“It is not wrong to criticise the behaviour of a man like Johnson, but you cannot build a whole strategy on that critique. If you do then you risk being left bereft of an argument if the PM is suddenly changed.”Jon Trickett MP
By Jon Trickett MP
The Boris Johnson circus has preoccupied much of the Westminster village in recent times.
And it certainly was a circus with an assorted menagerie of clowns, high wire performers, ghouls and fools. There can be no doubt that the key figure in this whole show was the Prime Minister himself. His personality made him uniquely unsuited to the job of leading the country.
It is good that he is going (assuming he doesn’t find a circuitous route to stay in office for an indeterminate length of time). He is a man – like Baldrick – who always has a cunning plan.
The British Establishment has many such characters. They learn in their privileged private schools to have little honour, no attention to detail and no sense of shame. They believe they were born to rule and that no one will hold them to account. Read any of the books by the late great John Le Carre and you will encounter such defective personalities on almost every page.
But the Prime Minister is now in the departure lounge and it is likely that he will soon be replaced. This poses a challenge for the Labour Party.
Let’s be honest. A large part of Labour’s critique of the Johnson government in recent years has focused on the personal defects of the PM himself. There was of course much to criticise. But on the assumption that the Tories elect a leader with a very different personal character, then much of our critique immediately falls flat.
What is needed is a critique of the Tories based on a rejection of their values, their economic world view and their policies. If we had done more to frame our argument about the past, present and future of our country and to contrast our vision with that of the Conservative Party, we would certainly be in a very strong position to sustain an opinion poll lead beyond the change in leadership of the government.
We should be clear that alternative ways of organising our society are possible and are being articulated, but it has often been voices on the left of the labour movement who have expressed that vision. Our policies have often been shown to be very popular when tested in opinion polling, and we can be confident that proposals to move beyond what they call “free market capitalism” once and for all would provide a contrasting framework to the views of whichever Tory becomes the new Prime Minister.
Thoughts on the Left such as taking the monopolies into public ownership, price controls and support for workers in struggle are all resonating in the minds of millions. Labour must provide the solutions to the big issues facing families up and down our country – from the soaring cost of living to the difficulties in accessing our depleted public services. In a time of political and economic crisis, the so-called ‘centre ground’ is thrown into flux. If Labour is left defending the old status quo, we will be left behind.
It is not wrong to criticise the behaviour of a man like Johnson, but you cannot build a whole strategy on that critique. If you do then you risk being left bereft of an argument if the PM is suddenly changed.
The socialists in our movement have been, and we should continue to, critiquing Toryism itself and to argue for a new way of organising our society. That is the best way to build an opposition that is ready to take office whenever the election finally arrives.