Socialist Worker

Tories are on the rocks, so why does Starmer steer Labour rightwards?

Issue No. 2782

Boris Johnson did not seize the time

Boris Johnson did not seize the time (Pic: Number 10 on Flickr)

Boris Johnson made a pig’s ear of a speech to a room full of top bosses at their CBI organisation’s annual conference on Monday. But what once might have been treated as one of his trademark gaffes is now an outward sign that his leadership is stuck in the mud.

After losing his place in a mess of papers, Johnson rambled about his visit to Peppa Pig World.

Even his own people think the wheels are coming off. One “Downing Street source” said there was “a lot of concern inside the building about the PM. It’s just not working.”

Meanwhile, Tory MPs made threats about a possible vote of no confidence in his leadership.

The CBI matters to the Tories—they are meant to be the party of the bosses. Yet for a Tory prime minister, Johnson has never been totally aligned with what the CBI wants.

While he championed Brexit, the CBI wanted Britain to remain in the European Union because it thought leaving would hit bosses’ profits.

Johnson’s reply in 2018 was “fuck business.” Instead, he posed as being on the side of ordinary people who voted for Brexit in a kick at the establishment.

But now there are signs that this is breaking down.


A string of corruption scandals exposed how Tory politicians used the pandemic to enrich themselves and their mates. At the same time, they are bearing down on living standards.

A significant number of Tory MPs rebelled against plans to make poorer people pay more for social care. They worried it would cost them support in future elections.

Yet the Labour Party was almost silent. Labour leader Keir Starmer is too keen to win the backing of bosses to attack Johnson over poverty and hardship.

“Labour is back in business,” he told the CBI. “The dual meaning is entirely deliberate,” he added, just in case anyone didn’t get the joke.

Less than a six percent rise means a pay cut
Less than a six percent rise means a pay cut
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“I can promise you that the only F words I will be using are foreign investment, fair trade, fiscal policy and fiduciary duty.”

Instead, Labour chose this week to attack the Tories for not being nasty enough to refugees crossing the Channel. The party hopes disgraceful rhetoric about “broken promises” to halt refugee crossings will help to win support of ordinary people.

The only people it will help are the racist right. Labour tries to cover its scapegoating with fake progressive language about wanting to save refugees from dangerous crossings.

But Tory “rebels” and forces even further to their right can be full throated in their racism—all while pretending to side with ordinary people over living standards too. That makes it ever more important to build movements against racism, and workplace struggles to fight back over pay.

Without a challenge, Johnson could survive or be replaced by someone even worse. Then we’d all be in the shit.

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