As the Tories lift the lockdown, principally for economic rather than public health reasons, some might expect a challenge to this business-led strategy from the opposition in Parliament.
Don’t hold your breath.”Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” is back in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation.
For Sir Keir Starmer and his supporters,”taking a knee” means prostration before our incompetent, inglorious ruling class and a state that has failed the people in the pandemic.
Examples abound. In the right-wing media stampede to discredit Black Lives Matter’s calls to defund the police, Starmer popped up on TV to join in. He talked in glowing terms about his brilliant relationship with the police when he was Director of Public Prosecutions. “So my support for the police is very, very strong,” Starmer gushed. He insultingly described BLM as a “moment” (later retracted) and rejected out of hand any changes to funding of the police.
This came hot on the heels of the abrupt dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey, the flag bearer for the left after Corbyn’s departure, from the shadow cabinet. Starmer cynically misused the genuine issue of anti-Semitism as a pretext for her removal. The right-wing led Board of Deputies of British Jews greeted her removal with untold joy.
Attempts by Corbyn and John McDonnell to have her reinstated were dismissed by Starmer. He then went on to introduce a new voting system for national executive elections, bending the rule book which says constitutional changes can only be approved by the party’s conference.
Overriding all this, however, is the new Labour leadership’s craven support for the government’s so-called strategy. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Tories, frightened by the prospect of mass unemployment and in compliance with business leaders, have taken a big risk in reopening the economy and lifting most elements of the lockdown.
Apart from a few comments about confused messages from Downing Street, Labour’s leaders have steered well clear of the fundamental issue of putting profit and business before public health. To address that would be to open up a discussion about the very nature of capitalist society, which Starmer would never countenance!
Instead, it’s the Tories who are seizing the opportunity to remake the state under the guise of responding to a rejection of the current political system by large numbers of people. Michael Gove, who with the notorious Dominic Cummings, is a key thinker in the brainless Boris Johnson’s government, described the present age as one “of morbid symptoms”, unbelievably citing Italian Marxist Antoni Gramsci for the phrase. Gove added: “The model that the current generation of political leaders inherited has been crumbling.”
He warned that faith “in conventional political parties, their leadership and their allies in business has been broken” and that to carry on rejecting citizens’ concerns “will only weaken our politics and strengthen division”. His solution? Tear up the way the civil service functions and impose business-driven models of governance.
To clear the decks, the cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill was essentially fired and for the first time the role of national security adviser, which he held, went to a political appointee. Former prime minister Theresa May was not alone in voicing concerns. Parliament has more or less been sidelined, as has the cabinet.
A Prime Minister’s Office of around 50 people has been set up, with two-thirds staffed by those with military experience, according to the Institute for Government. Outsiders have taken control of test and trace, vaccines and PPE responses. All in all, this is a kind of junta, with Johnson as figurehead.
On these utterly sinister developments, Starmer and company are silent. No surprise there.
Many Labour Party members have resigned in protest, while Corbyn and McDonnell have urged others to remain and fight for socialist policies. In my view, this kind of in or out discussion misses the point. With parliamentary politics dead in the water and the system, as Gove describes, in crisis, a radically-different approach is justified.
The present pandemic has deep roots in capitalist society’s blatant disregard and disrespect for fragile eco-systems. As a new UN report stresses:
“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead. … To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment.”
A system that actually relies on a ruthless exploitation of people and resources, driven by the holy grail of year-on-year growth of GPD, cannot achieve this goal. So, in or out of the Labour Party, the challenge is to change the system by way of a democratic revolution. No one says that will be easy. But with a Tory counter-revolution well under way, and a system in place that is beyond reform, this is the only road open to us.
The Real Democracy Movement has initiated a number of working groups to take his project forward. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be involved.
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