General election 2024 – no illusions in those who uphold this rotten system!

On the 4 July there will be a general election. The decision by Rishi Sunak to call a snap election took many by surprise – including other Tory ministers who were less than happy to hear the news. But for many of us, the time has finally come to kick these crooks out.

By Eva Martin

On the 4 July there will be a general election. The decision by Rishi Sunak to call a snap election took many by surprise – including other Tory ministers who were less than happy to hear the news. But for many of us, the time has finally come to kick these crooks out.

Even Sunak realised there was little left to be gained from staying in office and presiding over this crisis for a moment longer. Polls show support for the Tory party has dropped significantly, with Keir Starmer’s Labour consistently ahead since 2022. 

This is unsurprising. After 14 years of Tory rule, working-class people have had enough. Enough of our living standards steadily worsening; growing food bank queues; record wage stagnation; a housing crisis; unaffordable rent rates; decimated public services; energy companies squeezing us dry; waiting lists at crisis point (leaving many going without the care they need); homelessness up by 120% compared to 2010  – the list goes on. Meanwhile, the wealth inequality gap grows steadily larger. The Sunday Times rich list reports there are 171 billionaires in the UK with £684 billion combined – with Rishi Sunak and his wife being among them.

The Tories face a challenge from their right by Reform UK. Reform was born out of a split with the Tories over Brexit. Their politics are even more rabidly right-wing than the Conservatives themselves. Their policies include scrapping all net zero commitments, ramping up attacks on migrants and promising to remove all “woke ideologies out of the classroom” – a thinly veiled attack on LGBTQ+ young people. 

This rightward challenge to the Tories power is born out of the many crises that British capitalism is faced with. The Tories face a crisis of credibility – both with working class people and the ruling class. They are no longer seen to be capable. In a similar vein to the “Trumpification” of the Republican Party, the Tories face a similar trend. The goal of Reform is to ultimately, turn the Tories into Reform and pull them in a further rightward direction.  At the time of writing, Reform is just one point behind the Tories. While that may not translate into seats due to the first past the post system, it is considerable support. This growth in support reflects the direction in which British capitalism is going – further instability and reaction.

Starmer: no alternative 

The Tories have shown nothing but utter disdain for working-class people. At a time when the need for a left wing alternative to fight for the interests of the working class and young people is becoming more apparent, we instead have Keir Starmer. Starmer stands in opposition to many working class people on the issues we care about.  A number of unions have refused to sign off on Labour’s manifesto as a result, including Unite. It’s safe to say that Labour is set to win this general election – not because of any real enthusiasm for Starmer’s politics, but rather out of a sense that we desperately need to get the Tories out. 

 Its clear that Labour will not bring any real change under its current leadership and trajectory. Things have become as bad as they are not only because of the Tories, but because of the system they uphold at the heart of all our misery: capitalism. A system Starmer is fully wedded to. He has directly appealed to big business and the rich in a bid to show that he and the British Labour party are even better at managing capitalism than the Tories. Under Starmer there has been a 500% increase in donations to the Labour party from multinational corporations and wealthy individuals. For example, £10 million has been donated from 4 people, all of whom are the owners of a big business including the owner of Autoglass. The party’s recent ‘business conference’ was also sponsored by HSBC, and packed with big bankers and city executives. Clearly there is a significant section of the British ruling class who support Starmer and his party because they know a Labour party under his leadership will facilitate their profit hoarding and protect their interests.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has committed to ruling with an iron clad fiscal approach — in other words, continuing with pro-big business, anti-worker policies. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has spoken at length in terms of the NHS remaining ‘wide open for the private sector’ under Labour. Starmer’s track record of U-turns on his policies and pledges paints a clear picture of what’s in store for us. To name but a few, Starmer has reversed on his pledge to defend and increase workers’ rights, to scrap the degrading Universal Credit system, to scrap the two child cap on benefits, to introduce rent controls, to abolish the House of Lords, to abolish tuition fees and nationalise the railway service. 

While millions have moved onto the streets in struggle to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian masses as Gaza faces the relentless nightmare of genocide, Starmer went the extra mile to show just how committed he is to the very same geocidal system. Starmer has lined up with the rest of the establishment  in defence of the Israeli state’s actions. His promise to increase arms spending and refusal to condemn the genocide shows how comfortable he will be to lead a pro-war, pro-imperialist government. 23,000 Labour members have left the party due to Starmer’s callous position on Palestine. 

Aligning himself with the rotten, right-wing transphobic and racist bigotry of the Tories and Reform, Starmer has also increasingly adopted anti-trans policies. For example in supporting the Cass Review which will undermine trans healthcare, and agreeing with decisions to ban trans women from female-only hospital wards. He has also pledged to crack down on immigration and ‘stop the boats’ more effectively than the Tories. His original pledge to spend £28  billion on implementing a green transition to tackle the climate crisis has now been cut to £4 billion. This doesn’t even amount to a drop in the ocean when it comes to what is necessary. 

A promise to manage capitalism and continue the “culture war” policies more competently than the Tories is not real change! Starmer has exposed himself to be no real alternative to the status quo when it comes to selling out ordinary people and the future generations. 

Scotland 

In Scotland, as the crisis continues to deepen for the SNP, Labour is reaping the benefits. Support for the SNP is crumbling. Labour’s vote share now stands at 39%; the SNP at 29%. This is respectively the highest and lowest the vote share has been for the two parties since the 2014 independence referendum. 

This does not mean a lessening of support for independence in Scotland, but rather an inevitable exhaustion with the failed strategy of the SNP focusing on parliamentary, legal manoeuvres and refusing to challenge the system which prioritises the profits of a few over the needs of the many. Working class and young people are correctly drawing the conclusion that the SNP have no way forward and are incapable of delivering on the aspirations tied up with independence that so many hold. If the political difference between the SNP and Labour is decreasing – why not vote for the party that will get the Tories out? 

Alternative must be built 

In the absence of an organised, fighting left party we have no choice but to build that alternative. The announcement by Jeremy Corbyn, Faiza Shaheen, Fiona Lali and other left wing candidates to run as independents is positive as it shows there is also a need to build a movement for genuine change that Labour is not interested in. But to work, this would have to be only the beginning. Unfortunately, previous opportunities to build a political alternative for working-class people were not seized upon by Corbyn. By not acting decisively to ensure the Blairite rightwing of the party was cut across, for example by enforcing mandatory reselection of election candidates through democratic processes within Labour constituency structures, the door was left open for the left to be pushed out of the party – a process that is escalating now with the barring of several more leftwing candidates from standing for Labour.

The necessity for us to fight on all fronts against a government that has made clear they will continue to implement attacks on working class people and our futures is inescapable. In 2017 during Corbyn’s run for prime minister, there was an opportunity to harness the anger and discontent that the support for Corbyn reflected, into a mass movement of young, oppressed and working class people, linked to strikes and struggles in the workplace. Because this was not done, it meant the defeat of Corbyn’s campaign. The movement of thousands of people who became politically active behind the Corbyn campaign because of the politics he represented and the profound desire for change was knocked back. 

We have to learn the necessary lessons from that – there can be no respite for Starmer and his government. The trade union movement must be willing to organise mass struggle and the membership must refuse to allow any cosy arrangements to be struck between the trade union  bureaucracy and a Starmer Labour government. The hundreds of thousands across the UK who have consistently struggled for 8 months straight for Palestinian liberation is an example of the basis for an alternative to be built – one based on solidarity, respect and mutual cooperation and armed with the desire to be free from all forms of exploitation and oppression. These struggles together with the fight for better pay, jobs, services and housing need to be combined with the fights against transphobia and racism. When the links between these issues are pointed out it can only strengthen and help unify these movements in the building of a political alternative for and by working-class people. Such a party would draw up and fight for a programme that is about challenging the inequality and innate exploitation and oppression of this brutal capitalist system and would focus on mobilising and organising working-class people as that is the only way we can achieve the necessary change.

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