Britain is rapidly plunging into a dangerous tailspin, explains Roger Silverman, in London. Having put her proposed Brexit deal with the EU to parliament three times only to be humiliated each time, the unlamented Theresa May has finally resigned as prime minister. The sixteen contenders to replace her have now shrunk to six outstanding mediocrities, and soon this figure will be whittled down in successive ballots of Tory MPs to a choice of two nominations. These will then be subject to election by the narrowest of electorates – members of the Tory Party, a reactionary tub-thumping franchise of 120,000 boneheads with an average age of 72.
The flamboyant Boris Johnson is virtually assured to be the ultimate victor. He is by far the top choice of Tory MPs despite the fact that they universally despise him. This is because, after Euro-elections which were overwhelmingly won by Farage’s ultra-right Brexit Party, in the process reducing the Tory Party to fifth place, Johnson represents perhaps their only chance of winning a subsequent general election. For some inexplicable reason, a large section of the population seem to find his blatant laziness, vanity and pomposity somehow endearing. Yet Boris’ veneer of genial incompetence disguises a dangerous flirtation with authoritarianism and chauvinism. He has dabbled in outright racist smears, mocking Afro-Caribbeans for their “wide-grinning watermelon smiles” and women in burkas for looking like “bank robbers and letter-boxes”.
Johnson has committed himself to leaving the EU on 31st October, deal or no deal – and a majority of MPs, even many Tory MPs, recognize that to leave without a deal would spell catastrophe for what’s left of the British economy. Knowing that a no-deal exit would inevitably be blocked by Parliament, Johnson therefore claims to have some secret magic formula for squaring the circle in negotiations for an acceptable exit deal. This is yet another example of his deviousness. His actual plan is to engineer for himself a fresh mandate to break the deadlock. He will very probably call a snap general election quickly, before his defects have become even more glaringly obvious; fight it on a hard-Brexit platform; and cut a dirty deal with Farage, offering him either an electoral pact or a promise of a top job. In any case, in this nightmare scenario, support for the Brexit Party could flood back to the Tories and, with the enthusiastic connivance of a rabid media campaign, the Tories might have a chance of winning a mandate for a no-deal Brexit, with all its horrific consequences.
That’s not necessarily how things will work out. In the 2017 election, Labour started out 25 percentage points behind the Tories, yet in the course of an inspirational anti-austerity campaign by its new left leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour won back three million new votes and reduced May’s Tory government to a feeble minority coalition. This time too there could be a fresh surge towards Labour which could wipe the sneer off Johnson’s face. These are fateful times.
Carel Buxton (also in London) adds:
The situation facing the UK is changing almost minute by minute. The only certainty is upheaval and continuing pain from austerity. Sometimes it feels like I’m on a beach watching the oncoming tsunami. What Labour must do is to clearly set out its socialist programme up and down the country and be the most radical it’s ever been. We would massively surge forward in the polls if we said capitalism is finished, it can’t deliver for the people, and go for a full Marxist programme.