Rishi Sunak wants to lurch further rightwards after the Tories suffered two devastating defeats in by-elections—and only narrowly avoided a third—last week. And so does Keir Starmer.
Sunak is “preparing to launch a more aggressive political campaign” with “divisive policies on crime, migrant boats and transgender rights”.
The Times newspaper last Saturday reported one of the prime minister’s “allies” saying, “It will mean tough fights, it will mean more political edge.”
That means doubling down on the assault on refugees and migrants.
Only a few days before the by‑elections, the The Bibby Stockholm prison barge arrived in Portland Harbour in Dorset.
Set to house 500 refugees, it is a propaganda tool designed to demonise asylum seekers as a dangerous, criminal “other”.
Sunak is planning another “law and order” crackdown based on lies and scaremongering. They are drawing up a Crime Bill with tougher sentences for anti-social behaviour, fraud, burglary and robbery.
There has been a 35 percent decrease in police reports received about antisocial behaviour since 2012. But whipping up fear about it gives the Tories a scapegoat. It allows the state and police to punish any behaviour they deem unacceptable by criminalising working class people.
On top of a Crime Bill, Sunak plans to announce another crackdown on knife-crime. In the hands of Britain’s racist police forces that will become a license to harass black people.
And, Sunak is going to ramp up the war on trans and non-binary people.
He’s already said he wants to change the Equality Act 2010 in a way that restricts trans women’s access to women-only spaces, such as hospital wards and changing rooms.
The drive to divide and rule comes after the Tories lost by-elections in Selby and Ainsty, and Somerton and Frome—and barely clung on in Uxbridge after a recount—last Thursday.
The defeats reflect a deep-seated anger against the Tories as the cost of living crisis continues to hammer working class people.
For all the fanfare about inflation falling last week, it still persists at 10.7 percent using the most accurate RPI measure.
And, on top of that, come revelations from the Covid inquiry which heard the final witnesses in its first stage last Thursday.
But Labour offers no alternative to the social crisis facing working class people. Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have made clear that they’ll stick to Tory austerity and privatisation.
The best response to the by-election results is to get onto the streets and onto the picket lines and make it a summer of resistance.
Let’s build a bigger fightback against the Tories and all their vile policies, and the bosses and their profit-system.
Keir Starmer pushed through a right wing agenda at the Labour national policy forum over the weekend—and provoked a row with some union leaders.
A spokesperson for the Labour leader said the party’s policy making body had endorsed Starmer’s plans for “no unfunded spending commitments”.
Yet the GMB union hailed “significant advances for working people” at the event.
“It’s time for a general election,” it said, “and Labour is the only Party that is committed to fighting for working people.”
The pull of Labourism—the idea that change comes through electing a Labour government, not workers’ struggles—will likely grow after the by elections.
Unite was less impressed, giving the forum a “thumbs down”. A statement said it “was unable to back the document in full as it clearly crossed the union’s red lines including around workers’ rights in collective bargaining—an area which needs root and branch change”.
It added, “As the general election draws nearer, Keir Starmer has to prove Labour will deliver for workers and we need clear policies on this.”
However, the pressure from all union leaders will be to shut down struggles, not rock the boat—and tell workers to wait for a Labour government.
Unite leaders, for example, backed sticking with Labour at the union’s policy conference this month.
General secretary Sharon Graham said, “It would be the worst time to leave the Labour Party when they are in touching distance of power, if we leave we wouldn’t influence that power.
“This is the moment of maximum leverage for the union where we can hold Labour to account.” So much for that strategy after the policy forum.
Union leaders may kick up a fuss when Labour doesn’t give them enough crumbs, but they remain wedded to Labourism. And that means it will take rank and file challenges against them to capitalise on the Tory crisis, to push for more and harder-hitting strikes.
Join the march on Saturday
Join the protest on 18 December
An example to other workers
The Israeli state kidnaps Palestinians—including children