The Socialist 31 January 2018 |
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Tory infighting escalates - workers' action can oust them
Tories out!, photo Mary Finch (Click to enlarge)
Judy Beishon, Socialist Party executive committee
How much longer will Theresa May be prime minister?
Media reports suggest that around 40 Tory MPs have submitted letters calling for a no-confidence vote in her. If that reaches 48, the vote would be triggered and could lead to a leadership contest.
Tory infighting has escalated publicly at the highest levels. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson should be sacked, said former Tory minister Anna Soubry, because of "longstanding incompetence and disloyalty." It's the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who should be sacked for disloyalty, declared Tory MP Nadine Dorries.
Insults are hurled back and forth across the party's main political divide, between right-wing Brexiters and pro-capitalist Remainers. After Remainers were accused of being "traitors," energy minister Claire Perry on WhatsApp called the accusers the "swivel-eyed few."
Incredibly, in the space of just a week, May felt compelled to counter the "disloyalty" of both Hammond and Johnson - the holders of the second and third so-called Great Offices of State.
Johnson had made public his self-interested intention to demand more funds for the NHS in a cabinet meeting. Hammond, echoing the interests of big business in a speech at Davos, had dared to hope that the changes negotiated in leaving the EU will be only "very modest."
A large part of the venom directed at May comes from the wing of diehard anti-EU Tories who fear she will cave in to a 'soft' Brexit. Others attack her for being "dull" or doing nothing on the crises in the NHS, housing and education, full of foreboding that she won't be able to counter the potential anti-austerity draw of Jeremy Corbyn.
Fear of their party turmoil leading to the calling of a general election and a Corbyn victory is clearly a major factor counting against immediate moves to remove May.
Also, while May cannot unite the virulently hostile, opposing wings of her party, there is no contender for her position who could do so either. Worse still for the Tories and Britain's capitalists is that opening up a contest could unleash even greater unrestrained animosity which could tear the party apart. For big business, that scenario would take its present Brexit-related uncertainty to new heights.
But cold calculation might not win out. Reactions to events, criticisms and decisions - including, of course, on Brexit - could at any time spin out of the control of the party's leaders and throw the whole party edifice into a much deeper crisis, with the removal of May and a general election among the consequences.
The Tories' plight - once the most successful capitalist party in Europe - reflects the lack of direction and confidence in the future of the capitalist class which the party represents.
Following May's poorly attended speech at Davos, the New York Times wrote scornfully: "Britain's stature on the world stage has diminished, and its economy has sagged. The former colonial empire has been reduced to a lesser actor."
The millions in the trade union movement won't mourn the ruling class's loss of profits and prestige, but must take confidence from the dire, weak state of the Tories.
Building a mass, active anti-austerity movement and fighting for a socialist Brexit can remove May's whole cabal from power. It would lay the basis for a government in the interests of the majority in Britain and solidarity with the working class in Europe and beyond.