On 18 April Premier Theresa May made the ‘shock’ announcement outside of 10 Downing Street that there will be a general election in this country on 8 June. After months of denying that there would be an election before 2020, she claims that a walking holiday with her husband cleared her mind and made her realise that she needed to do this to assist the ongoing Brexit negotiations. That her government is ahead of the Labour Party in all the polls (by as much as 21 points in a few of them) has played no part whatsoever in her decision, according to any government or Tory Party spokesperson that can muscle their way in front of a microphone – but could there really be any other reason?
One does spring to mind, although it does also relate to those poll results. It is quite obvious that the rightist social-democrats, who make up the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), have been keen to use the bad by-election results (that they themselves helped to bring about) to build up another internal wave of resistance to their leader; but in politically wounding their own leader and putting their party behind to give themselves a chance to argue, once again, for his ousting, they have given May a present that she could not resist.
The Labour rightists now have no chance to change the jockey before the big race and must either support him or openly sabotage the Labour campaign and risk the wrath of Labour Party members. Also, for Labour to lose the election means that many of them will lose their seats. As their own self-interest is the motivation for all their decisions, this gives them another problem regarding their immediate tactics.
Will a general election assist the Brexit negotiations? Inside Parliament there are few friends of Brexit: a clear majority of all the major bourgeois parties’ MPs called and worked for a ‘Remain’ vote in the referendum and, therefore, that majority are desperately trying to keep open bridges and back doors to that detested (by most of the peoples of Europe not just Britain) entity called the EU. We don’t expect the next batch of ‘career’ MPs to be any different. What a Conservative victory with a comfortable majority would do is to give Theresa May more freedom and latitude during Brexit negotiations, thereby maximising her negotiating power vis-à-vis the EU, without being constrained by the demands either of the hard Brexiteers or those who want a deal at any price. With her present wafer thin majority in the House of Commons, either of these groups might at any time in the negotiations be in a position to muster a sufficient majority to bring her government down. After the election, at which a thumping Conservative majority is expected, she calculates that this will no longer to be the case.
As for Labour, despite the attempts at papering over serious differences between Corbyn supporters and their opponents, Labour enters this election deeply divided. This is particularly shown by the attitude of the two wings on questions of defence. While Corbyn and his close colleagues are opposed to the renewal of Trident nuclear submarines, the majority of the PLP, as well as the majority of the Labour Party, are for the renewal, including significantly its trade union supporters like Len McCluskey, representing the biggest trade union in Britain. Corbyn has been forced to include the renewal of this expensive and deadly arsenal of mass destruction in the Labour manifesto, while incongruously maintaining that he will never press the nuclear button. In that case, ask his Conservative opponents, what is the point of possessing a gun that you have declared in advance you will never use? Theresa May and her team are going to go to town in exploiting this and portraying Labour as soft when it comes to Britain’s ‘security’. Expect a lot of jingoist hysteria in this regard in the coming weeks leading up to the election.
Equally there are serious divisions within Labour over the question of Brexit. While Corbyn and the majority of Labour voters are for Brexit, the majority of the PLP, as well as the wider Labour Party membership, are in favour of remaining within the EU. And yet, because of the results of the June 2016 referendum on this question, Labour’s election manifesto has come down, albeit half-heartedly, in favour of Brexit – a stance that has infuriated the majority of the PLP and galvanised former Labour leader, the war criminal Tony Blair, and his close collaborator Peter Mandelson, to start openly attacking the Labour leadership, even to the point of attempting to organise a cross-party opposition to Brexit, calling for a second referendum and appealing to the electorate to vote for candidates in the election who are pro-Remain, be they Tory, Labour or LibDem.
To bring to bear further pressure on, and bring discomfiture to, Jeremy Corbyn, quite a few rightist Labour MPs have decided to ‘fall on their Parliamentary swords’ for the purpose of weakening Corbyn’s chances of becoming prime minister. The following list has been provided by the Rowena Mason in The Guardian of 19 April:
Alan Johnson, the former Labour home secretary, wants “to do other things with my life.”
Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “I have made no secret about my significant and irreconcilable differences with the current Labour leadership.”
Iain Wright, chair of the House of Commons business committee, wants to pursue other opportunities.
Pat Glass, former shadow Europe minister, wants to spend time with her grandchildren.
Andy Burnham, former leading contender against Corbyn for leader of the Labour Party, is standing to be Labour mayor of Greater Manchester.
Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, has said that it is time for someone else to do the job after his 30 years in the Commons.
Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, has refused to say if she will or won’t stand again, just that she is “considering her political future.”
Fiona Mactaggart, MP for Slough, is also thought to be considering whether to step down.
Since seats are usually easier to win as an incumbent, a large number of retiring MPs could increase the number of seats vulnerable to a challenge from other parties. The only consolation for Corbyn is that these seats could have Corbyn supporters selected as candidates for the Labour Party.
At the moment, the Conservatives have 330 MPs, Labour has 229, the SNP 54, and the LibDems 8. Small parties and independents hold the remaining 29 seats, in a 650 strong Commons. If Labour under Corbyn is to win this general election then it will need to take a lot of seats directly from the Tories. Even a total SNP crash cannot launch Labour into power without that, and currently there doesn’t even seem to be any real weakening of the belief among many Scots that ‘if only all of the rulers of Scotland were born the right side of the English/Scottish border then the oppression of Scottish workers would be sweet.’
Conservative landslide not a foregone conclusion
Be that as it may, not everyone is certain of a Conservative landslide, even though they enter the election as a relatively united party facing an opposition in disarray and trailing behind in the polls. The Conservative manifesto has still not been published and rumour has it that there is a lot of infighting behind the scenes on important questions ranging from pensions to health, education and taxation. Having burned their fingers over Brexit, the polling agencies have become much discredited and unreliable. That may explain the relatively mild treatment that Corbyn has received at the hands of the British media.
His first speech of the current election campaign was greeted favourably not only by his supporters but also by many non-aligned members of the public and, more surprisingly, by some members of the bourgeois press. This speech, which was described by more than one journalist as ‘fiery’, railed at the Tories; “They think there are rules in politics, which if you don’t follow by doffing your cap to powerful people, accepting that things can’t really change, then you can’t win” – but he could equally have been addressing his enemies within his own Party! He went on; “the establishment and their followers in the media are quite right. I don’t play by their rules. And if a Labour government is elected on June 8, then we won’t play by their rules either,” adding, in what seemed a wish rather than a fact, that his Party does not fit the establishment’s “cosy club” and is not “obsessed with the tittle-tattle of Westminster or Brussels.”
Usually critical political commentator Jane Merrick said of Corbyn after this speech that he had pulled out some “electoral swagger.” According to Russia Today (RT) on 21 April, the following comments from the British press were also made;
“Regardless of whether you think he answered the media’s questions or not, at least Jeremy Corbyn took them – unlike Theresa May last night,” Politics Home editor Kevin Schofield tweeted.
“Jeremy Corbyn invited all the press to his campaign launch speech and took loads of Qs from journalists. Theresa May is avoiding scrutiny,” added Daily Mirror political editor Jack Blanchard.
“Pattern emerging: Corbyn public speech. Questions from press. May heads to East Anglia. Journalists not invited,” said Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson.”
Social democrats are the agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement
On a lighter note, the revisionists of the CPB, various counter-revolutionary Trot outfits and TUSC have decided not to contest the election so as not to hurt Labour’s election prospects and to throw their non-existent electoral support behind Labour. That was all that this miserable lot were left with after hordes of their thinking members have already jumped ship and joined the Labour Party following Corbyn’s assumption of its leadership. If the Labour Party is the party of the working class, and if it can be the instrument for bringing socialism in Britain, as is the conviction and programmatic belief of these “real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class”, it is the height of sectarianism for them to maintain separate organisational existence. In all logic and honesty, they ought to liquidate themselves and join Labour, leaving it to the Marxist-Leninists to prepare the British proletariat to work for socialism through the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
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