Lindsey German on the nasty party and media blindspots that benefit the ruling class
There is a mantra, second only to ‘get Brexit done’, repeated endlessly by Boris Johnson: that his is a ‘one nation Toryism’. The idea that Johnson equals a kinder gentler Toryism representing the whole of society would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical. Only this week we have seen him highlight his points-based system of immigration, playing the race card in the final few days of an election. An election where Tory Islamophobia and racism has been much less talked about than it should have been.
Then we had the spectacle of Johnson taking the phone from a journalist who was trying to make him look at a picture of the four year old child lying on the floor in A&E in Leeds, which has shocked even the mainstream media who are normally so deferential. I notice that Johnson and co have dropped reference to the terrorist incident in London Bridge following the brave intervention of victim Jack Merritt’s father David, where he accused the Tories of using the tragedy for political gain.
Those who have regarded themselves as ‘one nation’ more liberal Tories have been brutally excluded from the party and therefore from office by Johnson. Former prime minister John Major, and the scourge of the miners, Michael Heseltine, have both called for votes against Johnson, and a number of former ministers like Dominic Grieve and David Gauke are standing as independents against the party. Others like Amber Rudd and former chancellor Philip Hammond have been forced out.
Johnson himself may be a sociopathic liar but the issue is rather deeper than that. He has succeeded in eating up the Brexit Party vote and this is one reason why the Tory poll figures are hanging on at over 40%. They are also winning over some Labour voters on the basis of Brexit getting done. There have always been working class voters switching from Labour to Tory, but this time the Tories are relying on the Brexit issue being enough to boost that number. However, they know that in strong working class areas there is an aversion to many Tory policies - most obviously over the NHS, but also on a range of issues where majority opinion is at odds with the Tories - public ownership, solving the housing crisis, decent jobs.
So Johnson has to big up the idea that we’re all in it together, and that the Tories care about the NHS and all the other issues that the working class people they want to vote for them care about. That has always been one of their weakest cards and yesterday it showed. It took one look at Johnson’s face to show see his lack of humanity shining through. I hope it will help to turn some Labour voters away from their false friends who play on their fears and promise anything to get their votes.
No wonder the Tories fear any scrutiny of Johnson and his policies. He has refused debates, avoided crowds, fled from handfuls of demonstrators - and that is while he has the vast bulk of the print and broadcast media doing him as many favours as possible.
They are right to be fearful. While the polls still show a Tory majority, this election is so volatile, with so many still undecided, that they cannot be sure of anything. And they know that they have presided over nine years of austerity and misery, that there is growing inequality and that their party overall is deeply unrepresentative of British society, let alone the working class. It is representative of the richest and most powerful.
So the outcome of the election is by no means certain - and beyond that, there is not the nirvana of a rapid Brexit followed by increasing prosperity. Instead, the prospects of a recession loom, and with them growing discontent among precisely those who thought Johnson was a solution. The truth is that neither the Tory party or its leader are fit for purpose in handling the long term crisis of British capitalism. Huge problems for the ruling class lie ahead whatever the election result.
Don’t look now... Jeremy Corbyn is popular
Meanwhile, yesterday Jeremy Corbyn held a huge rally in Bristol on a Monday lunchtime, with thousands of people attending. This has been largely unreported even though he is the only politician able to attract anything like these numbers and even though pictures of Johnson and Swinson are small orchestrated events of the faithful. This is a political story in itself, as are the huge numbers out canvassing for Labour around the country. But hey, that would require some honesty, integrity and a modicum of investigative journalism from the media pack - and that is rare as hen’s teeth.
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
- Born to rule over us? – weekly briefing
- Lip service to the left, but moves to the right - weekly briefing
- Do not be fooled: Trump is the problem
- Soleimani assassination is an act of war
- Past mistakes, future opportunities - weekly briefing
- What we should take from the election and what we do next
- Where do we go from here? – election briefing 13 December