Socialist Worker

Labour lets Tories cling on by failing to back an election

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2671

Protesters in Sheffield on Saturday

Protesters in Sheffield on Saturday (Pic: Neil Terry)

We should now be ­campaigning in a general election to get Boris Johnson and the Tories out.

But on Monday Labour, the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru and the Independent Group—ridiculously dubbed the “rebel alliance”—refused to back an election.

It was the second time they had rejected such an opportunity.

They have also ruled out moving a motion of no confidence in Johnson, which could have triggered an election later in October.

The Tories are in ever deeper crisis. On Monday Boris Johnson suffered his fifth and sixth major defeats in six days. 

MPs voted to hand over private messages sent by senior aides plotting the prorogation of parliament and secret papers detailing preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Last weekend Amber Rudd resigned as work and pensions secretary and quit as a Conservative MP. Two days earlier Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson, had also quit as a minister and Tory MP.

But still Labour does not want an election. A motion to hold an election did not reach the required two-thirds majority.

Johnson then prorogued parliament for five weeks to avoid further scrutiny.

In parliament last week—as the measure to stop a no-deal Brexit was passed—Jeremy Corbyn said, “Let this bill pass and gain royal assent, and then we will back an election so we do not crash out of the European Union with a no-deal exit.”

But within days he had accepted the arguments from the Labour right about not agreeing an election until after no-deal has been ruled out entirely.

Labour has prioritised halting Brexit over the chance to drive out the Tories.


Those who want action over austerity and racism, and many other issues have been told they should wait for months more.

Labour has also shown a lack of confidence in its own policies. Socialist Worker thinks Labour can win an election. If the Labour Party agrees then it should not fear a poll at any time.

This is more than a divergence of tactics.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, said last week, “We need to make sure that we get an extension to Article 50.

“We have an opportunity to bring down Boris and to bring down Brexit.”

Note that she said “bring down Brexit”.

The pro-business politicians who have always wanted to reverse the 2016 referendum now sniff their opportunity.


Continuing an unprincipled alliance with Labour at the heart of it can seem very attractive to the Labour right, the Lib Dems and others.

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry said at a rally last Saturday that recent days had shown “what politics could and should be”.

This is the “national unity government” argument in a new form. And it is directed against Jeremy Corbyn as well as against Brexit.

The Financial Times newspaper—which is virulently against no-deal—added last week that a Corbyn government would threaten “to undo much of the Thatcherite revolution of the 1980s”.

Margaret Thatcher’s policies, it declared, “while often brutal, led to a necessary shift in the balance of power between labour and capital”.

It wants a caretaker government led by someone other than Corbyn.

Very soon the argument will emerge that another possibility of a no-deal Brexit is coming on 31 January and that it would be wrong to have an election before that.

Instead of the fakery of “national unity” we need class politics.

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