Boris Johnson’s government is beginning to fall apart. The massive loss of the North Shropshire seat underlines the cracks. Without Labour’s support he would not have got pre-Christmas pandemic protection measures passed in Parliament. The ghosts of parties Christmas past; Cummings and Barnard Castle; the corruption scandals; Tory MPs’ second jobs; dodgy Covid contracts to mates’ companies; elevation of a dozen Tory treasurers to the House of Lords; late and muddled Covid decisions long after scientists recommended action – all are beginning to expose the reality of lies and contempt for the people.
What are really beginning to hit home are the false promises of a post-Brexit sunlit uplands. Poverty pay is stalking the land. The New Economics Foundation reports that half of UK families are £110 a year worse off since 2019 while the richest 5 per cent are £3,000 better off. Inflation is running at 5.1 per cent while incomes are lagging well behind. The growth in international stock markets has further boosted the asset-rich as the pandemic has further deepened wealth inequality. As Frances O’Grady reports, we have now moved from pay freeze to pay squeeze, compounded by the cut in Universal Credit and particularly high energy bills hitting the poor hardest. Food banks continue to grow. When will government entertain the TUC’s modest Recovery Plan?
Levelling up looks more like levelling down for many in depressed northern and Midlands towns, with promises on HS2 and greater investment being broken. Small businesses are being hard hit with no furlough or financial support in place. Fishing and farming communities are finding themselves undone by Brexit.
Prem Sikka details the many dodgy payments and second jobs held by almost a third of Tory MPs. £85,000 plus expenses does not seem to be enough for them. Being an elected representative is a full-time job that requires conscientious and dedicated work to meet constituents’ needs. However, the likes of Brexiteer and ex-attorney general Geoffrey Cox and his boss think it acceptable to rake in over a £1million annually to help tax havens like the Virgin Islands.
Meanwhile, the Government continues its assault on democracy and human rights. As Don Flynn explains, the Election Bill, with its voter ID proposals, would suppress voting by the young, the poor and ethnic minorities, while also attacking the ability of trade unions to support the Labour Party and turning the clock back on democratic mayoral election systems.
The Human Rights Bill seeks to undermine the rights of all individuals, while the Judicial Review and Courts Bill seeks to restrict the accountability of government to domestic judges. Victor Anderson explains how the new Environment Bill, far from extending protection for food, farming, clean air and biodiversity, is likely to do the reverse. In the wake of more sewage outflows into our rivers and coastal waters, Karen Constantine reports on efforts in Kent to highlight the scandal of the privatised water companies’ failure to prevent pollution.
The Nationality and Borders Bill will further weaponise the hostile environment for migrants, making it more difficult for refugees to seek asylum from war or hunger, to join families or to live and work in the UK. Alena Ivanova writes of the current deadly plight of migrants on the UK’s and Europe’s eastern borders.
This is all topped off with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which proposes sweeping powers to police and would outlaw most democratic protest. Hard-fought-for fundamental rights to demonstrate against government, corporate power or to show solidarity with oppressed groups are under dire threat.
Internationally, the UK government seems keen to crank up a new Cold War, as Glyn Ford reports. What’s needed is a foreign policy informed by a consistent and ethical approach, one that seeks to promote justice and equity through peaceful means, as Mary Kaldor argues in a keynote article. Mary Southcott emphasises this approach in a personal account of Cyprus struggles. Labour’s leadership needs to take note.
As the government sinks deeper into the mire of corruption and deceit, more voters are beginning to see the reality and the polls are beginning to turn in Labour’s favour. Keir Starmer is landing more blows on the prime minister. However, the alternative Labour is offering continues to be vague or watered down. Bryn Jones looks at the ten pledges on which Starmer was elected leader and finds much backtracking. Peter Rowlands also expresses concern at the failure of general secretary David Evans to respond to requests for the policies agreed at Conference to be respected by the party leadership.
Jon Cruddas MP defends his view of the continuing role of traditional work and the pivotal agency role of blue collar labour against the robots.
At Johnson’s bidding, Lord Frost continues to undermine the Northern Ireland Protocol hailed by the same Johnson as a great Brexit deal. Geoff Bell reports that pressures to hold a border poll on Irish unity are growing. He reports Keir Starmer is playing an unacceptably ambiguous game in seeming to back unionists in the face of such demands.
We have argued this is a divided but dangerous Tory government. Peter Kenyon stresses it is time for Starmer to abandon tribalism and embrace electoral reform. This would send a powerful signal to wavering potential Labour supporters. The opportunities are growing for Starmer to promote Labour as a clean, democratic and internationalist alternative based on popular values of equality and social justice. These opportunities must not be missed.