The end of the Tory nightmare, a worse one on the horizon

We are in the final stretch of a Westminster general election campaign which, if the polls are accurate, will finally spell the end of fourteen years of a cruel, nasty, chaotic, corrupt, and incompetent Tory government which has presided over the devastation of public services, a huge rise in poverty, deprivation, and homelessness. One simple statistic tells you all you need to know about the damage that the Tories have done to the fabric of society. In 2010, when the Conservatives took office, the Trussell Trust operated 35 foodbanks across the UK. The organisation now runs around 1700 of them, and there are an additional 1175 independent foodbanks operated by other organisations.

This explosion of foodbanks is because foodbanks are used by the Conservatives to mitigate their destruction of the social security system, a system which is now neither social nor secure. 69% of those referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks are disabled people. Only 26% of the UK population is classified as disabled. People who live in social housing make up 8% of the UK population and 46% of those referred to a food bank. Renters make up 22% of the UK population and 68% of those referred to food banks. 89% of people referred to Trussell Trust food banks receive means tested benefits.

Figures from the House of Commons Library suggest that 11% of the population lives in ‘food insecurity’ which is defined as a household which reduces the quality, variety, and desirability of its members’ diets or that household members sometimes disrupt eating patterns or reduce food intake because they lack money or other resources for food.

It is a shameful indictment of a decade and a half of Conservative rule that millions of British citizens are forced to go without food because they literally cannot afford to put food on the table.

That is just one example of the vandalism that the Tories have wrought on society in their time in office. There are legions more not the least of which is the vicious austerity which has destroyed public services all because it’s anathema to the Tories that the obscenely rich might have a little bit less to squirrel away in a tax haven. Heaven forbid that Annabella and Sebastian are deprived of two weeks in Gstaad in the winter. Never has there been a British government less fit for office. For the past fourteen years the poor and the low waged have been forced to bear the consequences of the greed of the rich, and all too often have paid in terms of poorer health outcomes and shorter and more miserable lives.

We have lived so long with a Hooray Henry trashing the living room that you might think there would be excitement and anticipation at the prospect of finally evicting him. But there’s none of that, because that Hooray Henry has normalised the idea of vandalism by the rich to the extent that the Labour party of Keir Starmer is poised to take office promising to allow the vandalism to continue, because continuing to pander to the greed of the rich is one of the ‘changes’ that Starmer has imposed on the Labour party. Labour has swallowed wholesale the Tory shtick of posing as ‘serious’ and willing to make ‘tough choices’ by which is invariably meant pushing policies that will cause significant hardship – to other people.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman notes: “The obsession with perceived seriousness reflects peer pressure, but in some ways also reflects personal careerism. Officials in democratic nations cannot expect to remain in office for more than a few years. What do they do next? If they have lobbied for ‘serious’ policies, they can have a bright future giving speeches at Davos about the importance of making ‘tough choices’. Or they might even end up employed by the financial industry to lobby their former colleagues – where a reputation for ‘seriousness’ is a prerequisite, no matter how much damage those policies have caused. (Indeed, Osborne has done both.)”

Labour is ‘serious’ about the economy in this miserable and vindictive sense. Labour’s plans are notably lacking in any ambition to reverse austerity or to undo the damage it has caused. Don’t expect any significant reduction in the number of foodbanks. Starmer will not even commit to abolishing the abhorrent two child cap on benefits despite the mountain of evidence that it is an engine for creating child poverty. Instead he’s making the ‘tough choice’ to fund four new nuclear submarines. Austerity is here to stay.

According to the polls Starmer is on course to cruise into Number 10 with a Commons majority which could exceed 200, larger even than Blair’s landslide of 1997. Yet he will achieve this victory on the back of around 40% of the popular vote in an election in which turn out may be historically low. Labour will hail this as a mandate even though they denied that the majority won by pro independence parties in the Scottish election of 2021 constituted a mandate for a second independence referendum.

There is a huge danger lurking here. Waiting in the wings to feast on the corpse of the Conservative party is Nigel Farage. He has made no secret of his desire to take over what is left of the Tories. Starmer is going to win this election, not because there is any great affection or enthusiasm for his bland brand of centre right managerialism, but because people are desperate to be rid of the hated Conservatives. Starmer promises change but meaningful change is not on his agenda, just more ‘tough choices’. His government will very quickly become deeply unpopular, paving the way for the vile nostrums of a faragised Conservative party to promise ‘real change’ and to come into power in 2029. Farage is very likely to gain a foothold in Parliament on Thursday, and he will leverage it for all that it is worth. The Tories will be battered and devastated, ripe for being cannibalised by the vultures of the Farage party.

That far right party will not need to win a majority of the popular vote any more than Starmer needs a majority of votes cast on Thursday. A far right authoritarian Anglo-British nationalist government is potentially just a few years away and the Westminster system is uniquely vulnerable to a complete take over by the far right. The nightmare of the Tories is coming to an end, only to herald the nightmare of far right English nationalism going mainstream. Obama’s hollowness delivered Trump. Macron’s hollowness will deliver Le Pen. Starmer’s hollowness will deliver Farage. The ‘tough choices’ of corporate centrism are the gateway drug to fascism.

In 1982, the left wing Labour politician Tony Benn, who would be deeply unwelcome in Starmer’s party said: “If the Labour party could be persuaded to denounce all its marxists, the media – having tasted blood – would demand next that it expelled all its socialists and reunited the remaining Labour party with the SDP to form a harmless alternative to the Conservatives, which could be allowed to take office now and then when the Conservatives fell out of favour with the public. Thus British capitalism would be made safe and forever and socialism squeezed off the national agenda. But if such a strategy were to succeed it would in fact profoundly endanger British society, for it would open up the danger of a swing to the far-right, as we have seen in Europe over the past 50 years.”

Benn’s warning is coming true.



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