Now that the billionaire Rishi Sunak is the new Prime Minister, with monsters like Cruella Braverman in his cabinet, and an obvious plan to make sure life gets worse for most of us on these islands, we can hear the call once again for an immediate election. From Starmer and Rayner in the opposition front benches, to the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats, and the nationalists of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, there is a clamour for the ballot boxes to be dusted off and brought out again.
This call will be repeated by the union leaders like Dave Ward of the CWU and Mick Lynch of the RMT. The latter has said, at a fringe event at the Labour congress in Liverpool, “I want the Labour party to win the next election because it’s in the class interests of our people to have a Labour government and get rid of this lot who are suppressing and oppressing us and ripping us off.” He admitted, “We remember that the last Labour government did not deliver a pro-worker agenda.” But what makes you think Starmer will not do the same thing, Mick?
Starmer has called for longer prison sentences for environmental activists. This is in line with his record as Director of Public Prosecutions when in 2011 he ran all night courts to maximise the number of people prosecuted after the London riots. He made a morale-boosting visit to Highbury Magistrates’ Court, north London at about 4am, during one of its night sittings at the height of the August riots, and later praised the efficient response to the disorder. He argued that convicting people of riot offences 24-48 hours after they were arrested in magistrates’ courts would be a deterrent to further unrest. If Starmer is elected in two years, and the economic situation remains undoubtedly the same, then Starmer will use the same powers to attempt to quell any civil unrest.
At the same time the Labour leadership is holding more and more meetings with the heads of big business. Starmer, Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, have all had coffee meetings and dinners with City executives, who are eager to meet with the new government in waiting. The next big event where Labour woos the top capitalists will be in early December at the Labour business do, with panel discussions and a lunch. This follows the reception at which Starmer and Reeves spoke to more than 600 business bosses at the Labour conference in Liverpool.
The next large-scale engagement between the Labour leader and his top economic team and executives will take place in London in early December, when the party will hold its next ‘Labour business event’, featuring panel discussions and a lunch.
Multinational companies like Siemens and Nissan, and banks like HSBC and Natwest, as well as professional services firm EY, have all held meetings with Labour. The chair of Tesco, John Allan, has endorsed Labour, saying that it is “the only team in the field” on economic policy.
It is clear that a considerable section of the ruling class has been frightened by the chaotic situation caused by the Tory government which has affected market stability and threatens widespread unrest throughout the UK. Starmer and his cohorts will have assured these bosses that things will be safe in his hands. He will demobilise and defuse any movements that threaten the status quo, he will come down heavily on strikers, using the legislation already in place or about to be, and he will use draconian measures against social movements and indeed disaffected youth who take to the streets. He will continue with the austerity measures of the Tory government and the dismantling of the NHS. After all, previous Labour governments were the administrations that colluded in the destruction of the NHS. A recession is expected by four out of five top bosses within the next year and half of them are preparing to cut jobs. A CEO Outlook Survey put together by KPMG reveals that 80% of business executives believe this downturn will come soon, and 40% of them, here and abroad, have already halted hiring and around 50% were considering sackings in the next six months. This dire situation of increasing unemployment and spiralling poverty will be inherited by Labour who will rush to smother rising dissent.
The call for an immediate election is an illusion. The Tories will not want to do this knowing that they will be wiped out and will delay for another two years. In the meantime, we have to start organising at the grassroots, uniting the different campaigns fighting single aspects of the economic crisis on a borough wide basis and looking to creating mass assemblies where resistance to evictions and the creation of alternative social welfare and health systems are considered. We should look to the example of Greece where health clinics along these lines have been created. These borough wide bodies should look to uniting those in work, the unemployed, pensioners and school and college students. At the same time we need to look urgently towards the creation of rank and file committees in the workplaces, ready to continue the strikes and prepared to counter the moves by union leaders to sabotage the struggles.
This sounds like a tall order, but all serious militants and activists should consider these ideas. We have to counter the austerity measures of the Sunak government, just as when Labour comes to power we know that its continuance of austerity must be combatted.
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Critical Mass.