Covid has brought out the worst in the Tories, but we can stop them – Richard Burgon MP


Tax hikes on working people while the super rich are let off the hook. Huge spikes in energy prices, while private companies make super-profits… They want the vast majority of people to shoulder the costs of this crisis. But we can stop them. 

By Richard Burgon MP.

When Covid hit two years ago, we saw the best in people. People working together against a dangerous threat to health. Hundreds of thousands volunteering to help our NHS. Communities helping to protect the most vulnerable – delivering food and prescriptions to their neighbours.

Contrast that with how the Tories have exploited this crisis. Corrupt contracts lining the pockets of their rich mates. Using it as cover to further privatise our NHS – with Test and Trace showing what they want to do to the whole NHS. Breaking the rules because they think they are better than everybody else and the rules only apply to the “little people”.

This should have been a moment to build a better society. Instead, the naked class politics of the Tories have been clear for all to see. And as the Tories ridiculously claim that the pandemic is over – because they care more about profit than people – they are preparing another offensive against the majority of people.

Tax hikes on working people while the super rich are let off the hook. Huge spikes in energy prices – while private companies make super-profits. Food poverty soaring. Wage cuts for millions as inflation soars. They want the vast majority of people to shoulder the costs of this crisis. But we can stop them. 

The Tories know their agenda is going to be very unpopular – and that is why they are clamping down on civil liberties and freedoms because they want to limit the opposition to their policies. That is why they are making it harder to go on strike and attacking trade unions. That is why they are making it harder to vote – with measures targeting black communities, the marginalised and wider working class communities. That is why they are trying to make it harder to protest -with their reactionary policing bill

They don’t just want to make it harder to oppose them – they also want to try and distract blame for their failures. That’s why they are whipping up racism against refugees fleeing war and famine. That is why they are pushing forward with their racist Nationality and Borders Bill. And as sure as night follows day we will get them trying to turn private sector workers against public sector workers. We will see them further scapegoating disabled people and unemployed people as lazy.

When they intend to attack the 99%, then divide and rule is all they have. Against Tory division we need to build solidarity. Against Tory division we need to build unity. We need to fight every single attack on our communities. And we need to unite our struggles and support each other’s our struggles 

Boris Johnson has told one lie too many – he will be gone soon enough. But we don’t just want to get rid of Boris Johnson and then let the Tory MPs and Tory members choose the next PM. No – we don’t just don’t want rid of Boris Johnson – we want the whole lot of them out and we want to replace them with a better society.

One that is fair, that is inclusive, that gives everyone dignity and respect. With a £15 minimum wage to end poverty pay. With a Green New Deal that delivers climate justice and creates millions of skilled unionised jobs. With the NHS restored as a full public service. With an end to fire and rehire and to zero hour contracts. With millions of new well-insulated council homes. With a social security system that ensures a dignified minimum income guarantee and doesn’t treat disabled people like dirt. With a right to food. With a National Care Service so people are treated with dignity in their old age. With Wealth Taxes on the super-rich – not cuts to our key services

But we know that we will only build such a society if we fight this government in every community – against every attack. There is much to be disillusioned with in politics at the moment – but the increasing fightback from the trade unions is a big step forward. And over the past 18 months or so we have seen big protest movements on climate change, against racial injustice and addressing women’s safety.

We need to build on that grassroots fightback. I know that feels exhausting and difficult at times. But let me tell you an example this week that I think can show why you have to keep going.

13 years ago there was a US-backed coup in the small Central American government of Honduras against a new left-wing government.  President Manuel Zelaya was marched off in his pyjamas in the middle of the night – by the military – a coup backed by the United States government. But the people of Honduras didn’t give up. They fought back.

Against widespread human rights abuses. Against torture. Against blatant electoral cheating. Against huge corruption. They didn’t give up and this week Xiomara Castro – a leader of the resistance movement against that coup – was inaugurated as President of that country.

So even though the odds are often against you, when you keep going and keep fighting then you can win.  So let’s go forward knowing that tens of millions of people are opposed to this government. Knowing that millions of people are having their eyes opened to the way our ruling elite works to protect itself. Knowing that poll after poll shows that people want a better society. And knowing that when we struggle and we are united there is no power on earth that can stop us.

  • This article is a published version of Richard Burgon MP’s speech given at the #JohnsonOut rally on January 29th – you can watch it in full here.
  • Richard Burgon is the MP for Leeds East and the Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram and twitter.
Richard Burgon at the Great Ormand Street Hospital strike. February 3rd, 2021. Featured Image credit: Richard Burgon MP.

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