Since Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the Brexit vote, we’ve been treated to a disgusting parade of some of the most vile and hateful people in modern politics posturing to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister. This Tory leadership contest has exposed the divisions within the Party, and highlighted the possible realignment of British politics.
Since Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the Brexit vote, we’ve been treated to a disgusting parade of some of the most vile and hateful people in modern politics posturing to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister. The horror show of this fight between crocodiles and reptiles is a reminder of why so many people find politics such a grubby, alienating and contemptible part of society.
Johnson and Gove
Things were kicked off by the betrayal and political assassination of Boris Johnson at the hands of his friend and ally, Michael Gove. With the soulless grin of a nightmare ventriloquist dummy, Gove went back on his promise to support Johnson’s leadership campaign and decided to run for the top job himself.
Gove’s role was that of hired assassin of the Tory Establishment, which doesn’t trust Johnson after he double-crossed Cameron by campaigning for Brexit. Johnson – who will no doubt be relieved not to be handling the mess that is post-referendum Britain – has now abandoned his leadership ambitions in order to pick up the pieces from what we can only hope is his permanently shattered political career. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
As a result, Gove was faced with trying to win a pro-Boris, pro-Brexit Tory membership to his banner, whilst splattered head-to-foot with their hero’s blood. Unsurprisingly this didn’t go well and he came a poor third in the contest.
His place as the top head-banging Brexiter in this contest has been taken by Andrea Leadsom – a Gove-esque reactionary in her politics, but one whose hands are (relatively) clean. Despite being fairly unknown, she has all the credentials to be a Tory leader – she has called for maternity pay and the minimum wage to be abolished for employees of small businesses; has claimed a link between unmarried couples and child abuse; and has made a fortune using shell corporations registered in tax havens.
She has the official backing of Johnson, the unofficial backing of UKIP, and the support of a majority of Tory grassroots members who voted on a ConservativeHome poll. But while she is popular among the Tory ranks, at least for now, she is not nearly as popular with Tory MPs. At a hustings in front of MPs her performance went down like a lead(som) balloon. One Tory went so far as to describe it as “a f***ing shambles”. She got just 84 votes to Theresa May’s 199 in the most recent ballot of Tory MPs.
According to the Financial Times, Leadsom could be the “Tories’ Jeremy Corbyn”, in that she is not favoured by the Party Establishment and the big business interests which stand behind it. But nevertheless she could be pushed into a leadership position by the Tory grassroots, who are much more inclined to frothing political backwardness than the more farsighted strategists of capital.
Fox and Crabb
The other candidate from the Gove/Johnson/Leadsom Leave camp of the Party was Liam Fox – a disgraced former cabinet minister. He brought little to the debate, got very few nominations from MPs and crashed out of the leadership election so quickly that it’s a bit of a mystery why he bothered running at all. He has the honour of being the most disliked candidate in a contest to see who can be the leading obnoxious ratbag.
Another also-ran is Stephen Crabb, currently in charge of the Department for Work and Pensions and responsible for cutting people’s benefits and declaring dying people fit-for-work. He tried to position himself as someone who cares about the housing crisis and the rights of migrant workers. This would be a lot more believable if he was not in a Tory cabinet inflicting horrific austerity on working class communities and migrants. At least he had the decency to make his lies so obvious we could see through them straight away – as could the Tory MPs, very few of whom voted for him.
The frontrunner in the election is Theresa May, the home secretary who seems to carry a permanent look of disgust on her face, presumably aimed at all the migrants and refugees she has imprisoned and deported in recent years. True to form, so far in this contest she has refused to guarantee the rights of EU migrants to remain in the UK after Brexit.
This is a ploy designed to win over the anti-immigrant Tory grassroots. May is the favoured candidate of the capitalist class, whose profits rely on the exploitation of cheap immigrant labour. There is little-to-no chance that big business will allow May, their political hand puppet, to kill the goose that lays their golden eggs by sending EU migrants home.
But thanks to her two-faced rhetoric we can be sure that with May as Tory leader xenophobia and racism will be a key part of her attacks on the working class, a fact which highlights that the Remain camp in the referendum (for which May campaigned) is equally as responsible as the Leave camp for the rise in anti-immigrant sentiments in Britain.
A future realignment of politics
The battle is now between May and Leadsom, and it will be for ordinary members of the Tory Party to decide between these two Margaret Thatcher tribute acts. The Tory Establishment will be viewing this contest with nervousness. The EU referendum has whipped up the large anti-EU layer of the Tory ranks into a frenzied and euphoric victory. These people are far more likely to vote for pro-Brexit Leadsom than pro-Remain May.
If May were to lose, big business and their normally reliable representatives in the so-called ‘moderate’ wing of the Tory Party may well have to cast around for allies outside of the Tory ranks, and would start making eyes at the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, which looks increasingly likely to split away from Corbyn. The formation of a new ‘centre-ground’ Party or some kind of Blairite/May national government is potentially on the cards.
But if Leadsom loses, such is the level of agitation amongst the Tory ranks, thanks to the referendum, that there is a real possibility of a split in the Party, with a huge portion of the politically backward Tory members moving in the direction of UKIP. Farage’s resignation as leader of UKIP smooths the way for this kind of realignment: a new UKIP-Tory fusion with a fresh image, a fresh leader (Boris Johnson, perhaps?) and even more poisonous politics.
Defend Corbyn! Kick out the Tories!
Whatever happens, this Tory leadership election is not taking place in normal times, and its result could have far reaching consequences for the shape of British politics in the near future. What we can say with certainty is that whichever Tory creature becomes the next Prime Minister, she will pursue appalling attacks on the working class with as much vigour as her predecessor.
This means there is an urgent need to kick the Blairites – the Red Tories – out of the Labour Party, so that Labour can unite behind Corbyn and take on the government. The trade unions need to bring the various industrial struggles together and organise for a general strike to bring down the government and force a general election.
Corbyn needs to fight on a bold socialist programme that talks in class terms and revolutionary rhetoric, to cut across the racism, xenophobia and disgust with careerist politics that years of Tory and Blairite rule have created. That is the only way that this abomination of the Tory leadership elections and their Party as a whole can be consigned to the history books, placed in the same chapter as all other barbarous relics.