Boris Johnson has dug deep into his barrel of red meat—and now he is scraping the bottom. How else to explain his desperate idea—briefed to the right wing Daily Telegraph newspaper—of bringing back imperial measurements? It’s like a parody of the strategy that lay behind his success when he first became prime minister.
Then, he latched onto Brexit—promising to “get it done”—to present himself as a man of the people. Now—after partygate, more than two years of mishandling the pandemic, and amid a cost of living social emergency—it’s just not working any more.
This time, though, what he has to offer—bring back imperial measurements, more grammar schools, and a review of fracking—aren’t even about shoring up voters. They’re about shoring up his own MPs.
It’s a sign of his isolation and desperation, and feeds the sense—even among his own MPs—that he won’t win a general election. As former Tory minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News, “There will be some people in our party who will like this nostalgic policy in the hope that it’s enough to win the next election. But this is not the case.
At least 30 Tory MPs have written letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson. The number needed to trigger a Tory leadership election is 54—and some Tory MPs think it may have already been reached.
That means one of the only things keeping Johnson on as prime minister is the cowardice of those Tory MPs who want rid of him—but fear being punished if they rebel. The other two things are the inertia of the Labour Party as it waits for those Tory MPs to move, and the severe lack of struggle on the streets—strikes and protests.
Yet there are small signs that things could change. There has been an increase in strikes over the past few months, almost all over pay. There have been localised, but significant strikes by bin workers. The arrest of three trade unionists on a picket line in Wealden also shows that the stakes in these battles are raising. What’s more—there could be bigger battles to come.
If there is a national strike on Network Rail it could mean a broader shift in how workers see the battle between them and their bosses.Other battles on the horizon include the coming national strike ballots in BT, Royal Mail and the Civil Service.
These opportunities mustn’t be wasted—they have to be turned, as urgently as possible, into a fightback that can put Johnson over a barrel, not scraping the bottom of one.
Pride is a protest