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Boris Johnson scratching his head, 2017. Photo: Chatham House

Boris Johnson scratching his head, 2017. Photo: Chatham House

Getting rid of the Tories is the primary task of the left, but to achieve this we must build on the momentum that a Boris Johnson premiership will create

Who could possibly think Boris as Prime Minister is a good idea? He is a millionaire by birth with a terrible track record in office, a serial liar and an open racist. 

He is remembered as Mayor of London only for failed vanity projects and as Foreign Secretary for a series of gaffes. Backers say he speaks his mind but really he is an opportunist, most obviously over Brexit. He took the decision to back leave only on the basis of what would be best for his career. For all his ‘fuck business’ bombast he enthusiastically backs the free market, privatising policies that have brought this country to its knees. 

This is only happening because of the votes of some tens of thousands of Tory Party members. They are overwhelmingly wealthy white men. The fact that this tiny privileged minority decides who is prime minister is a joke. But unless we do something about it the joke will be on us. Despite the fact that the rich have got unimaginably richer over the last few decades Johnson is calling for tax cuts for the wealthy. He says he wants further ‘reform’ in the NHS. And of course he has no plans to deal with the endless list of social problems we face from the homeless crisis to the desperate state of our social care, our schools and our benefit system.

Abroad he stands for more wars and an ever closer relationship with Donald Trump. Like Donald Trump he is a bigot, abusing Muslim women, calling black people picaninnies, insulting the LGBT community and generally happy to whip up hatred in order to divide working people. 

But Boris is vulnerable. The Tory Party in parliament is divided over Brexit. Its membership is dwindling. Its austerity policies are wildly unpopular and Boris himself has no democratic mandate. A serious push for a general election could be unstoppable.  

It is regrettable that in these circumstances, Labour is bogged down in internal rows. Led by Tom Watson, Labour’s right has been doing everything possible to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. With strong support from the media they have relentlessly pushed the fairy tale that Corbyn’s Labour is antisemitic. With backing from the business-funded People’s Vote campaign they have demanded Corbyn stop trying to unite people over Brexit. They want Labour to become an out-and-out Remain party.  

This is undemocratic and potentially disastrous. Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto produced the biggest surge for Labour in decades because it promised to respect the referendum result and push for a Brexit that benefited working people. On that basis he built a radical alliance of people on both sides of the Brexit divide.

Unfortunately the left haven’t defended this position and the Corbyn leadership has retreated over calls for a second referendum. This has strengthened Corbyn’s many enemies in the Parliamentary Labour Party and inevitably angered many who voted leave. It has played into the hands of the Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage who can now paint Labour as a party that disrespects democracy and wants to overturn a popular vote. It was an unnecessary concession pushed by people who hold the simplistic view that Brexit would be a disaster and that most who voted for it are right wing. It misses the point that the last few decades have been a time of real economic suffering for the majority and it risks making Labour appear as a defender of the status quo.

We have to push for a general election, build a mass movement against Boris Johnson’s Tories and fight for the most radical possible programme for Labour. We must understand that millions of people are desperate for real change and that the left can only be successful if it is militant and looks like it is prepared to take on the establishment.

But it is quite clear from the forces ranged against Corbyn, and from the concessions that he has made, that it isn’t enough just to be working for a Labour government. We need to be strengthening every form of working class resistance. We have to building the unions, supporting every strike, backing every protest. In particular we need to work towards the biggest possible demonstration at the Tory Party conference on 29 September. 

For this we need a strong extra parliamentary left. We need networks of socialists in every locality who can help push Labour forward but who can also shape the wider resistance that we need. This is the kind of left that we are trying to build. Join us in Counterfire and help make it happen. 

 

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