By Charlie Kimber
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Tory party, cops, media and royals—a British establishment in crisis

Institutions fundamental to the British elite’s way of life are in crisis—but we need struggle to crash their party
Issue 2788
Tory party PM Boris Johnson stares into the distance at a Downing Street briefing

Tories say it’s only a matter of time before Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street (Picture: No10/Flickr)

There is a very deep crisis of the Tories and other crucial elements of the ruling elite.

Boris Johnson seems unlikely to last long. His attempts to make non-apology apologies and to claim that parties were “work events” appease virtually nobody.

One cabinet minister told the Financial Times newspaper, “The government is now roughly divided into two camps. Those who think he will go now, and those who think he will go later.” 

One longtime supporter of Johnson said, “He’s done, it’s over. He’s truly done for.” And they added that trust was slipping away among MPs as the excuses for the parties “don’t cut the mustard”.

Some Tories think that he can survive by sacking subordinates and trying to shift the political agenda to announcements about temporarily limiting energy price rises. 

Reports last weekend suggested Johnson planned to launch Operation Red Meat that would include handing control of blocking Channel crossings to the military. And there will be no accusations of breaching the remaining Covid restrictions because they are all set to go on 26 January.

But only his most infatuated inner circle believe this will take Johnson past May, when local elections are expected to be disastrous based on present polling.

This means a wider crisis for the Tories. They are facing a period when they are committed to putting up taxes, presiding over roaring inflation, and cutting benefits, wages and pensions in real terms. They are implementing wider poverty but with a fractured and discredited government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, widely tipped to succeed Johnson, was popular with some when he was handing out money to subsidise wages and save companies. He won’t be a hero when he’s crushing people’s incomes. 

The police are in the firing line too. Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is carrying out an establishment stitch-up. The force has refused to investigate Downing Street parties during lockdown even when the evidence is staring them in the face.

Did the ranks of cops that protect Number 10 see nothing? Is there no CCTV in the area? Did cabinet ministers’ close protection officers and special branch operatives know nothing?

Police in England handed out 118,149 fines for breaking lockdown regulations between March 2020 and October 2021. Over 17,700 of these were in London, but the Tories escape.

Johnson strongly supported Dick to stay as head of the Met despite intense criticism of her role in the assaults on women remembering the murder of Sarah Everard. 

Jamie Klingler was the organiser of a Reclaim These Streets vigil for Everard last year on Clapham Common, south London. It was broken up by the Met, allegedly for breaching coronavirus restrictions. The vigil took place in March, a month before the 16 April Downing Street parties.

“Fury and rage doesn’t begin to convey my feelings at the hypocrisy of the Met, who don’t serve the women of London,” Klingler said.

The Met says it is now waiting to see if new evidence emerges from an investigation into the parties by senior civil servant Sue Gray. But why should Gray be the gatekeeper to charging Johnson and his pals?

And in any case Gray was appointed by Johnson himself and given a highly restricted remit.

Sections of the media are also directly implicated in the cover-ups. One of the parties held in the run up to prince Philip’s funeral was a leaving event for the departing head of communications, James Slack. 

He went on to become the deputy editor of the Sun newspaper. So that newspaper, and probably many others, knew about all these rule-breaking parties from personal experience. Yet they covered them up.

Slack’s party merged with another leaving event held the same evening for one of Johnson’s personal photographers. 

According to one party-goer, a staff member was sent with a suitcase to a nearby Co-op store on Strand. They returned with the case filled with bottles of wine.

Both groups reportedly moved outside at about midnight, with drinking carrying on into the early hours of the morning. In the garden one person broke a swing belonging to Johnson’s infant son, Wilfred. This would usually have been lapped up by the Sun, fodder for a series of front pages and raucous denunciations. 

Slack must have known about this. He stayed silent to protect the Tories, or if he did whisper the truth, then higher authorities at the Sun decided to suppress it.

Meanwhile, the royal family has been rocked by Andrew facing court. He has to answer Virginia Giuffre’s claims of abuse and links to the sexual exploitation by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

The queen was forced this week to strip Andrew of the His Royal Highness title and his military links.

Prime minister, Tory party, cops, right wing media and the royals are all in crisis. But the missing element is mobilisation on a large scale by the left.

It’s criminal that the trade union leaders sit on their hands. There’s no call for protests, no push for big strikes, no effort to say that in these times the rules about ballots and observing anti-union laws don’t apply.

And Keir Starmer’s Labour benefits in the polls from the Tory crisis, but advances no programme for action.

Such failures mean the Tories have hopes of recovery under a different leader. And it even encourages far right elements who think they can falsely claim to be the opposition to the Tories. 

It was good to see the Kill The Bill protests on Saturday, a refreshing glimpse of the return of people onto the streets. But much more is needed.

In the absence of the traditional left forces, it’s up to everyone to fight hard to raise the level of struggle and put forward socialist solutions. 

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