It’s been a bad few weeks for the Tories. First their budget was attacked for lining the pockets of their rich friends while fleecing pensioners.
Then a VAT change in the budget’s small print grabbed the front pages for days—and went right to the heart of bitterness against the government.
We were treated to the pitiful sight of politicians falling over themselves to demonstrate their love of pasties that would now cost 20 percent more.
The pasty affair showed how far most MPs lives are from those of ordinary people. Posh dinners with millionaire backers are more their kind of thing.
This disconnect was confirmed by cabinet office minister Francis Maude days later. He urged people to fill jerrycans in their garages with petrol to defy a threatened tanker drivers’ strike.
Maude clearly couldn’t imagine that there are millions of drivers who have never seen a jerrycan, let alone own a garage.
The Tories thought they could use the prospect of a strike to smear Labour by association with Unite, one of its union backers.
A memo from Tory MPs went out to local constituencies saying the strike could be “our Thatcher moment”, comparing it to Margaret Thatcher stockpiling of coal before the miners’ strike.
But calling on people to top up their tanks led to petrol shortages across Britain. One woman was critically injured after a fire when she was siphoning petrol in her kitchen.
The government is constantly being buffeted by crises and scandals big and small. The Tories saw their poll ratings plummet.
What is missing is a sustained and militant opposition—both inside and outside parliament.
Labour has shown itself completely unable and unwilling to put up a fight. This is one reason why Respect’s George Galloway won such a stunning victory in last week’s Bradford West by-election (see page 16).
But what about outside parliament? Imagine if there had been a mass national strike of public sector workers on 28 March against the background of Tory troubles.
This would have deepened the government’s crisis.
It was brilliant that teachers and lecturers struck in London. But we will need more, bigger action to stop the attacks.
The Tories can ride out this media storm and others. But—as their panic over petrol shows—what they are really scared of is workers going on strike. The need to get national action back on is urgent.