By Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal
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Plebs revolt

This article is over 11 years, 6 months old
Issue 374

The weekend running up to 20 October was a calamitous one for the Tories. It began when their chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, was forced to resign in the wake of the “plebgate” scandal, and things went downhill from there.

Mitchell was accused of swearing at a police officer outside Downing Street, telling him to remember his place and calling him a “fucking pleb”. The police federation then called for him to be sacked, sparking a war of words between the Tories and the very force designed to protect their interests.

Despite Cameron initially offering Mitchell his full backing, he was eventually booted out after a rebellion by Tory backbenchers. Cameron is left looking incredibly weak. Not only are his own MPs rebelling against him, but they have toppled the very man in charge of disciplining them.

Things went from bad to worse the same day when chancellor George Osborne was caught sitting in a first class train carriage with a second class ticket. His aide insisted that he “couldn’t possibly” move to a standard carriage, presumably fearing he would be surrounded by plebs.

The event was swiftly branded “the great train snobbery” and Osborne ended up having to pay £160 to stay in first class. That may be pocket change for him but for anyone suffering under his austerity agenda it is an unimaginable amount to spend so flippantly.

Even the Tories friends couldn’t help but deride them for the catalogue of disasters piling up. The front page of the Daily Mail the following day had pictures of Mitchell and Osborne with the headline: “Who do they think they are?”

All of this comes at a time of deep crisis for the ruling class. Sections of the state are turning against each other, with the Tories, the police and the media all at each others’ throats. The Leveson inquiry has only just finished, with the report still to come, but now the Jimmy Savile scandal threatens to shed light on even more complicity between the media and politicians. While the Tories are busy using it to attack the BBC, more and more names are being implicated every day and threaten to engulf an ever wider range of state institutions.

The Tories are showing themselves up for what they are – a party of the rich for the rich. Mitchell’s resignation and Osborne’s gaffe both came the day before the TUC demonstration and were stark reminders for many of just why we were marching.

Over 200,000 people marched on 20 October, fewer than on the TUC’s march 18 months ago, but by any standard still a huge display of class anger and strength. More than ever those who came out on the day showed a willingness to fight, and a deep frustration with union and Labour bureaucrats. At the rally Ed Miliband’s speech was barely audible beneath the boos which greeted his insistence on the need for cuts, while those who stood up to call for a general strike, Mark Serwotka, Bob Crow and Len McCluskey, received the biggest cheers of all.

The TUC may be only paying lip service to the idea of a general strike but the mood and the appetite are there among ordinary workers. What the march showed was a gap between huge anger at the Tories and their disdain for ordinary people, and the action needed to bring them down.

The Unite the Resistance conference on 17 November will be crucial in pulling together all the layers of people who want to fight back, workers but also students, unemployed and pensioners, to fight for a strategy that closes that gap and takes on the Tories.

Jaswinder Blackwell Pal

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