“Nothing we have heard so far will do anything to tackle the poverty, insecurity & grotesque levels of inequality that scar our society.”John McDonnell MP
Although the Spending Review this week should all be about laying the foundations for our economy as we come through the pandemic crisis and have to face up rapidly to the onset of the climate change crisis the reality is that it will have much more to do with the internal Tory party manoeuvring that is taking place around the possible removal of Johnson.
Johnson has been exposed to even some of his most loyal supporters in the local Conservative Associations as simply not up to the job of being Prime Minister.
It isn’t just the incompetence that Johnson’s administration has displayed over Covid. It is the public embarrassment of the petty personal rows in Number 10, the excruciating behaviour of Johnson appointed senior ministers like Jenrick, Patel and Sharma and the sleaze and corruption being exposed over the award of contracts.
For the first time Johnson is experiencing a media that is less than its usual supplicant, adoring self with him.
Sunak has been sniffing this opportunity from about a month after he was appointed. He has run a separate public relations operation promoting himself as the competent, genial, natural replacement for Johnson.
Although in his personal manner and decision making ability he is more Mr Bean than superman, the main stream media have given Sunak possibly the easiest ride since the toughest question asked by BBC interviewers to post war ministers was “Is there anything more you would like to tell a grateful nation Minister?”
Therefore, the Spending Review will be more about Sunak positioning himself to succeed Johnson that the economic strategy our country needs.
Tory MPs are getting edgy, especially the newly elected MPs in seats that they never expected to win and in seats with small majorities. They are worried that although the election is potentially 3 to 4 years off, it doesn’t take much for disillusionment to set in within a constituency that becomes hard to turn round. The national polls still give the Tories a lead or a small margin behind Labour but these Tory MPs know that this is largely because of the disarray in Labour ranks and the lack of a clear alternative being promoted.
In this context we can expect Sunak to play safe in the Spending Review announcing exaggerated spending claims and denying any return to austerity that he knows after a decade of austerity people have had enough of. Sunak, pathetically very obviously, often uses the old Treasury tactic of floating an idea that may be unpopular like this weekend’s story about a public sector pay freeze and then either dropping or softening it.
Sunak’s briefings so far have tried to combine dire warnings about government borrowing whilst announcing investment and spending. Although the Tories have stolen the headlines of Labour’s 2019 and 2017 Manifestos on a green industrial revolution, a National Investment Bank, rewriting the Treasury’s Green Book and relocating parts of the Treasury to the north, it is all Sunak spin.
Neither the scale of investment or its direction and urgency meet what is needed to address the existential threat of climate change. Nothing we have heard so far will do anything to tackle the poverty, insecurity and grotesque levels of inequality that scar our society.
Labour’s role is to advocate an alternative capable of ready implementation. I have laid out in Claim the Future’s recent publication what that alternative could be.
- See https://claimthefuture.today/
- The John McDonnell ‘Claim the Future’ column is one of a number of regular columns from Campaign Group MPs for ‘Labour Outlook,’ alongside Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Kate Osborne and Jon Trickett.
- Join John McDonnell & others on 25th November at 7pm for the Labour Assembly Against Austerity’s event For a #PeoplesPlan to Protect Jobs & Livelihoods – register here.