THE SPLIT within the Tory Party over ending the coronavirus lockdown broke out in the open at the weekend when Tory Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab publicly rejected demands from the Tory Covid Recovery Group (CRG) for a firm date for reopening British capitalism.
The CRG group of 63 Tory MPs sent a letter to Boris Johnson on Saturday demanding that all restrictions be lifted by the end of April.
The CRG called for all pubs and restaurants to be opened by Easter, arguing that the vaccine roll-out for two-thirds of the population in the top nine priority groups means that mass reopening should now be the priority for the government.
On the other side of the Tory split, Johnson is clearly loath to commit himself to insisting that his plan is to issue a ‘road map’ for relaxing lockdown next week, a road map that he has pledged will involve opening schools on March 8th at the earliest.
In what was clearly a concerted move to pressurise Johnson into caving in on these demands, the heads of two large pub chains at the weekend called for pubs to be reopened.
Tim Martin, chair of JD Wetherspoon, warned that the pub industry is ‘on its knees’ and needs to reopen to save jobs, while the boss of the Young’s pub chain demanded pubs be reopened by April.
Johnson is desperate to force through a reopening, starting with schools, in an attempt to revive British capitalism. What is worrying him is the resistance of the working class to returning to unsafe, dangerous conditions.
It was the opposition of the teaching unions that forced Johnson into the humiliating U-turn over school reopening last autumn, and he rightly fears any repeat will inflame the working class and the unions into action.
The CRG group and others in the Tory Party are determined to use the vaccination roll-out to justify an immediate reopening, ignoring all the warnings from scientists and health experts that Britain could face another coronavirus wave as big as the current one if lockdown restrictions are lifted too quickly.
Professor Steven Riley, a member of the SPI-M modelling group advising the government, warned that while the vaccination roll-out has been ‘incredibly successful’ it does not mean controls can simply be dropped.
Professor Riley told the BBC: ‘No vaccine is perfect. We are certainly going to be in the situation where we can allow more infection in the community but there is a limit …
‘Nearly 20% of the UK population is 65 years old or older. If you do some simple back of the envelope (calculations) for a vaccine that is very good but not perfect, there is the potential for another really substantial wave. That is not where we want to go in the short term.’
Caution is the last thing on the minds of the bosses – they are leading the drive to force a premature reopening using the vaccination roll-out as justification for their latest claim that coronavirus is just another flu-type infection that we will all have to live with.
Coronavirus is nothing like the flu virus, as even Raab had to admit. It is vastly more contagious than flu, it is not seasonal and its lasting effects on even younger people (Long-Covid) are severe, requiring hospitalisation.
The split that has emerged in the Tory Party between Johnson and the CRG group means there has never been a better opportunity for the working class to take action and bring down this weak, divided government.
Placing profit before the lives of workers and their families, the Tories have presided over 117,000 deaths in the country to date, and the drive to reopen will inevitably lead to another wave of infections and fatalities.
Workers must demand that the unions oppose all moves to reopen capitalism, by calling national strike action to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.
Only a planned socialist economy that follows the example of China in implementing a total lockdown with no loss of wages and carrying out a massive test and trace programme, along with mass vaccination, can lead to the eradication of coronavirus.