Already Johnson’s Tories are reneging on commitments made in the EU Withdrawal Agreement to adhere to worker and consumer rights and environmental standards. Johnson talks about not taking EU rules, previously agreed by his and other governments. Their agenda is clear. To create a low tax, low wage, long hours, reduced rights economy in which ‘free ports’ are established and corporate capital can exploit labour with little restriction.
Peter Kenyon outlines further details on the ‘Get Brexit done’ show. The fallacy is that this is the end of the process. Leaving the EU on 31st January was just the beginning of phase one. As the process unfolds we will witness the banging of the nationalist drum on every issue from fishing to free trade, with Brussels and the EU states generally being labelled obstructive and uncooperative.
In his speech at Greenwich the prime minister indicated a preference for heavy tariffs on traded goods rather than stick to agreed standards. We have been warned. Meanwhile, not satisfied with blocking the free movement of EU citizens the government seems set on creating a yet tougher environment for all migrants and asylum seekers. Alice Arkwright explains how the government is planning to defy international law in stopping refugees, while tightening still further restrictions on children. For those already settled here the environment becomes more punitive. James Skinner and Aedin O’Cuill illustrate this from the experience in the NHS where staff are being pressured to snoop, refuse treatment or charge heavy fees for those in need of care. The Cameron/May (failed) immigration targets have been ditched, but with the nonsensical points system beckoning immigration looks set to become an even more politicised field, with harsher and more expensive entry criteria. Home Secretary Priti Patel’s new system seeks to further cherry pick. Unskilled and semi-skilled migrants wishing to work in Britain are out while so-called skilled workers face a slightly lowered earnings threshold of around £25,000 to gain entry. Besides being discriminatory and short-sighted, the policy will lead to labour shortages with many services and businesses suffering as a result.
Promises to end austerity and invest in industries and northern areas suffering from ten years of Tory squeeze and neglect ring hollow when set against the realities of continuing cuts to local councils, schools and hospitals. The infantile mantras chanted by docile cabinet members, to build more hospitals and spend more on police and buses, are a pathetic distraction from the realities of the amounts of investment needed to reverse the erosion of public services.
Denis Leech exposes the fault-lines in the Tory economic strategy, showing that austerity may be modified with uncosted promises but the underlying story of wealth redistribution to the rich remains. Prem Sikka further highlights the ten-year bonanza for shareholders while the income gap has widened with the earnings of most workers still below the 2008 crash levels.
Getting Brexit done also means ignoring the majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is leading to further pressures towards the break-up of Britain. Gerry Hassan analyses the plight of Labour in Scotland, with the party securing just one seat in the General Election. Prospects for Labour look bleak in his analysis of the options for political recovery.
The results of the Irish elections, which saw the leftist Sinn Fein top the poll, mean that a border poll on Irish unity seems likely within the next five years. While Jerry Fitzpatrick sees the SF success as largely built on its progressive social programme the national question will not be in the shadows for long.
Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings ape the Trump playbook in seeking to choose what journalists get briefing invites while planning to weaken public service broadcasting with attacks on the BBC and its licence funding regime. More broadly they seek to undermine the constitution. Trevor Fisher sees the big battle during 2020 being the protection of the judicial and rights based system that has emerged over the past 100 years.
As these menacing threats grow Labour is embroiled in a third leadership contest in five years, so its attack on the government currently lacks focus and drive. We print brief outlines of the case for the two front runners in the battle to lead Labour. Both Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey have merits but, besides clear-sighted, competent and radical socialist leadership, what the party desperately needs is a transformation of its culture, begun by Corbyn but stalled over the last two years. We reproduce the prospectus for democratic revolution produced by Clive Lewis MP, who did not make it into the second round. His manifesto could be a lodestar for whoever succeeds Jeremy Corbyn on the path of changing Labour into a thoroughly democratic party with a clear plan for transforming the antiquated British state.
Local government could be a key terrain for Labour to rebuild its influence and support. Duncan Bowie argues that first Labour needs to be clear on what kind of devolution its wants.
Don Flynn widens the terrain of challenge for the left in identifying a fragmented working class. Modern capitalism has changed the nature of this primary agency of social change. The technological revolution is producing new forms of worker. Unless the left, particularly Labour and the trades unions, are able to create a new politics and structures to get ’beyond the fragments’, Labour’s chances of forming a government in 2025 look bleak. A key element of Labour’s offer must continue to be a Green New Deal, as outlined by Jake Woodier.
Labour needs to maintain commitment to core socialist values and policies developed in the Corbyn period whilst becoming smarter at countering the new right Tories. A populist nationalist rhetoric, drawing from the Trump playbook, blaming the other whether it be migrants, Europeans, women or other minorities, will get louder. Labour needs to respond with a positive internationalist and inclusive political counter-attack.