Over 1,000 people joined a rally called by the Labour Party outside parliament on Thursday evening demanding a general election.
The rally came after Boris Johnson became Tory prime minister, then filled his cabinet with figures from the very right of the party. It was the third central London rally against Johnson in a week.
Dee, a Labour Party supporter, told Socialist Worker she came to the rally because “Boris Johnson doesn’t represent the plurality that there is in this country”. “All he’ll be doing is looking after big business,” she said.
“He won’t do anything to help the NHS, he won’t do anything about homelessness. There’ll just be more division. I’m scared.”
Speakers talked about what a Labour government would do once elected. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated promises such as ending outsourcing in the NHS and raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour.
The main message was to wait for a general election and get ready to campaign for Labour.
Corbyn said that to get a Labour government, “we have to campaign.”
He said, “Some of the media are not particularly keen on the Labour message getting through.” And he said that the answer was to encourage people to register to vote, and to “mobilise the strength and excitement, optimism and vitality of our people”.
Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler said Johnson “mobilises those at the top, the rich, the elite. But we mobilise you, from the bottom.”
“There will be a general election, and with your help, your tenacity, we will win,” she said.
Shadow justice minister Richard Burgon told the crowd, “It’s you that frightens Boris Johnson.” And shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said, “The next time we see each other, Jeremy Corbyn will be in Number 10.”
But nobody suggested what Labour, or ordinary people, could do to force a general election to happen.
There was the launch of a “pledge card” highlighting some of Labour’s policies and a hint that Labour activists could campaign over the summer.
But Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said it was “not the time for politicians to pull stunts like calling for a vote of no confidence”.
Supporters at the rally had different ideas about what activists could do to get rid of the new Johnson-led government.
Philip told Socialist Worker, “Johnson’s only got a working majority of three at the moment. So when the time’s right Labour need to table a motion of no confidence.”
He said Labour supporters could “get out on the streets and show we aren’t going to stand for this—we want a general election as soon as possible.”
Another supporter, Veneera, said activists should keep having protests and rallies. But she also said, “We have to be united in the Labour Party and we have to support Jeremy Corbyn.”
Others were more cautious. Daoud said, “We have to wait for a general election to vote. It’s going to be very difficult for a political party to get rid of the government.”
And Dee said she was “worried about a general election”. “While they try and smear Jeremy Corbyn with accusations of antisemitism, can the left match the Tories’ advertising and social media?” she said.
The rally was much smaller than rallies for Corbyn in the past. It was even smaller than a more militant demonstration in central London the previous evening.
Corbyn supporters have been demobilised. They’ve been demoralised by attacks on the left from the right.
But they’ve also given little direction from a Labour leadership that is cautious about calling action, and has been paralysed by arguments over what position it should take on Brexit.
A campaign led by the right of the Labour Party is pushing Corbyn to campaign strongly to Remain in the European Union (EU). Some supporters at the rally told Socialist Worker they opposed Boris Johnson because they’re against Brexit.
A growing number of voices on the left want Corbyn to organise rallies and demonstrations against Brexit. Some even claim Labour’s success in the 2017 general election was because it was seen as an anti-Brexit party.
But supporting a Remain would cost the Labour Party votes, and leave working class Brexit supporters to be gathered up by the Tories or the racist Brexit Party.
Corbyn’s 2017 rallies were successful because they had a mood of anti-establishment insurgency. They weren’t about Remain—they were against austerity, racism and war.
Mobilising again on that basis—with marches, rallies and strikes, can build the kind of movement needed to beat Johnson.
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