Last week, the Tories suffered a humiliating electoral defeat in their formerly safe seat of North Shropshire, a rural constituency dominated by the Conservative Party for nearly 200 years. Boris Johnson is running out of road as he lurches from one scandal to another. This opens up further instability and crisis for British capitalism.
Boris Johnson’s Tory Party has suffered a calamitous electoral defeat in the rural seat of North Shropshire, where the party’s 23,000 majority was completely overturned. It is a massive blow to the authority of Britain’s beleaguered prime minister, Boris Johnson. This electoral disaster is a further indication of the extreme volatility of British politics.
At a time when COVID cases had reached record levels, voters in this Tory seat of North Shropshire were determined to inflict a devastating defeat on the government. This is truly remarkable. It was no ‘mid-term’ upset, but a seismic shift in British politics.
The rural seat of North Shropshire has been ‘true blue’ Tory for nearly 200 years, since 1832. As they say, they didn’t use to count the Tory votes, but simply weighed them. The Liberal Democrat candidate, who came third in the last election, romped home on Thursday to beat the Tory candidate by nearly 6,000 votes.
The result was:
- Helen Morgan (Liberal Democrat): 17,957
- Neil Shastri-Hurst (Conservative): 12,032
- Ben Wood (Labour): 3,686
The turnout in the election was 46.3 percent.
We said two years ago, when Boris Johnson was first elected, that this would be a government of crisis. Some were taken aback by such a prediction. But it was based upon the deepening crisis of British capitalism and the most disreputable Tory government ever elected, led by a charlatan and liar. Rather than calming the situation, they are making things far worse.
This crisis is now clear for all to see. It would have been exposed much sooner but for the feeble so-called opposition of the Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer.
Despite all the government calamities, the Labour leader was not even prepared, if you can believe it, to call for the resignation of Boris Johnson. Starmer said he was not prepared to “play the game of party politics”. Instead, he said he would always act “in the national interest”, which is to say supporting the Conservative government in nearly everything it has done. Starmer has all the worst features of the traitor Ramsay MacDonald, who in 1931 joined the Conservatives in a national government.
Boris Johnson is presiding over a political meltdown. To lose a seat held by the Tories for nearly two centuries is quite an achievement! Johnson is the most backward and degenerate of all the backward leaders of the Tory Party. These are the people in charge at a time when Britain is facing a series of historic crises.
‘Boris’, who is keen to play the fool, clearly allowed his 80-seat Tory majority in the last general election to go to his head. He thought he could get away with anything. He thought he was untouchable. In the pandemic, he adopted “one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us”, where wild parties are held in Downing Street while the rest of the country is subject to lockdown and told to act responsibly.
Tory MPs loved him when he brought them victories, but with defeats, they are turning against him. The defeat in North Shropshire was even bigger than another recent defeat in Chesham and Amersham in June. Hundreds of Tory seats are now vulnerable!
This comes on top of the massive revolt in Parliament last week, where 99 of his own MPs – almost half his backbenchers – voted against the government’s plans over COVID restrictions. The rebellions on votes over mask-wearing were smaller, but sufficient to wipe out Johnson’s majority. This was a sign of deep trouble to come.
Humiliatingly, Johnson was forced to rely upon Starmer and the Labour Party to get his proposals through. The same was true of Theresa May’s dying days over Brexit, when she was faced with a revolt on the right of the party.
Last week’s rebellion was the biggest of Johnson’s premiership. It also reflected the strengthening of the right-wing, reactionary lockdown sceptics within the Tories’ parliamentary ranks. These creatures, these “freedom lovers”, have no concern for ordinary people.
Boris Johnson is now damaged goods. He personally pleaded with the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, the right-wing of the party, to back him. But in the end, they voted against him.
The Prime Minister is in deep trouble. Letters from his own MPs are being submitted demanding that he stand down. 54 are needed to force a leadership challenge. This figure is not insurmountable, as fears are running high amongst his MPs about losing their precious careers if the status quo continues.
In the race for Tory leader, Johnson was never the candidate of the ruling class. He was too unreliable, a maverick and too unpredictable for their liking. He loaded the cabinet with and chose as advisers arch-Brexiteers and reactionaries, no matter the consequences. The turmoil of the last two years, especially over the Brexit shambles, is a confirmation of how obtuse these so-called representatives are.
The strategists of capital would like to get rid of Johnson. In fact, they are stoking up the publicity against him. However, the problem they face is who to replace him with, when, after everything, the mad ranks of the Tory Party will have the final vote. It was, after all, these reactionary cranks who chose the idiot Boris Johnson in the first place.
Not surprisingly, Johnson has gone from one disaster to the next in quick succession.
The North Shropshire election was caused by the resignation of the disgraced arch-lobbyist and ex-minister Owen Patterson, who Johnson tried to save by changing the parliamentary rules about lobbying. But this backfired. The allegations of sleaze began to stick to the government. These were further compounded by the stories of Downing Street parties at the height of the pandemic, which Johnson denied ever took place: a blatant lie.
These scandals have already resulted in resignations, starting with Johnson’s former press secretary, Allegra Stratton. She was followed by Shaun Bailey, the Tory London mayoral candidate, who was photographed attending another ‘raucous’ party. More heads will roll, but Johnson is determined to sit tight. But the ground is staking beneath his feet.
The stench, stoked up by the Tory press, became overpowering after weeks of damaging headlines. Even the Tory candidate in Shropshire refused four times to say in an interview that he believed Johnson to be “a man of honesty and integrity”.
The new intake of Tory MPs, especially from the former Labour seats won in the last general election, feel their majorities shrinking by the hour. There is mutiny in the air as Johnson’s authority evaporates. They will turn on him when the time comes, as they turned on their former leader Theresa May.
No doubt, people like Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, have their eyes fixed on a future leadership election. They are busy trying to curry favour with the ranks of the Tory Party.
With the new Omicron variant of COVID taking hold and infections rocketing, Johnson is under pressure to apply further restrictions, and even recall parliament. But a sizable majority of his Tory MPs are opposed to any restrictions. They don’t care about how many people die as long as big business is allowed to keep making its profits. To bring in more restrictions will mean losing the confidence of his parliamentary party. Johnson’s political life is on the line.
Johnson will attempt to bluff and bluster his way through. But this is likely to be a pathway over a cliff. This is not the Christmas present he was looking for.
The resignation of his Brexit minister, Lord Frost, is only yet another blow against the prime minister’s authority. Frost resigned because he was against restrictions over COVID. Like the Tory ranks, he wants businesses to be allowed to trade unimpeded, even if it means the pandemic flourishes. It is a clear reflection of their reactionary outlook, and how they view the working class as dispensable collateral damage.
Splits and divisions are opening up at all levels, a product of the crisis of British capitalism. In reality, we are witnessing the death agony of Boris Johnson and his government; and the opening of a new convulsive and stormy chapter in Britain.