It’s not a new phenomenon that the Tories are lurching from crisis to crisis. But the government’s latest debacles over key elements of their coronavirus strategy has left them weak.
Earlier in January, Boris Johnson’s government worked up a head of steam denying that schools were dangerous, and claiming they would remain open.
Key ministers were rolled out to defend sending children back into classrooms. Just hours later, a new lockdown was announced, including that schools would be shut to most students.
A week later, pictures of dire free school meals provided under the Tories’ privatised system filled social media.
The Tories were forced to say that parents would receive vouchers to buy food instead.
Fury has built up about the level of callousness the government has shown towards people’s lives.
And now there is Universal Credit (UC). The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) wants to steal a £20 a week payment from UC claimants.
The £20 a week addition to the usual extreme poverty rate was added at the start of the pandemic but is due to run out in April.
That £20 a week represents 13 percent of an average recipient’s UC money, or as high as 21 percent for some.
Cutting it is a disgusting attack on the same people who rely on free school meals and those who have turned out during a pandemic to perform low paid and critically important jobs.
In a non-binding Commons vote on Monday, Boris Johnson told his MPs to abstain on a Labour motion to keep the £20 payment.
The £6 billion it would cost the DWP is small change for this government. After all, it has stuffed billions into the pockets of big business. The Tories resent every penny given to what they regard as the wrong sort of people—those who live outside the gilded elite.
But they fear a repeat of the avalanche of anger that will come if they continue with the cut.
They are now considering various—wholly inadequate—alternatives to just pushing it through.
It’s a familiar cycle of attack, outrage, crisis, partial retreat and then new attacks.
This weak but lethal government is ripe for removal. The most far-reaching retreats have come when workers take action, as education workers did to stop an unsafe return to schools.
We need far more action of that sort.
But as he drives the party rightwards, he doesn’t have a vision of a different sort of society where ordinary people come before big business.
We have to build on the anger among working class people and turn it into action that can throw back and drive out the Tories.