Boris Johnson keeps getting away with it. He’s been through scandal after scandal, and crisis after crisis, and still sits securely in Downing Street.
The biggest charge that should be laid at Johnson’s feet is the catastrophic toll that coronavirus has taken on ordinary people.
A string of major scandals—the privatised test and trace system, the NHS staffing crisis, ending lockdown too early, to name a few—together make a monumental one.
Britain has consistently had one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world because Johnson’s government keeps putting the interests of business over people’s lives.
And yet the Tories are sitting comfortably in the polls.
Supporters of Labour leader Keir Starmer hope that all Starmer has to do is wait for that to pass, then pick up on anger at Tory failures by presenting himself as a more “competent” leader.
Opinion polls indeed mask anger, and not just at the way the pandemic has been handled.
This anger keeps bursting out. Whether it’s support for NHS workers demanding a pay rise, fury over the refusal to keep providing free school meals, or at the cronyism embodied by Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings.
It builds on deeper anger at the way society has been run—at falling living standards, rising inequality and structural racism.
Johnson picked up on that by making sure he was seen to deliver Brexit, which many people voted for in a kick back at the elite.
Starmer wishes he could do the same simply by wrapping himself in a Union Jack. He’s recently started to talk about how the Tories want to “paper over the cracks”—over the bigger problems caused by years of Tory rule.
But when push comes to shove, he always keeps his distance from any real expression of people’s anger. Starmer talked down the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as a “moment” when its demands became too militant.
In reality, the mass BLM protests in 2020 were the biggest challenge those at the top have faced from ordinary people in years.
BLM hasn’t gone away. But the intensity and persistence of mass demonstrations can’t be kept up indefinitely.
The labour movement should have been inspired to launch an even broader assault on the Tories, with protests and strikes.
But union leaders, similar to Keir Starmer, hold off. They’re sometimes comfortable with localised strikes.
But they don’t talk about trying to tie these battles together, building them into a bigger, more decisive confrontation with the Tories and the bosses.
Now there’s a chance to build a fight over pay in the NHS. But if we want to make sure Johnson doesn’t survive, we have to make it into a fight for every working class person against the Tories.
We also need to intensify the fight against the Tories’ murderous handling of coronavirus and the wider attacks on working class people.