“This is not the consequence of any cartoonish buffoonery from Boris Johnson but the culmination of a decade of downgrading our NHS to justify bringing in the private sector.”Sean Waters
By Sean Waters, Sussex University Labour Club.
Looking at some media coverage and political commentary, you could be deceived into thinking the deep health and economic crises facing Britain have been brought on by a series of avoidable blunders.
As Keir Starmer has put it, Britain has been “slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment”. Yet whilst I would not entirely disagree with Sir Keir’s claim that “The Tories’ incompetence is holding Britain back,” socialists must make the case that the competence with which neoliberalism is implemented is not our primary concern.
Covid-19 pushing our failing public services to breaking point – and being slow on lockdown, testing and PPE – has more to do with the Tories being experienced purveyors of misery than lack of acumen. For instance, in testing, the decision to “create new, privatised labs rather than expand existing systems” led to lives being lost. This is not the consequence of any cartoonish buffoonery from Boris Johnson but the culmination of a decade of downgrading our NHS to justify bringing in the private sector. This toxic ideology facilitated its self-fulfilling prophecy at our expense, leading to excess deaths. We know this to be the case because we see it across the public sector.
The pandemic has further demonstrated the inability of private contractors to run the railways – needing government support of £6.5 billion this year alone. Although, I could be accused of understating the undeniable ability of Tory’s to fail in most anything they attempt. I would argue that the more likely explanation for such consistent ineptitude is the economic framework through which they operate is inherently incapable of providing for the 99%. I am not particularly interested therefore, in whether Starmer would have presided over fewer public blunders; but if he is concerned with tackling underlying economic issues.
Moreover, this personalised mode of attack is strategically flawed. With ever more rumours of disgruntled backbenchers and polling suggesting that Tory members would vote for Rishi Sunak if it came to a contest between him and Boris. It is obvious to me that Labour should focus their attention on the economic model institutionally wedded to the Conservative Party. Through concentrating on the idiocy of Johnson as an individual, Starmer is leaving Labour vulnerable to a change of Prime Minister rendering the attack lines of the past year redundant. The left has to be abundantly clear in our messaging that a commitment to market forces is fundamentally wrong; whoever the perpetrator may be.
Class conscious socialists must expose attempts to utilise Covid-19 as a smokescreen for further degradation and privatisation of our public services. Starmer’s false dichotomy serves only to pacify those who want a fundamental change in our economy and should be encouraged by each government U-Turn and motivated by news that only “6% of UK public ‘want a return to pre-pandemic economy”. This represents the genesis of a recognition that to deal with crises of this scale you need control over swathes of the economy that just aren’t a part of the capitalist playbook.
We can – and must – confidently make the case that socialist ideas represent the antidote to the dilapidation of the mechanisms of state and will facilitate a recovery that does not stop at business as usual but improve healthcare, social care and education, giving working class communities the services, they deserve.
The conditions engendered by Covid-19 give weight to existing calls for radical change. Now is the time to champion a Green Industrial Revolution as outlined in our 2019 manifesto, to invest in communities across the United Kingdom and create one million jobs.
Britain can bounce back from Covid-19 but this cannot be done through tax cuts for the rich or ‘cutting red tape”. We must centre the principle of universality to ensure victories are felt by the working class in all its diversity. This means taxpayers money going to the services they need, rather than into the pockets of billionaires with the deceitful promise of a trickle down.
Socialists must rally around the #PeoplesPlan which is a blueprint for how to radically alter the balance of power in Britain & put public good before private profit. The Peoples Plan has been signed by over 15,000 Labour members including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.
The left should not get dragged into engaging with politics as a soap opera, starring oafish villains and a forensic hero. We need concise messaging that diagnoses the root of the problems ordinary people are facing. A refusal to do so plays into the Tories hands, making political discourse a game of culture wars and respectability pageantry.
Let us be clear – when it comes to the economic recovery the left holds all the cards, only our ideas come close to the scale of action needed and therein is where our focus ought to lie.
- To show your support for the #PeoplesPlan add your name at https://bit.ly/planforthepeople