An historically inept government, a state amassing arbitrary powers, a deepening economic crisis and a looming no-deal Brexit on January 1 that will bring certain chaos – this is a snapshot of the UK’s upcoming winter of discontent.
The stark truth is that the novel Covid-19 virus has exposed the frailty of our entire present capitalist economic and political set-up. Massive state intervention may have staved off an economic collapse but that’s a temporary fix at best.
An economy based on debt-fuelled consumption to create the semblance of much-fabled year-on-year growth ceases to function when millions cannot access their workplaces and buyers are wary of entering indoor spaces. Whole industries and sectors – from airlines to railways, universities to local government and cultural sectors – are staring bankruptcy in the face.
Millions face the dole this winter as the government’s furlough scheme starts winding down and more than a decade of austerity continues to take its toll on public services.
While the Johnson government continues to give the impression of someone returning from the pub after downing one too many, there is method in their apparent madness.
A systematic and rapid remaking of the state machine is taking place. Four permanent secretaries (heads of government departments) have been forced out so far this year from the Home Office, Foreign Office, Department of Education and the Ministry of Justice.
They were made scapegoats for government failures. So-called ministerial accountability has gone out of the window. Meanwhile, Public Health England and the Electoral Commission, which oversees the conduct of elections, are among significant bodies the government is scrapping.
The new director-general of the BBC is Tim Davie, a former Tory councillor who has apparently pledged to root out what is amusingly called ‘left-wing comedy’ from radio and TV. If this sounds a bit like a Donald Trump pledge, you might well be right. Within days of taking over he had restored the singing of Rule Britannia to the Last Night of the Proms and banned staff from writing their views on social media.
The man behind this turmoil is one Dominic Cummings, who as we know broke no regulations when he went to Durham, at least once, driving from his London home without a break and with a small child in the back. Cummings is a right-wing libertarian whose interests extend to eugenics.
He is supported in this by the equally sinister Michael Gove, who once worked closely with Cummings at the Department of Education and then again in the Brexit campaign, and the lightweight Johnson himself.
On September 1, Cummings and around 20 political officials, including Munira Mirza another libertarian who was once in what was purportedly a Marxist group but is now director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, moved to a new open-plan office inside Downing Street. Surrounded by screens and data banks, they will co-ordinate the work of government, bypassing the cabinet and other usual channels.
As he moved offices, Cummings made it clear that digital IDs are next on the agenda. Working with the private sector, the state will gather enormous amounts of data on every aspect of our lives. Representative democracy RIP. Welcome to your very own UK junta with its own buffoon as a figurehead.
On the same day, it was announced that Simon Case, The Duke of Cambridge’s former private secretary, would replace cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill who fell foul of Cummings and Johnson. According to one source: “He’s very much viewed as being in Cummings’ pocket and the PM’s yes-man.”
In a short time, meanwhile, the state has taken substantial powers unto itself. The Coronavirus Act, which was rushed through Parliament unopposed. It provides for unprecedented surveillance, detention and other powers which are made by way of regulations issued by the Home Secretary. Although it nominally has a time limit of two years, a minister can extend its provisions by issuing regulations.
These are already used to limit protests as Extinction Rebellion has found out. Now the dreaded home secretary Priti Patel is planning to designate XR a “criminal gang”. Organisers have been handed instant fines of £10,000 as Piers Corbyn discovered when he was held responsible for a rally by anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy types. Huge police operations have shut down outdoor raves. These immense powers will undoubtedly be retained when the pandemic recedes for use against activists and protests.
In a country without a clear, codified constitution, the Tories are tooling up the state to repress social discontent that is building throughout the UK and is likely to burst into the open during the winter. They are rapidly constructing a fully-fledged corporate state that rules on behalf of big business and high finance. The Tory junta is an immediate threat to all our rights.
So lending your support to our campaign for a democratic revolution would be a step in the right direction.