8th October 2017
Theresa May with ironic Conservative Party slogan
That the Tories were going to have a bad week at their annual conference in Manchester was widely predicted. That it could have degenerated into something akin to farce, with the speech by leader Theresa May being the coup de grace, can only be regarded as a bonus. As May coughed and spluttered her way to a conclusion, being handed a mock P45 en route, her Cabinet colleagues looked on aghast before the stage lettering behind her began to fall apart.
Whatever the headline writers and political cartoonists make of the farrago into which May’s leadership has now slipped, the reality has always been that there has been nothing on offer from the Tories to address the needs of the people of the UK and that fact is becoming increasingly obvious.
The desire to leave the EU is not even a mainstream Tory position but one foisted upon the vacillating leadership of David Cameron by a combination of his own right wing and the BBC backed UKIP. Theresa May took a position that can best be described as ambivalent during the referendum campaign and, following the defeat of the Remain camp to which she was notionally aligned, became Tory leader largely due to the lack of anyone else appearing to be a remotely credible candidate.
May now retains her position because mainstream Tories are increasingly seeing Brexit as toxic and do not want to get their hands dirty with the nitty gritty of negotiation. The Boris Johnson’s and Rees-Mogg’s, in spite of the noise they make about Brexit, are incapable of taking the reins because they know that they will not be able to carry the Tory mainstream much beyond the position May is taking. If they cannot even do that, then they calculate that their chances of winning a general election are even more remote.
It is little wonder that May looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights every time she is interviewed. She is damned if she stays, while the rest of her party will be damned if she goes.
The only political beacon that has emerged in the last year in the UK is the Labour Party General Election manifesto, For the Many Not the Few, which continues to offer the only credible steps away from the austerity imposed upon ordinary people, to meet the bankers gambling debts, and towards a future that offers young people hope and opportunity.
With the political party conference season over, the coming months will see increased pressure from public sector trade unions to break the cycle of austerity and push for pay rises that at least keep pace with inflation for their long suffering members. Low pay and low investment in manufacturing and infrastructure continue to be a drain on the economy. For years the banks have used the excuse of austerity not to lend or invest, now they cower at the uncertainty of Brexit. These risk takers, these engines of the economy, are a tame lot!
Meanwhile, local councils, straining under the burden of almost ten years of austerity will once again be forced into making unpalatable choices in the coming budget round, which will lead to further service reductions for those at the sharp end.
The national roll out of Universal Credit, widely decried as a debacle in areas where it has been piloted, is scheduled for the New Year. The prospect of the unemployed, single parents and the disabled having to struggle without access to benefit for up to six weeks has been widely reported but no solution proposed.
Without properly funded options for local authorities to build new council houses the crisis in affordable housing will continue, as Tory dogma dictates that the ‘right’ to buy must continue to be an option for Council tenants, while the private sector know there are no super profits in building houses for the poor.
All of this is on the doorstep of the UK, even before the government take a position on the possible US led conflicts with North Korea and Iran. Given recent history there is more than an evens chance they will take the line of backing US belligerence. Given the massive drain upon the UK economy which spending on weapons of mass destruction represents, kowtowing to the foreign adventures of the US gives the UK ruling class the slimmest of justifications for the syphoning of resources away from the NHS, housing and public services which the defence budget represents.
It is ironic that, at its annual meeting later this week, the IMF is likely to call for greater investment to boost education, training and productivity. Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, has spoken recently about the need for economies awash with cash to “use this moment to invest more in their own economies”, although she is widely expected to be ignored.
Capitalists are not even prepared to listen to each other. Perhaps deep down it is because they know they have no solutions.