This latest Tory crisis is an opportunity the left must seize and the week’s protests are all the means to do so, argues Lindsey German
The resignation of David Davis last night has thrown the government into disarray and it surely presages an early general election. Theresa May has no authority: on Friday she declares victory, by Sunday her Brexit secretary has gone. She has lost half a dozen cabinet ministers in as many months, but this is even more significant given that the key government business is of Brexit. The EU cabinet meeting at Chequers on Friday, which had supposedly drawn a line under Tory divisions and reimposed cabinet collective responsibility is not going to hold. There is also the question of whether it will be accepted by the EU?
In short, the plan won’t satisfy either side, with over 100 businesses calling for a full customs union in a letter this weekend, and with the grumblings of the Brexiteer Tories gathering into a crescendo. The deal is an attempt. on behalf of the various sections of the ruling class, to come closer together - with a ‘soft Brexit’ doing the least harm possible to British capitalism and with business as usual in industry and politics. May has only been able to do this in so far as she has by stealing Labour’s clothes on the issue.
Those sections of the ruling class who signed the letter, or like Jaguar Land Rover have been putting public pressure on for the sort of deal May tried in Chequers, will now be considering the possibility of Labour being a more reliable ally. Therefore, the pressure for a second referendum will increase. Labour’s own right wing will be continuing to push that case, and will use it constantly to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
Those who voted to leave the EU will find that very little has changed in practice. Their vote is always interpreted as anti-immigration, as though it wasn’t about a sense of frustration among millions of working people about the way in which their lives are going. That frustration will continue, as nothing will really change over wages, housing, worsening of job conditions, or the state of the NHS.
Labour should be arguing much more about how we right the wrongs inflicted on working people over the past two or three decades, rather than whether there is a customs union or customs arrangement. It should encompass society’s attitude to privatisation, endless testing of our children, the market being brought into the NHS, how we solve the housing crisis, whether we want to spend an extra £20bn a year on the military.
Whichever way you voted in the referendum, we should recognise that this government neither have the ability nor the concern to deliver on any of these questions. They wanted the referendum to deal with internal Tory problems. It hasn’t - and the rest of us should refuse to pay the price of their divisions.
Jeremy Corbyn should refuse to go along with the charade. He should not accept the machinations of those on Labour's right about a second referendum. He should argue for a public debate on these issues and demand the logical outcome - a general election.
The line of questioning by the egregious John Humphreys on the Today programme on Monday was to dismiss it all and say it is just about one minister going. This is fantasy, but one no doubt beneficial to the Tory government. No one should doubt the seriousness of this crisis for May and Labour should press home its advantage.
A week to remember as Trump comes to town (briefly)
The magnificent Baby Trump inflatable - which is due to fly over Parliament Square during the presidential visit next Friday - has outraged the right-wing press, which is moaning that it is undignified. Not as undignified as denying entry to people from Muslim countries, or separating young children from their parents, or indeed boasting of sexually assaulting women - all of which this president has done.
There will be many tens of thousands out to protest against him throughout his visit, over these and many other issues. It will be a weekday demo and despite that almost certainly the largest demo of the year. The real objection of the right wing is of course not that he appears undignified, because Trump in real life does a pretty good job of that himself, but that they do not like protest full stop and they particularly don’t like protest against the right wing ideas that they hold in common with Trump, even if they express them more diplomatically.
It will be an important set of demonstrations in reinforcing that millions of people in this country reject the values and priorities of Trump and also in reasserting the democratic right to take to the streets against US and other leaders who are influencing our government's policy. In 2003, the mass protest against George Bush included the tearing down of a replica statue of him in Trafalgar Square - and was attacked in the same terms then. Protestors were right to oppose Bush then and to oppose Trump now. They have also already scored some sort of success as Trump is visiting castles and country houses, and will hardly be in London at all. We know how much he dislikes protest, but he is not going to avoid it, whatever his itinerary.
But this isn’t just about Trump, it’s also about our government, whose policies mirror his in so many ways. We too have a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants, a host of racist policies, tough immigration controls, and a pro-business agenda. Britain is also the US's most devoted ally in terms of foreign policy. Trump will be at the NATO summit demanding every member state cuts it domestic budget further in order to spend more to back up US military objectives.
Theresa May also backed Trump's missile attack on Syria earlier this year in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma. This week the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons published its report on the incident, which is rather different from what was claimed at the time. It talks of further investigations but says that while some chlorine has been found it is not necessarily linked to such an attack. How embarrassing for Britain, France and the US, and for the craven MPs who later supported them.
His warmongering is making the world much more dangerous. Demonstrations this week will help fragment the special relationship and strengthen movements against war and racism. It will be a week to remember.
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’.
More articles from this author
- Save lives and jobs: distance yourself from neoliberalism - weekly briefing
- Tory policy: eat, drink, be merry because tomorrow… well you know the rest – weekly briefing
- The battle is on: and the left can’t win in Labour - weekly briefing
- The movement that can dump Trump – weekly briefing
- The good, the bad and the ugly – weekly briefing
- The looming danger of a US-China military confrontation
- Boris Johnson, statues and staying in the streets