No chance of a summer recess for those committed to ending austerity, inequality and warmongering, argues Lindsey German
The coronation of Boris Johnson looks certain this week. The man himself is limbering up by spending his days in the Westminster mansion of a Sky television executive, planning his first hundred days. Everyone else should be planning how to stop him from day 1. Johnson’s prospective list of cabinet sounds horrific enough: Priti Patel as home secretary, Gavin Williamson, Iain Duncan Smith, Sajid Javid – characters from anyone’s worst nightmare.
Johnson has staked all on a firm promise to leave the EU by 31 October, deal or no deal. This endears him to the Tory membership and to the Brexit Party (note how Javid gave a free pass to Nigel Farage over racism last week), but it is going to present him with huge problems once he comes to office. In fact, this week sees multiple crises hitting the new prime minister – what to do about the EU, the Iran tanker, the open revolt among Tory ministers last week to try to stop parliament allowing a no-deal Brexit.
He also has no effective majority in parliament. At present, the Tories have a majority of 4 including the DUP, and that may go down to three after August 1 where the Lib Dems are challenging in the Brecon and Radnor by-election. The party is itself divided, and with Philip Hammond saying that he will resign before being pushed if Johnson is PM, there will not be the constraint on him and other former cabinet members to vote with the government.
If the Tories had any real concern for democracy they would call an election now. Instead, the new prime minister, elected by probably less than 100,000 people, will continue to rule with a minority government. To add insult to injury, the dates of the party election were such that Johnson will spend his first 6 weeks without even parliamentary scrutiny.
It’s time for the anti-Tory opposition to up its game. That means getting on the streets as is happening today and for the rest of the week in London and across the country. It means supporting and trying to extend the various strikes, movements and campaigns going on. But it also means that Labour has to be much more on the offensive both against the Tories and those in their own ranks who would rather see a continuation of Tory government than Jeremy Corbyn in 10 Downing Street.
Labour should not be scared about being seen as left wing. The Tories are unapologetically right wing and are behaving as a cabal trying to force through policies which the majority in this country do not support. They want a closer relationship with Trump and free rein for their big business supporters to continue to worsen working conditions and pay poverty wages. Labour’s policies on nationalisation, increases in public spending and the environment are popular as well as the minimum required to begin to redress the balance of wealth and power in this country.
Nor should the left be pressurised by the right to abandon its policies. The constant attacks on Corbyn, particularly those about antisemitism where no new evidence is produced but we are just told that there needs to be more done, should not stop the left from fighting for its policies or defending Corbyn who has been traduced completely unfairly. Compromise with the likes of Tom Watson has got the left nowhere.
Instead, this should be a summer where we come out fighting. Politics has polarised dramatically in Britain, and there is no long-term answer to poverty, inequality, the housing crisis, working conditions or the environmental crisis which will not entail a radical transformation of society. It is those who fear such a transformation who are the main critics of Corbyn. They include the Labour place women and men in the House of Lords such as Peter Mandelson (intensely relaxed about the rich), who was a signatory to last week’s appalling ad attacking Corbyn in the Guardian. I note that even they have thought better about the no confidence motion they were going to move against the elected (by constituents and members) Corbyn as a bunch of people only in power through patronage.
As the chance of an election in the autumn looks more and more likely, Labour has to stop placating its internal and external critics. It has instead to spell out what it will do to improve the lives of working people – and to work outside parliament to ensure both that their message gets across and that working people begin to realise their own potential to achieve change.
Trump’s tanker wars can only end in tears
The crisis over the British tanker seized by Iran can only be resolved by some honest accounting on the part of the British government. There is only one reason why it was seized: in retaliation for the seizure of the Grace 1 off Gibraltar two weeks ago. That Iranian tanker, filled with oil, was allegedly on its way to Syria. It was captured by Royal Marines - according to the Spanish foreign minister at the behest of the US - accused of breaking EU sanctions on Syria.
This can hardly have been a legal act, since EU sanctions apply to the 28-member states and cannot apply to Iran which is manifestly not a member of the EU. It was an act of piracy which Britain carried out to please John Bolton, Trump's hawkish neocon National Security Adviser, who has long wanted war with Iran. The consequences were all too predictable and now guess what - Iran has retaliated. It did so after supposedly successful negotiations too place in London last week to release the Grace 1, but then a Gibraltar court ruled on Friday to detain her for another month.
Both tankers should of course be released, as should their crews who are being held. But we should recognise that this is bringing us very close to war. Supposed solutions to this situation, including further sanctions on Iran or more military convoys in the Strait of Hormuz, are only likely to make the situation worse.
Britain has ruled out military options for now, in reality because it has few such viable options, but the US is a different matter. It bears responsibility for the last year of rising tensions, following its withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and its imposition of draconian sanctions which are hitting Iranian people very hard. Trump is trying to destroy Iran's economy and oil industry in order to achieve regime change.
Whatever one's views on the Iranian regime, and I oppose it for many reasons, it is up to the Iranian people to decide their government, not Donald Trump, John Bolton or Boris Johnson. These are the people who have supported every war, refused to apologise for Iraq and now want to lay waste to another large part of the Middle East. We cannot allow that to happen.
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
- Tories: the Covid mask slips – weekly briefing
- The trouble with terrorism – weekly briefing
- No Platform: Free speech for all?
- Now it’s neither heat nor eat – weekly briefing
- Sexual violence, economic violence: why women still need our rights – weekly briefing
- Discontents for all seasons – weekly briefing
- The Pandora’s Box of 9/11 – weekly briefing