After Boris Johnson, what next?

6 Jul

.

Schadenfreude can be delightful, but the pleasures do tend to be short-lived. Few likely to read this will shed any tears over the serial liar for now still in residence at London’s 10 Downing St. But while his latest woes have been triggered as ever by self serving lies (in this case over a sex predating minister) not only the resignation letters of the two biggest departures – Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – but the editorials and opinion columns of almost the entire British tory press make clear their real gripe with Boris Johnson.

Which is that his populist instincts, combined with an unprincipled determination to stay in the top job, make him averse to the more savage ‘austerity’ measures they – in defiance as ever of any sane understanding of why Britain (like Europe at large) is in such a mess, economically – are demanding as The Way Forward.

Johnson’s opponents are demanding even tougher measures against the working class under conditions of the deepest crisis facing British and world capitalism since the 1930s. In his own resignation letter, Sunak indicated his latest disagreement with Johnson was over how far to go in imposing austerity against the working class. “[O]ur country is facing immense challenges. I publicly believe the public are ready to hear that truth,” he wrote. “Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”

Meanwhile Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – which has spent the years since Jeremy Corbyn expelling or cowing into silence critics of Israel (especially Jewish ones), of NATO, and of the neoliberal inroads on real incomes and welfare infrastructure under Conservative, Labour and Liberal-Conservative governments – has made its position crystal clear on one thing if little else:

… the Labour Party is most concerned with proving to the ruling elite that it will do nothing to endanger the “national interest”—a code word for supporting savage attacks on workers and the looting of the economy by the major corporations, suppressing strikes, eviscerating democratic rights and waging war against Russia and China.

Both of the above quotes are from a WSWS piece, posted late last night and replicated here in full. I have my differences with WSWS but can find no fault with its assessment of the situation as set out in that post.

Cabinet resignations seek ouster of Boris Johnson

Chris Marsden

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid quit their ministerial roles today to force out Boris Johnson as prime minister.

The move comes from two senior cabinet members at various times advanced as leadership challengers. The immediate reason cited is Johnson’s appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip in February this year, despite Johnson knowing of sexual misconduct allegations against him. But it brings to a new pitch the civil war within the Conservative party after months of scandal over drinks parties during lockdowns that have led to the Tories haemorrhaging support even in their heartlands.

Sajid Javid said in his statement that the British people “rightly expect integrity from their government,” declaring that the electorate no longer viewed the government as either “popular” or “competent in acting in the national interest… The vote of confidence last month showed that a large number of our colleagues agree.”

Sunak announced his resignation within half an hour on Twitter, in almost identical terms, writing, “The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.”

These resignations alone–and half a dozen more have followed though not yet at ministerial level–make it difficult for Johnson to continue in office. More cabinet ministers will resign and Johnson “will be shown the door”, said Tory MP Andrew Bridgen.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson pauses during a coronavirus briefing in Downing Street, in London, Monday April 5, 2021. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool via AP)
The Pincher scandal has been made worse by proving once again that Johnson is a compulsive and serial liar.

On 5 November 2017, Pincher resigned as an Assistant Whip and referred himself to the party’s complaints procedure and the police, after being accused of sexual assault by former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story. He was also accused of “touching up” former Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop but was found to have not breached the code of conduct.

Pincher was finally forced to resign as Deputy Chief Whip on June 30 after admitting to groping two men while drunk at the Carlton private members’ club, a Tory haunt. Other allegations have since emerged.

Johnson was reportedly so aware of Pincher’s behaviour that he called him “handsy”, with the prime minister’s arch enemy Dominic Cummings saying that he joked, “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” in 2020.

But Johnson once again tried to brazen things out at the expense of his MPs. On July 1, Number 10 said Johnson had not been aware of any “specific allegations” against Pincher before appointing him. Pincher was suspended two days later. Leading allies continued to claim until July 4 that Johnson was ignorant of the specific allegations, but that day his official spokesperson said he knew of previous “allegations… that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint” but “it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment simply because of unsubstantiated allegations”.

Johnson, through Paymaster General Michael Ellis, was finally forced to admit yesterday to being briefed on previous allegations, while claiming he could not “recall this” after the latest allegations emerged and “bitterly regrets” not acting on the information. He admitted, “About three years ago there was a complaint made against Chris Pincher in the Foreign Office… I was briefed on what had happened and if I had my time again I’d think back on it and I’d realise he wasn’t going to learn a lesson and he wasn’t going to change.” In hindsight, he said, giving Pincher a government role as deputy chief whip “was the wrong thing to do”. In a BBC interview, Johnson blamed his own team for “saying things on my behalf or trying to say things about what I did or didn’t know.”

It is highly likely that this latest scandal could tip the balance of forces against Johnson, although that could still take time. During a cabinet meeting earlier, photographers and reporters were let in. Sebastian Payne, Whitehall editor of the Financial Times, said “You could see the faces of [Johnson allies] Jacob Rees Mogg, Nadine Dorries… they were looking stony. Their personal reputations have taken the hit, as well as the prime minister and as well as the rest of the government.” Warning of a domino effect of any prominent resignation before Javid and Sunak acted, he added, “I think eventually the rules of political gravity do kick in.”

The former head of the Civil Service Lord Kerslake said it was “inconceivable” that those around the PM were also unaware of the sexual misconduct claims. He endorsed a letter sent to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone from former Foreign Office official and bitter enemy of Johnson, Sir Simon [Lord] McDonald, saying, “The original No 10 line is not true and the modification is still not accurate.”

Leading backbencher Sir Roger Gale used the same letter to insist that the Conservatives need to change their rules to allow a fresh vote of confidence in Johnson to go ahead. Under the existing rules of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, Johnson’s surviving a no-confidence vote last month should give him a year’s grace before another can be called. But moves are already underway to change the composition of the committee’s executive in upcoming elections.

The latest scandal has prompted Sir Keir Starmer to call variously for a change in government and for Tory MPs to act in the national interest and remove him, and a call for a general election from Blairite chair of the Commons Standards Committee Chris Bryant.

This raises essential issues for workers.

Johnson’s opponents are demanding even tougher measures against the working class under conditions of the deepest crisis facing British and world capitalism since the 1930s. In his own resignation letter, Sunak indicated his latest disagreement with Johnson was over how far to go in imposing austerity against the working class. “[O]ur country is facing immense challenges. I publicly believe the public are ready to hear that truth,” he wrote. “Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”

Likewise, the Labour Party is most concerned with proving to the ruling elite that it will do nothing to endanger the “national interest”—a code word for supporting savage attacks on workers and the looting of the economy by the major corporations, suppressing strikes, eviscerating democratic rights and waging war against Russia and China.

Bringing down Johnson and his despised government is the responsibility of the working class. It demands the escalation of the class struggle already being waged by rail and postal workers, civil servants and others to encompass health workers, teachers, council workers and others now demanding action to defend their livelihoods, into a general strike.

* * *

17 Replies to “After Boris Johnson, what next?

  1. The bull elephant in the room – which is only being hinted at at best – is that in terms of electoral choice the vast majority of the citizenry of these islands [and therefore the country itself] are in a position of Zugzwang.

    There is not a single viable and practical – as in workable – option to vote for across the entire Western world.

    Just sticking with the UK, every single option is committed to the same lunatic policies which are driving Western society into oblivion. Blaming inflation on wages is, as Professor Michael Hudson points out, as far from the reality as its possible to get.

    https://thesaker.is/michael-hudson-interviewed-by-ben-norton-multipolarista/

    So the problem is not that wages are too high. The problem is that the overhead that labor has to pay in order to survive, for rent, for medical care, for student loans, for car loans, to have a car to drive to work, for gas to drive to work, to buy the monopoly prices that you need in order to survive – all of these are too high.

    Pointing out that the reason for inflation can be found in the printing of vast sums of fictitious money to give to rentier financiers and corporate junk bonds which has kept prices rising in that sector rather the wage earning sector.

    No one in the UK, not in the Tory Party, not Starmer or his team, nor even the woke queen Sturgeon, is prepared to challenge this nonsense. Moreover, all are committed not only to war against Russia, China and the rest of the world down to the last Ukrainian/Taiwanese but also to maintain both the lifestyle their 1% paymasters have become accustomed to and the means they hope to achieve those aims (NATO) down to the last deplorable (wage earner).

    The idiotic ideological stance being taken is akin to a medic insisting on a course of leeches (in this context, in every sense of the word) for massive blood loss.

    The journalist Declan Hayes writes today about the Western position on fertiliser exports to the Global South, observing:

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2022/07/05/nato-fertilizer-wars/

    Even as South America begs for NATO sanctions to be lifted on Russian fertilizer so that Latinos can live, von der Leyen is insisting Latinos and Africans should instead depend on the poop of insects for their very survival.

    Can anyone have any doubts that when these ‘criminally insane’ – (c) SCS – modern versions of Marie Antoinette would throw entire populations under a tank, or have them all starve or freeze to death they would not do the same to us in order to deliver the dystopian lunacy of those who pay and control them at any cost. No matter how high?

    • Thanks Dave for the link to Michael Hudson on ruling class obtuseness (or cynicism) in believing (or affecting to believe) wage rises the primary or even sole driver of inflation. I’d been minded to add a footnote to this effect but you’ve saved me the effort.

      Once again that Castlemaine XXXX advert cited in The invisibility of empire springs to mind.

      https://youtu.be/Z023prwCkgs

      Even in the seventies, when organised labour still had clout, pinning inflation on wage rises was highly reductive. After four straight decades of neoliberalism, that anyone can make such a link and still be taken seriously is testament to how well served that elite is by what in the previous post I called our “systemically supine media”.

      *

      Though too far off topic for me to say much about in this reply, I appreciated the Declan Hayes piece. I’ve yet to dedicate a post to Ursula von der Leyen (“Lightbrains” as Jams O’Donnell has it) but the time will come, I’m sure. Meanwhile here’s how Mr Hayes ends that piece:

      The solution [to the global south’s chronic shortage of fertiliser] is in breaking NATO’s stranglehold, for Latin America, Africa and the Indian sub continent to come together, and pay for Russia, Belarus, Iran and others to deliver them the fertilizer and other products they need, to wish von der Leyen, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and the rest of them good luck with their worm castings, their private jets and their Swiss bank accounts and to let the world know that the toiling masses of India, Africa and Latin America have as much a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of embargoed fertilizer as has any plagiarizing EU fat cat, who never did an honest day’s work in her life.

      • This might seem off topic but the point is how you go about any particular task, the mindset and assumptions you make, has a major impact on the outcome.

        The fact that those making decisions have deliberately chosen to adopt policy based on the notion that wages are the cause of inflation – against all the evidence – is a feature rather than a bug.

        Reading this account of the same process viv a vis the debacle in Afghanistan:……..

        https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2020/05/data-driven-defeat-information-versus-interests-in-afghanistan/

        The Afghanistan war accelerated the development of state-of-the-art digital systems of technocratic management. Data analytics tools at the fingertips of anyone with access to an operations center or situa­tion room seemed to promise the imminent convergence of map and territory. U.S. forces could measure thousands of different things that we couldn’t understand. To compensate for the lack of understanding, we measured them down to ever finer degrees and displayed them in high-speed heat maps and other cutting-edge infographics. In an update to Vietnam, the metrics of the new digital platforms were combined with the pseudosophistication of Human Terrain Teams and other departments in the military’s expanding school of social science. Attempting to bring the insights of anthropology and socio­logy to bear on the war, these programs tended to miss the forest for the trees in an environment already drowning in information but lacking the ordering clarity of judicious goals. The result was a thoroughly opaque and fraudulent decision-making matrix that ob­scured the obvious gap between U.S. policies and Afghan realities.

        …….was so familiar – vis a vis the daily experience working in BT – that the description could be applied across any organisation or institution throughout the West.

        • Thanks again, Dave. The American Affairs piece by Jacob Siegel, on the US in Afghanistan – a country I visited in happier times (1974) – is really very good and I recommend it highly, though I’d like to have seen more mention of the reality that the deluded thinking it charts so well is exacerbated if not driven by the agendas of America’s military-industrial complex.

          Indeed, the title of the piece – Data-Driven Defeat: Information vs Interests in Afghanistan – gives the game away. The military industrial complex is dominated as much by Amazon, Google and Microsoft – in a nutshell, by Silicon Valley – as by Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. This is hinted at in the piece. Here for instance:

          The Afghanistan war accelerated the development of state-of-the-art digital systems of technocratic management. Data analytics tools at the fingertips of anyone with access to an operations center or situa­tion room seemed to promise the imminent convergence of map and territory. U.S. forces could measure thousands of different things that we couldn’t understand. To compensate for the lack of understanding, we measured them down to ever finer degrees and displayed them in high-speed heat maps and other cutting-edge infographics.

          But the connection between the systemic stupidity of intelligent people, and a military industrial complex answerable to shareholders, needs to be made explicit. That it is not weakens an otherwise fine piece of analytic writing. The failure flows from a much wider one, made by capitalism’s more critical apologists, however well meaning; namely, a world-view which may produce withering critiques from within the establishment – think John Mearsheimer and the late Stephen Cohen …

          (For that matter think also, in his own crass way, a Donald Trump out of his depth and whose legs, as Mr Siegel shows convincingly, were sawn off over Afghanistan. (As over Russia.) While Professor Mearsheimer and the ghost of Professor Cohen, both prolific authors of penetrative critiques of US foreign policy under every administration since Reagan’s, would hate to be included in the same sentence as the tangerine narcissist, in the sense I mean, they are alike.)

          … but which is ultimately shackled by a failure to grasp that imperialism is no aberration, no mistaken wrong turn repeated by successive policy makers. It is an entirely logical stage in capitalist development, driven by the latter’s unswerving laws of motion.

          The editorial slant of American Affairs, notes wiki, understands:

          that “a short-sighted American elite has allowed the country’s manufacturing core—the key to both widespread domestic prosperity and national security in the face of a mercantilist China—to be hollowed out,” just as “Production and technical expertise have shifted to China and Asia, domestic capital has flowed into unproductive share buybacks or tech schemes (Uber, WeWork), and America has become a country with a two-tiered service economy, with bankers, consultants, and software engineers at the top and Walmart greeters and Uber drivers at the bottom.”

          This, like Mr Siegel’s beautifully written piece, is accurate but incomplete. Like Britain’s, that hollowing out of American manufacturing – or as I would say, that exporting of it by a decidedly unpatriotic capital to the global south – was no mistake. A ‘patriotic capital’ is an oxymoron, and the globalising of its relations with labour was inevitable.

          I have of course gone completely off at a tangent, Dave. You make your point …

          that those making decisions have deliberately chosen to adopt policy based on the notion that wages are the cause of inflation – against all the evidence – is a feature rather than a bug.

          … convincingly via the analogy of Afghanistan. I’m agreeing with you. Just as the evidence-defiant stupidity of taking inflation to be driven by high wages (hence by unemployment levels too low to dampen that factor) does not originate in flawed but honest reasoning, neither did the “data driven defeat” of US might in Afghanistan!

          I fear this reply is way too garbled. It needs turning into a post above the line …

  2. Well, on the positive side, if/when he goes he may be replaced by Liz Truss, who is even more incompetent a liar and all-round idiot than Johnston, and who will drag the tory party even further into the mire.

    On the negative side he may be replaced by Liz Truss who will probably start a nuclear war with Russia.

  3. Sorry to divert from the topic at hand but seeing the reference to WSWS makes me wonder if there is a (Marxist?) group/faction/web resource that does fairly consistently chime with your political instincts? Kind of guessing it isn’t trotskyism but would love to know, thanks.

    • Alas I’m empty handed on solutions, HeathySkeptic123, though that does not stop me articulating the extent of the problem – the deathly logic of capital – to the best of my ability.

      (I admired Trotsky, though not uncritically, but have zero confidence in the ‘vanguard’ sects of my own country, the UK. Credit where it’s due, WSWS have defended the middle eastern states in the face of imperialist onslaught, where other Trotskyist sects joined the chorus of condemnation. (See my post Syria: how Trotskyism got it so wrong.)

      At start of a post on the systemic corruption of corporate media – Monolithic control at the Guardian? – I set out my nutshell assessment of where we’re at:

      Our world is capitalist in its advanced stage of imperialism – the export of monopoly capital from global north to south, and the south to north repatriation of profits.

      The clearest beneficiaries of this world order are rentier elites in the most successful imperialisms: i.e. most of the former colonial powers (USA included) but also the Antipodes, Canada, Scandinavia and an EU led by Germany.

      In its initial progressive phase capitalism freed humanity, albeit at terrible cost, from feudal ties and slavery while hugely advancing human productivity. Now its structures (means of wealth creation in ever fewer hands) and laws of motion (prioritising above all else of private profits and insatiable accumulation) demand unsustainable levels of narrowly defined and distorted ‘growth’, condemning the world to: (a) environmental degradation; (b) ceaseless wars, normalised, monetised and sold to us in tissues of lies; (c) levels of global inequality as dysfunctional as they are obscene, and radically incompatible with meaningful democracy.

      I am criticised from right and left because the only hope I see for humanity is the rise of Eurasia: both the certainty that the US Empire will emerge weaker from the fight it has picked with Russia on her border, and the potential of Belt & Road to lift the global south from its impoverishment after five hundred years of Western exploitation. My “stern optimism” is of course tempered by (a) the real possibility of the dying empire going nuclear (or provoking Russia into doing it) and (b) the possibility of China proving no better a steward of this earth than America and Europe have been.

      On the latter, however, I note that the many Trotskyist (and Maoist) tendencies in the West who deride China as capitalist – and therefore a latent imperialism – fail to address three points:

      One, China’s capitalists are subordinate to the state (a fact much bewailed by Economist etc) whereas in the West it’s the other way round. The $64bn question is, can this hold? The Marxist in me says, no. The man in me says it’s our only hope.

      Two, it seems to me the height of arrogance for socialists in the West – having failed to make our own revolutions, and by that failure obliged China to adapt to entrenched neoliberalism – to presume to lecture it on socialist principles.

      Three, has it even registered with those Western ultra-leftists just how astonishing a feat China has achieved? Even by World Bank reckoning it has in a single generation lifted 780 million of its citizens from extreme poverty. To dismiss this betrays a staggeringly callous elevation of the Beautifully Pristine Idea over the lives of real people. All the more so when those making the judgment have never in their lives known a day of real hunger.

      This, I’m afraid, is as far as I’ve got. Meanwhile I just keep on keeping on.

  4. ‘Mental Ben’ Wallace will be up next as he is keenest to march on Moscow. This is engineered for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.