To achieve a scenario where Theresa May poses the question ‘who rules?’ requires all of us to start moving
Under other circumstances - such as having a Tory Prime Minister with a modicum of political skill - Johnson and Patel would be joining the execrable Fallon on the back benches. Liam Fox would not be a member of the Cabinet and would be languishing as a fringe character on the extreme Tory right. David Davis would still be masquerading as someone concerned about civil rights. Rudd would be spending more time in her constituency rather than being wheeled out to unconvincingly stump for the PM.
At ‘difficult’ moments in the recent past, it was Michael Fallon who took to the airwaves to bolster Mrs May but for more than one good reason he will not be heard of anytime soon. Similarly, May’s closest Cabinet ally, Damian Green, is nowhere to be seen having himself been accused of inappropriate conduct in a scandal involving a former senior officer of the Metropolitan Police.
The dimensions and nature of the scandals surrounding the May cabinet are grim, grubby and as yet undefined. They could well bring her and this administration to their knees. However, they could be considered a distraction from the other political factors at play.
This is not a ‘government’ in any meaningful sense of the word. There is no agenda, little policy, an absence of ‘spirit’ and verve. Given the outlook of those who sit around the Cabinet table, you’d expect a raft of policies to push through further neoliberal reform of the NHS, schools and other public services. They would not be on the ropes over the Universal Credit scandal. The Tory victory in 2015 looked set to provide another five years of austerity, privatisation and stable rule. Everything has changed.
The only function now being served by May & co. is to act as a block on the very real prospect of a socialist in Downing Street. Brexit ‘negotiations’ – the alleged priority of this awful gaggle – are going nowhere and will continue to drive towards a ‘No Deal’. If this lot had anything about them, they’d at least put up an ideological fight. May attempted to mount a defence of market capitalism a few weeks ago but, predictably, it gained no traction whatsoever. Meanwhile, Labour continues to develop economic policies that positively resonate with a mass of the population.
It is vitally important that things aren't allowed to get much worse. There is no direct link between a bad situation getting worse and an ultimately positive outcome. Festering and lingering political morbidity leaves room for other, ultimately reactionary, responses to pollinate and flower. The bridge between where we are and where we want to be is political action and the situation is urgent. The political situation is very fluid, including opinion polls and their actual meaning. The difference is made by people intervening and pushing together towards what we want. In the immediate term, that means getting rid of this government and getting Jeremy into Downing Street.
For these reasons and others, isn’t it time for the Labour front bench to speak the plain truth and act accordingly? Table motions of no confidence, mobilise the party to support these calls and convince others, call national demonstrations etc… In short, act like the leaders of a movement. Move beyond exchanging pithy epithets at the dispatch box or on social media and take decisive action in union with movement that will surely respond if called to act. What unites the Shadow Cabinet, the back benches, local Labour party workers, the labour movement more widely and the social and political movements outside of the party is the desire for a different government. To achieve a scenario where Mrs May poses the question ‘who rules?’ requires all of us to start moving.
Tom Unterrainer is a socialist activist and Labour Party member. He is the editor of Corbyn’s Campaign and other titles available from www.spokesmanbookshop.com