These are the major changes which Labour talks of when it talks about a whole generation being affected by the election. Brexit is important in this process but whatever the outcome to it these problems will still remain, because they are part of the 21st century capitalist settlement and to overcome them will take fundamental upheaval in our society which challenges its whole class basis of exploitation.

The ever more irritating Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems, with their constant boosterism and lying claims that she could be prime minister (there’s more chance of Boris Johnson telling the truth than that happening) are on the wrong side of this divide. Their obsession with Remain is convenient for them because it means they don’t have to talk about how much they agree with the Tories (indeed many of their new MP recruits are Tories).

Their mendacious prattling about electoral pacts should be examined carefully. Not only are the figures on leaflets pure fantasy (I see they claim they can overturn a 23,000 Tory majority in very poshest Esher in Surrey) but their pacts are aimed at attacking Labour much more than the Tories. So they are standing a former Tory minister against Labour’s Emma Dent Coad in Kensington, although this could let the Tory in, they are backing Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve as independents, and they spend all their time claiming Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are identical even though Corbyn has committed to a second referendum.

Sad to see the Greens and Plaid go along with this, especially since their pact with the Lib Dems is nearly 90% on the latter’s terms. I guess lots of their rank and file members won’t be happy with this – and some of them will vote Labour I surmise.

Labour’s campaign is going well with large numbers active and canvassing, and with messages that cut through the Brexit debate to appeal to class instincts. With the help of Mogg and his mates, things can only get better in that direction.

Out for eight

One major boost is the announcement yesterday that there will be 8 days of strikes in a large number of universities during the election. The first week of them will end on the same day as the next school students’ climate strike, so there will be lots of links and joint activity on that day.

This is a rapid and welcome response from the UCU under its new general secretary Jo Grady. Only the universities that passed the government’s draconian 50% threshold for industrial action will go on strike – my university achieved less than that – but everywhere we can raise money, solidarity, join picket lines and win support. The strikes will be tough because people will lose money before Xmas, but they are absolutely necessary to stop the attacks on higher education staff which are now endemic in the sector.

Such a response would be necessary anytime, but because these strikes will be during the election, they will take on a particular importance. They will be attacked by the media and the Tories and no doubt the Lib Dems. Solidarity locally and helping to win arguments in their support is vital – and everyone who supports Jeremy Corbyn should get down to those picket lines.

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.