“It is obvious that there should be a general election. The Tory party is not only in chaos, its policies are a disaster for millions of the people.”
By Simon Fletcher
With the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng and his replacement with Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative government is now on its fifth Chancellor of the Exchequer – not since its formation in 2010 but since the 2019 general election. To illustrate the scale of the instability, that is the same number of Tory Chancellors in less than three years as in the entire period of the Thatcher-Major governments.
It is obvious that there should be a general election. The Tory party is not only in chaos, its policies are a disaster for millions of the people.
But as they seek to hang on, there will inevitably be arguments for a caretaker figure who can replace Liz Truss and keep their party in power for as long as possible. Truss sought to stabilise the situation with the sacking of Kwarteng and further changes to her own government’s disastrous mini-budget. Her short press conference did nothing to improve matters.
But from the perspective of the interests of the vast majority of people confronted the cost of living crisis, there is no figure within the party who is on their side. Rishi Sunak for example, whose support base in the Tory party is sometimes presented as a more acceptable face of Conservatism, resigned from Boris Johnson’s cabinet with a message laced with the language of austerity.
“Our country is facing immense challenges. We both want a low-tax, high-growth economy, and world class public services, but this can only be responsibly delivered if we are prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and take difficult decisions.
“I firmly believe the public are ready to hear that truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one.”
During his period at the Treasury the wages crisis continued to deepen. Last year, he cut domestic flight taxes, despite them being hugely more polluting than train journeys. There is no strand of opinion in the parliamentary Conservative party that offers any solution to the wages crisis, climate change, chronic under-investment or any of the other major problems people face.
Whilst the Tory party was lurching around, the situation facing working people was exemplified by two developments affecting the trade union movement.
Members of the Communication Workers Union were told by Royal Mail bosses that they want to make ten thousand redundancies. Blaming industrial action by the workforce, the Royal Mail is openly moving to try to break the union.
On the same day, the National Education Union has announced the results of its indicative ballot of teachers and support staff over pay. The NEU is the largest teaching union in the country.
Turnout for teachers was 62 per cent – with an 86 per cent yes vote for industrial action. For support staff there was a 68 per cent turnout with 78 per cent voting yes. It sends an extremely clear message to the government about the downward pressure on teachers’ pay and the resolve of the workforce. A formal ballot for industrial action will now start on 31st October and closes in January. If the government does not deliver an above-inflation and fully-funded pay rise then a teachers’ strike as soon as January is on the cards.
The wages crisis and the pressure on living standards mean industrial disputes such as these are a key arena in which the consequences of the cost of living crisis are being fought out, even as the Tories’ political crisis unfolds.
It is good to see that Richard Leonard MSP, the former leader of the Scottish Labour Party, has joined the ranks of politicians on TikTok.
Even better to see this snippet posted on his TikTok by Leonard – a few seconds of the Style Council’s Walls Come Tumbling Down in which Paul Weller sings “the class war’s real, not mythologised.” With the Tory party – and employers like the management at Royal Mail – trying to make people on middle and low incomes pay for an economic situation they did not create, he could not have been more right.
- This article was originally published by Simon Fletcher’s Modern Left on October 14th, 2022.
- You can become a subscriber of Modern Left to receive exclusive content and support the platform here.
- You can follow Simon Fletcher on twitter here.