By Jules Clarke
The formation of Boris Johnson’s hard right Cabinet makes crystal clear the meaning of a Tory Brexit. It is to subordinate Britain to a trade deal with the US in which the NHS would be up for sale, in which food standards would be cut to US levels, in which rights at work would be reduced to US levels, and in which a fundamental attack would be launched on Britain’s welfare state.
Jeremy Corbyn is leading the fight against Boris Johnson, who he rightly named ‘Britain’s Trump’. Johnson is Britain’s Trump in a dual sense. First, he shares the same reactionary, racist, sexist, agenda as Trump. But simultaneously he is determined to accept a No Deal Brexit, which will lead to a trade deal which wholly favours the US, subordinate Britain to Trump, and will damage the living standards and environmental protections in this country. Johnson is therefore literally Trump’s person in Number 10.
Such a No Deal Brexit, by cutting Britain off from the customs union with the EU, means entire British industries – cars, pharmaceuticals, significant parts of financial services – would be devastated with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
With 42% of Britain’s exports going to the EU, and only 18% to the United States, any trade deal with the US would totally fail to compensate for losses in European markets.
The fall in the exchange rate of the pound that would follow would produce inflation and therefore falling living standards.
The deregulation of the economy that would follow from adoption of this model of tying the British economy to the US would result in a huge attack on living standards. These attacks would come on top of the damage already done by nine years of Tory austerity.
The NHS would be progressively opened up, be asset stripped and profited from by US companies.
Internationally Britain would be dragged into more damaging wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Britain would be pulled behind Trump’s literally catastrophic denial of climate change.
The Tories are trying to heal the deep wound of austerity with an Elastoplast
The sudden claims by the Tories that they are going to spend money, to try to overcome the damage which they have themselves already created with austerity, are pure smoke screens – like trying to deal with a serious wound with an Elastoplast, or with a deadly disease by promising to administer an aspirin.
For example, the 20,000 police promised are not ‘extra’, they will not even make up for all the cuts made by the Tories!
The announcement of new expenditure on railways is equally fake. As John McDonnell said on the new proposed Leeds to Manchester railway: ‘This project has been announced time and time again by the Conservatives. With Boris Johnson’s staggering failure to build a bridge across the Thames and an estuary airport I’m not confident he’ll be able to deliver better train services between Leeds and Manchester. What we really need is Labour’s Crossrail for the North, from Liverpool to Hull and up to the North East to unleash the economic potential of the region. Just upgrading the rail between Leeds and Manchester – the same distance as the Central line on the London Underground – won’t achieve that.’
Even Johnson’s claims about London’s Crossrail are entirely false – the decision to build Crossrail was made by the last Labour government. And the Tories have deliberately concentrated their biggest cuts in the North. The five areas which have seen the biggest falls in spending since 2010 are Barnsley (-40%), Liverpool (-32%), Doncaster (-31%), Wakefield (-30%), and Blackburn (-27%) – compared to a British average of -14.3%.
Only Labour can stop Britain’s Trump and a Tory Hard/No Deal Brexit
Labour will fight to stop a Hard/No Deal Brexit by every means at its disposal. It will vote against it in Parliament, it will demand a referendum on any Hard/No Deal Tory Brexit, and it demands a General Election.
Furthermore the only party which can stop this fundamental attack on British living standards is Labour. At the next general election, whenever it comes, there will in reality be only two possible practical outcomes – either Boris Johnson will become Prime Minister, and be able to push through his No Deal/hard right agenda, or Labour will be in Downing Street with a mandate to reverse austerity, raise living standards, help tackle the climate crisis and stop No Deal.
In all but a small number of seats, a vote for the Lib Dems and Greens is just a wasted vote, for parties which have no hope of winning, but which open up the risk of letting the far-right Tories into office to carry out their No Deal Brexit.
Some people, for example Jonathan Powell, propose a bloc of Liberal Democrats and Greens excluding Labour. This is a simultaneously sectarian and suicidal attempt to avoid the reality that only the Labour Party and a Labour government can stop a No Deal Brexit. This sectarian/suicidal position is echoed by the new leader of the Lib Dems, Jo Swinson, who says she wants to stop a No Deal Brexit but declares she is unwilling to support a Corbyn-led Labour government, which precisely would stop a No Deal Brexit, even though she was willing to serve in the Coalition government under Cameron and Osborne to implement vicious austerity. In short Swinson and the Lib Dems priority is not to stop a No Deal Brexit at all!
This is fantasy politics from the ‘centrists’, who thankfully do not get to choose who Labour’s leader is. But it also ignores the decisive fact that every single vote in parliament is needed to stop No Deal Brexit, including all the Labour MPs who have repeatedly carried out Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of voting down No Deal. Attempting to exclude Corbyn and his supporters from the bloc opposed to No Deal in fact reveals the real priority of the Lib Dems – for them, it is more important to dislodge Corbyn than it is to stop No Deal. Unfortunately the leadership of the Greens has allowed itself to become involved in these Lib Dem manoeuvres which do not in reality prioritise the fight against No Deal.
It is vital to make these realities clear to all those fighting to stop No Deal – millions of supporters of the Lib Dems and Greens will not agree with the real priority of Swinson.
Labour has the policies that can stop Britain’s Trump
Boris Johnson’s government is clearly centred on a No Deal Brexit outcome – there is no serious indication at all he will succeed in bluffing the EU into wrecking its Customs Union and Single Market in order to accept Johnson and Trump’s demands. Johnson’s appointments show that everything in his government is focused on that aim. His own special adviser, who has all other advisers reporting to him, is Dominic Cummings from Vote Leave. It is reported that Johnson has only asked him to work through until November.
All of this corresponds to Boris Johnson’s immediate tactical interests – as he must remove or severely reduce the Brexit Party vote. Trump meanwhile is also publicly boosting Farage and is openly attempting to create a Tory-Brexit Party realignment. No Deal is in Trump’s strategic interests, to break up the EU and subordinate Britain even more to US interests.
Only Labour can lead the fight against No Deal
Labour is the only force with the strength in Parliament which can form the core of blocking a No Deal Brexit. While unity with all those opposed to No Deal is welcome also, only Labour has the policies that can deal with the new Thatcherism 2.0 project.
It is no good, as David Cameron found, counterposing austerity in the EU to austerity outside it. Yet this is exactly what the Lib Dems and the ‘centrists’ propose.
Labour’s economic policy is to put austerity into reverse. It is to raise living standards and improve public services. Crucially, public investment and the National Investment Bank are central to these plans.
All other schemas, including Boris Johnson’s fake promises, are wholly unsustainable without increasing investment and increasing the productive capacity of the economy. Unlike Boris Johnson, John McDonnell has set out detailed plans to tax big business and the rich in order to fund improvement in public services. His debunking of Johnson’s fake proposals for the railways was spot on.
That is true also of Britain’s contribution to tackling the global climate crisis. Public investment in renewables and in energy-saving and efficiency are decisive. A Corbyn-led Labour government would then be able to co-operate with other world-leading forces in tackling climate change.
By contrast Trump is an advocate for Big Oil and the mining companies. Johnson will certainly be obliged to let loose the fracking industry in Britain in any US trade deal. Swinson also voted to facilitate fracking.
It is clear that the privatisation and commercialisation of public services will step up a whole further gear under a Johnson Cabinet where many of its members have openly advocated abolishing the NHS in favour of private medical insurance. This is perfectly in line with Trump’s interests, and Trump is not lying when he says ‘the NHS will be on the table’ in a future trade deal. By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn is a strong supporter of the NHS and wants to curb the claws of the private sector that are currently dug into it. He will increase NHS spending.
A racist offensive is inevitable from Johnson
As No Deal will be a huge set-back for the economy and severely reduce living standards, Johnson, Britain’s Trump, will have to find scapegoats to blame. That will probably include Europe in general and the Irish in particular for refusing to provide Britain with ‘unicorns’, all the benefits of membership of the Single Market while conceding to every demand from Trump. But fierce attacks are likely on all foreigners, immigrants and black people, while Muslim communities are likely once again to bear the brunt of the generalised increase in racism. Johnson has allocated a few Cabinet seats to members of ethnic minorities merely to attempt to conceal the racist offensive against the overwhelming majority of members of ethnic minorities which is to come.
If No Deal goes ahead, and as it is prepared for, given the inevitable crisis that follows the new upturn in racism can be expected to begin. Jeremy Corbyn is a thorough anti-racist and opposes discrimination in all its forms.
Britain will be dragged behind US wars
Boris Johnson was a flat-out supporter of the catastrophic US-led invasion of Iraq. Given his subordination to Trump he will involve Britain in US foreign military adventures and wars. Some of the risks are already clear.
Britain is already involved in illegal US military intervention against Iran. The provocation in seizing an Iranian tanker is itself an act of belligerence, which could lead to escalated military action.
At the same time, this US administration has advocates of war not just with Iran, but increased military actions against North Korea, Russia, and efforts to overthrow both the Venezuelan government.
It sometimes appears as if competing factions in the US administration disagree on priorities or the mechanisms in these campaigns. One lower-risk gambit by Trump can be to get subordinate countries such as Johnson’s UK to act on its behalf. The seizure of the Iranian tanker was an act in that vein even before Johnson’s coup, and Trump will expect his aide-de-camp in Number 10 to do more of the same, if instructed.
Corbyn’s policies of opposing illegal US wars and military confrontations over decades is the direct opposite, and is in the interests of the majority of the people of this country, as well as avoiding murderous military intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere. No other leader of a political party in Britain can claim the same.
On all these decisive issues, only Corbyn’s leadership provides the correct response to the threat of Johnson, Trump and No Deal. The struggle between Labour and these opposing forces in the next few months will be decisive for many years to come.
Britain is entering its biggest political crisis since World War II. The form this takes is Johnson’s attempt, in direct alliance with Trump, to push through a No Deal Brexit which will unleash an immense attack on the living standards of the majority of the population. Labour can and must unite in action with those from all parties opposed to a No Deal Brexit. But the reality is only Labour can be the core of that struggle against No Deal.
There are only three months to stop the huge attack on the working class that a No Deal Brexit means. Only Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, can successfully lead that struggle.