By Mark Buckley
The accumulating scandals over corruption and sleaze in government now dominate the political agenda through the controversy over illegal Xmas parties. This has put the government under pressure but it is a serious crisis for Boris Johnson personally. One way it could be resolved is if the Tories oust him.
There are now 170,000 people dead from Covid in Britain. The official forecasts used by the government are also that living standards are declining and will continue to fall over the next two years, fuelling widespread discontent. The government has responded with increased authoritarianism and racism, the centre-pieces of its legislative programme and its rhetoric. By comparison, breaking the law on lockdown measures and laughing at the population for following the rules is a relatively trivial matter.
But politics does not proceed in a straight line, and where both media and official Opposition leaders have refused to attack the government on weightier matters, and have in fact provided cover for Johnson, the scandal over the parties while others were locked down and many could not comfort dying loved ones it too blatant to ignore.
There has been a build-up of dissatisfaction and even anger with the government, and the pressure has found this outlet. It is notable that Johnson’s approval rating began to turn negative around the so-called freedom day on July 19 and has been deteriorating ever since (see chart above/below). To a lesser extent this has led to the erosion of the Tory opinion poll lead, with Labour making limited headway so far.
This will be a key factor in the dynamic within the Tory party. Newly elected Tory MPs or those sitting on slim majorities in former Labour seats will become increasingly anxious if the national polling trend is maintained or even extended. For purely selfish reasons, they may be willing to oust Johnson, amid lots of drivel about being a ‘Prime Minister who delivered Brexit’.
Despite all sorts of bravado when Jeremy Corbyn was leader (‘any other leader would be 20 points ahead’) the Starmer leadership is struggling to capitalise on this Tory debacle. This is a political failure, because on all the major issues already cited Starmer has simply echoed the Tory line.
Even now, despite a clear majority of public opinion in favour of removing Johnson, Starmer calls only for an apology, not resignation. Of course, Johnson is happy to oblige. Stephen Kinnock idiotically justifies this stance, on the grounds that to do otherwise ‘would destabilise the government at a time of crisis’! Wes Streeting inadvertently exposes the bankruptcy of the entire Labour leadership’s position when he says, ‘We’ve voted with the Government time and again because we put public health before party politics.’
Of course, this government has never once put public health or any public interest first. So Labour is simply offering collusion with a government presiding over an avoidable death toll comparable to a medium-sized war, as well as crushing living standards, doing nothing to prevent climate change and involving itself in US provocations against China in the South China Sea. All this while hammering the left and attempting to eradicate Corbynism.
However, the unpopularity of the government, which is driven by the crises it has generated has a dynamic of its own. This is irrespective of how feeble Starmer’s response is. If current trends are maintained many Tories may decide that ditching Johnson to save their own necks is a price worth paying. Naturally, socialists should do everything they can to ensure the entire Tory party is held collectively responsible for their outrageous attacks on the population, to kick them all out.