Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak is behind Liz Truss according to a poll of party members. Whoever becomes party leader, given the reactionary policies already in place, the next Tory government will likely be no less extremist than that of Margaret Thatcher.
Criminalising industrial action
Thatcher’s defining moment was the crushing of the miners’ union. She achieved this with the support of scabs and the acquiescence of moderate trade unions and the Trade Unions Congress. But if Truss has her way, such tactics may be rendered redundant, for she seeks to make strikes virtually ineffective.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch says Truss:
is proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and to rob working people of a key democratic right. If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivalling the General Strike of 1926, the Suffragettes and Chartism.
Specifically, Truss plans to bring in minimum service levels on critical infrastructure during strikes. In other words, the government will facilitate scab action, just as Thatcher did with the Nottinghamshire miners.
Of course, the Tory government has already changed the law so that businesses can more easily hire scab labour to undermine strike action:
Truss also wants to impose other restrictions, such as increasing the minimum notice period for strike action from two to four weeks.
Lynch describes Truss as a “right-wing fundamentalist” who seeks to make “effective industrial action illegal”. And he adds that she also wants a “low paid, cowed workforce”. This amounts to the “oppression of working people”:
Moreover, Truss is prepared if needed to have the UK leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is not affiliated with the EU but was set up by the UK and other countries to protect citizens against injustices by governments and other powerful institutions.
Presumably, Truss hopes that exiting the ECHR will make it easier for the UK to flout international laws and agreements when deporting refugees. And she has made it clear she seeks to broker deals similar to the Rwanda agreement with other countries, with Sunak having said similar.
Bonfire of rights
Truss is backed by the secretive European Research Group, responsible for the hard-line approach on Brexit which the Johnson government adopted. Her policies on EU trade are largely about the destruction of ‘EU laws’ – i.e. getting rid of hard-won employment rights and environmental protection. Indeed, Truss intends to get rid of all EU regulations by the end of 2023. This is likely to result in more trade friction and delays at the ports.
Sunak’s view on EU regulations is not too different to Truss’s. But while his policy on the Northern Ireland Protocol is more measured, Truss intends to amend the Protocol. This is despite the fact it could jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement and therefore provoke civil unrest.
Also, such a move will likely further alienate the EU, risking an all-out trade war. That could mean even higher prices.
At a BBC televised debate, Sunak and Truss were asked if Brexit is one of the main causes of the huge queues at Dover and Folkestone. The queues of traffic have been going on for months, but have worsened as holidaymakers head for the continent. There are warnings the queues could continue for much of the summer.
Both leadership candidates gave an unequivocal “No” in answer to that question. That is a demonstrable lie, on par with the many falsehoods uttered by Boris Johnson. Sunak was, and Truss is, a Cabinet minister with the Johnson government, which told the public there would be no chaos at the ports as a result of Brexit. But the reality is far different.
The government planned for no-deal Brexit chaos via Operation Yellowhammer:
Yellowhammer covered the possibility of massive vehicle and passenger disruption at Britain’s ports. It also examined a range of anticipated problems, such as food shortages, price rises, and consequences to loss of EU citizenship. Many of these problems arose despite a Brexit deal, and they still persist.
It’s understood that the Tory government refused to double the number of passport checking booths. Also, after promising £33 million for necessary upgrades of the ports to meet demands post-Brexit, it only provided £33,000.
The Independent’s travel expert Simon Calder explained exactly why the queues at the ports are entirely down to Brexit. He said:
Leaving the EU makes it much harder to leave the UK. And that’s because we asked, we voted, we negotiated – or at least the government did on our behalf – to have a European Union external frontier in Kent, at the port of Dover, before you get on the ferry to go to Calais and Dunkirk, and at the Euro Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.
The next UK prime minister will be decided by around 160,000 Tory Party members. 56% of these reside in London and the South East. 58% are over the age of 50. And, perhaps worst of all, 80% are defined as middle class. Moreover, Sunak and Truss openly claim to be Thatcherites.
Sunak wants to delay any tax cuts until, he says, the economy has revived, though he’s not spelled out what kind of cuts. He was responsible for the increase in National Insurance contributions and cut the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit. Sunak is also filthy rich.
Meanwhile Truss wants to abolish a planned rise in corporation tax for businesses, although she’s also promised to reverse the hike in national insurance. She additionally intends to suspend the “green levy”, which is that part of energy bills used to pay for social and green projects.
Whoever wins the leadership contest, it’s clear that the financial burdens faced by millions of workers will persist if not worsen. According to the Big Issue:
As many as 16 million people in the UK could be officially classed as living in poverty by 2023. Around 14.5 million people were in poverty before the pandemic, the government estimates. That’s one in every four or five people.
The latest analysis by the Resolution Foundation predicts that 1.3 million more people will be plunged into absolute poverty by 2023. Including the 700,000 who fell into poverty during the pandemic, that’s around 16.5 million people.
As for any industrial action in essential industries, a Tory government wouldn’t have the slightest qualms crushing it with the sort of violent tactics used during the 1984/85 miners’ strike.
But if those actions escalated into a general strike, such violent tactics could be seen as unviable. Especially if striking rail workers were joined by striking nurses or teachers, complemented by protests on the streets over the ongoing cost of living crisis.
For we are facing outright class war. And we either resist or go under.
Featured image via Nick – Wikimedia, resized to 770×403 pixels under licence CC BY 2.0