Boris Johnson has resigned—now let’s get the rest. His departure as Tory leader should be a spur for everyone who wants to drive out the Tories to mobilise opposition on the picket lines and streets.
Johnson officially resigned at lunchtime, but said he “will serve until a new leader is in place”. He should go now.
The Tory prime minister was forced to quit after a series of resignations from senior ministers. They feared the growing anger against the Johnson government—over partygate, the constant lies, cover-ups and corruption and the deepening cost of living crisis.
First went chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday night, saying, “We cannot continue like this”. Solicitor general Alex Chalk quit shortly afterwards and Robin Walker resigned as schools minister the following morning. So did children’s minister Will Quince—who just days ago defended Johnson over the Pincher harassment scandal on news shows.
By Wednesday evening, a stream of cabinet ministers went to Downing Street trying to convince Johnson to quit. Johnson tried to desperately cling on, sacking Michael Gove from his cabinet.
Whoever follows him will prepare more attacks on working class people’s living standards—and rely on racism against refugees and migrants. But the Tories are preparing for a vicious war of succession—and we have to seize on the opportunity of a weak and divided party.
The right wing Spectator columnist Katy Balls writes, “Anyone thinking the end of Johnson will spell a more harmonious period for the Conservative Party is likely mistaken. If he goes, the leadership contest that follows will be vicious, and the task the victor will face of trying to lead the parliamentary party daunting.”
Getting rid of Johnson won’t spell an end to the Tories’ troubles. Whoever succeeds Johnson will find it hard to regroup the coalition that brought him to office in the 2019 general election.
It included the vast bulk of big business—naturally on the side of the Tories and fearful of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party winning. He also appealed to sections of working class people, who were angry at the way politicians wanted to trample on their votes to leave the European Union (EU). His fake “anti-establishment” rhetoric attacked unelected judges and business, allowing him to pose as an insurgent outsider.
This frayed as the slew of partygate revelations over Christmas spurred anger among ordinary people.
Downing Street launched “Operation Save Big Dog”—throwing staffers under the bus in an attempt to deflect blame from Johnson. At the same time “Operation Red Meat”—announcing a series of nasty, right wing policies—was supposed to shore up support for Johnson among the Tory base.
But the stench from Downing Street’s vomit-stained rooms kept coming, and he slumped in the polls after the Sue Grey report in May. While people couldn’t see their dying relatives in the pandemic, Downing Street partied.
In June Johnson only narrowly survived a vote of no confidence among his own MPs They were always been prepared to make excuses for social murder during the pandemic, corrupt contracts and partygate so long as they kept winning elections under his leadership.
The Tories suffered two shattering by-election defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton. Wakefield was a “Red Wall” seat won in 2019, held up as a symbol of working class support for Johnson’s Tories.
Johnson’s successor will be without a mandate, and be unable to capitalise on the same “anti-establishment” rhetoric as much.
They can hope the rely on the “Red Meat” strategy, building on home secretary Priti Patel’s racist and authoritarian policies. Her promise to crack down on “lefty lawyers” blocking the Rwanda deportation flight was an attempt to conjure up elites once again thwarting the will of the “British people”.
That can work—and must be resisted. But the Tories are presiding over one of the biggest social emergencies as prices soar and the value of wages and benefits plummet. They also face a potential resurgence in class struggle after the rail workers’ strikes—which were immensely popular among working class people.
One cabinet minister told the bosses’ Financial Times newspaper recently that the government is “walking a tightrope” of keeping pay down without risking multiple strikes. “If we get this wrong, we risk going into a de facto general strike that will create further turmoil that risks grinding the whole economy to a halt,” they said.
It’s everyone’s job to make the Tory fears a reality.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said, “We don’t need to change the Tory at the top—we need a proper change of government.”
We need to drive out all the Tories. Yet Starmer has failed to oppose Johnson throughout his crimes. Like previous Labour leaders, his mission is to present himself as a more responsible pair of hands that won’t take on big business. This has meant only the mildest criticism of Johnson’s incompetence, dumping left wing policies, and waging a successful war against the Labour left. And the Labour Party offers no real alternative to the social emergency facing working class people.
But whenever a general election nears, the pressure is on union leaders to throw all their energies behind the Labour Party and shut down workers’ action. They buy into “Labourism”, the idea that what happens in parliament is most important to winning changes rather than working class struggles.
It means not doing anything that could embarrass the Labour leadership’s efforts to appear as “responsible” and “respectable” in an election campaign—such as strikes demanding inflation-busting pay rises.
But it would be disastrous to throw away the return of class struggle that we saw with the rail workers’ strikes last month. Rather than pinning their hopes on a new government, everyone needs to massively step up the level of resistance. We need to get onto the streets, hound Johnson until he leaves Downing Street—and do the same to his successors.
The RMT rail union leadership should call a programme of strikes. Other union leaders should mount a massive fight over pay—and every activist has to fight to spread the battle to their own workplace.
Johnson’s going, the Tory party is in civil war, the bosses fear workers’ anger—now is the time to strike out the lot. Let’s raise hell against the Tories, all their vile policies and the bosses.
Keep up pressure on the streets
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