Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Wikipedia Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Wikipedia

The roots of their problem go deep, argues Dragan Plavšić

When the Tory Party is in crisis, a crisis for the British state is never far behind. But why exactly are they?

The obvious answer is that they have lost their parliamentary majority because of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party during an excellent election campaign.

Of course, this is very important on the immediate level of daily politics. But there is something deeper going on here of which Labour’s rise is both a symptom and a spur.

And this ‘something deeper’ is a mood change that predates Corbyn’s leadership. It is the secret of his success. This mood change is the rejection of neoliberalism by millions of people.

Quietly at first, so quietly in fact that it was almost imperceptible, then with quickening pace and gathering speed, this mood change grew and grew. Its subterranean quality would catch many unawares as it sought an adequate political outlet for its anger, its frustrations, and its sixth sense that things could and should be different.

And here the stifling party political consensus around neoliberalism meant that this mood change had to seek an outlet in political channels long dismissed as ‘beyond the pale’.

So a meeting of minds took place – between a still disparate but increasingly desperate mood for change and a now minuscule group of Labour Left MPs who had survived the wilderness years with their own principled rejection of neoliberalism intact.

This popular mood is the driving force behind Jeremy Corbyn. But it would not be the driving force it now is without Jeremy Corbyn.

This is because his leadership has led to a reckoning of sorts with the Labour Party’s very own neoliberals, the Blairites, who are currently very much on the back foot.

But also because Corbyn has led a mass campaign that has thrown the Tories into crisis and disarray.

This is because Corbyn is the political expression of the deeper mood change that represents nothing less than the crisis of neoliberalism itself. And since for forty years the Tory Party has been the bastion of neoliberalism, and neoliberalism its lifeblood, this crisis is a very serious one.

So it is not just a subjective one about poor leadership. It is an objective crisis anchored in a profound mood change. It means that whoever takes over from May will not be able to resolve it with either ease or speed.

On the level of daily politics, all this finds immediate expression in the fact that the standard means of resolving crises – another general election – is one the Tories cannot presently contemplate because they know they will lose.

And the root reason they will lose is that you can’t win a general election with neoliberal policies when neoliberalism is in crisis. And when a serious alternative is on offer.

Whether this will prompt some Tories to seek a reckoning with Thatcherism – in the way Corbyn led a reckoning with Blairism – remains to be seen. At the moment, there is no sign of that. Instead, they clearly hope to muddle through.

The Tories are in crisis because neoliberalism is in crisis. Both inside and outside Parliament, we need to pile on the pressure because every Tory crisis is ultimately a crisis for the British state.

Dragan Plavšić

Dragan Plavšić is a member of Counterfire in London and of Marks21 in Serbia. He jointly edited The Balkan Socialist Tradition and the Balkan Federation 1871-1915 (2003).