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Seize the time to resist while the Tories are weak

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Rishi Sunak's unelected Tory government is in crisis
Issue 2837
Ambulance strikers in Unison union against Tory NHS cuts

Ambulance workers in Unison union on strike in Camden, north London, in December against Tory cuts (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The Tory crisis is deepening—so now is the time for workers to hit them while they’re down. After offering no solution to the collapsing NHS and presiding over the worst fall in living standards since records began, the Tories’ electoral hold is weaker than ever. 

New analysis has found that almost all Tory MPs are at risk of losing their seats to Labour in the 2024 general election. Rishi Sunak and his 15 cabinet ministers could face a “wipeout” next time people are allowed a vote. Even Tory voters now agree that the party has failed to handle the NHS and austerity. Of those who voted Tory in 2019, 47  percent said they thought the Tories’ austerity policies had been a failure.

And 73 percent said the management of the NHS had also failed. On Monday Tory MP Edward Leigh asked health secretary Steve Barclay why he had “no plan” to solve the crisis in the NHS. “We can’t leave the Labour Party to have a long-term plan, and we don’t,” he complained. 

The Tories’ inability to find any solution to the current crisis adds to the widening of resistance against them. Strikes by nurses, ambulance workers and post and rail workers are putting pressure on an unelected and fragile government. 

The NHS emergency is due to cuts, privatisation and attacks on pay, not because workers are not productive enough or are fighting back. But waiting for a general election, or expecting Labour’s Keir Starmer to be the answer to workers’ problems, isn’t enough. There are key battles now, and it’s crucial they are won. That’s why it’s great to see NHS strikes this week and more set for next week.

New anti-trade union laws that seek to impose new “minimum service levels” during strikes are just another attempt to break resistance. These can be defeated, although it will take much more than an angry social media post by trade union leaders or the TUC union federation to do so.  To beat back the assaults and win, workers must push their union leaders to unite and escalate action. Both of these matter.

We need unified strikes, but that can’t be a reason to rein back the scale of the action or reject indefinite strikes. The government has been forced to offer talks to union leaders over the strikes. And this must not be a signal to accept rotten compromises or surrender for the most meagre concessions. Strikers have to organise to increase the level of action and seize control of the disputes through strike committees, picket line meetings and more active participation.

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