100 TORY MPs voted against Boris Johnson’s ‘Plan B’ Covid restriction on Tuesday night, defying predictions earlier that Johnson had ‘won over’ a large number of rebels when he addressed the influential backbench 1922 Committee, just hours before the vote.
The vote made clear that, far from winning over Tory backbenchers, they were prepared to turn on Johnson, destroying his 80-seat majority, and leaving the entire Tory government propped up solely by the votes of Labour MPs.
Labour leader Keir Starmer ordered a 3-line whip to vote for Johnson’s proposals, in the knowledge that if Johnson had been defeated it would have brought him down and propelled the Tories into a huge crisis that could lead to their collapse.
Starmer defended Labour acting as the prop to Johnson’s government in his televised address on Monday in advance of the vote.
In this address, Starmer, flanked by a Union Jack, said it was Labour’s ‘patriotic duty’ to back Johnson because: ‘At times like this, we must put the national interest first.’ He insisted: ‘We are a patriotic party and it is our patriotic duty to vote for these measures’, while adding that it was also Labour’s patriotic duty to ‘hold the government to account’.
Starmer has never held the government to account – instead he has repeatedly refused to call for Johnson’s resignation. Starmer has always put the interests of British capitalism first, and on Tuesday night this meant keeping Johnson from suffering a humiliating defeat that would have plunged the Tory government into a catastrophic melt-down.
There is no ‘national interest’ only a class interest.
The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions at the start of the 20th century to fight for workers against the political parties of the bosses and landowners who dominated Parliament.
It was not built to become a party of patriotic duty to a capitalist system that exploits them mercilessly for profit and that today can only survive by dumping its crisis on the backs of working people.
All Starmer’s talk of ‘patriotic duty’ and his outright refusal to call for Johnson to resign, let alone seize the opportunity to bring him and the Tories crashing down, is a preparation for Starmer to lead the Labour Party into a reactionary coalition government of national emergency with the Tories.
This point has not been lost in the Tory press.
Yesterday the Times carried an article that pointed out that ‘isn’t Starmer entitled to insist that if his party is sustaining Covid policy, he ought to be consulted on what it is?’
This is exactly the offer Starmer is making – in return for keeping the Tories in power, he is begging not just to be consulted but to be brought into a national government.
A national government that will portray itself as above class interests and working solely for the national interest while acting always in the interest of the bankers and bosses.
Starmer is following the path of Ramsey MacDonald, the Labour leader who joined a national government in the 1930s which cut unemployment benefit when the Tory government was too weak to carry it out.
Increasingly, the capitalist class is reaching the conclusion that Johnson’s government is too weak to carry out the class war that capitalism requires against a working class that is demanding not constructive criticism but action against a Tory government that puts the profit of the bosses before the wages or health of workers.
Already, we have seen the anger of workers at the betrayals of the Labour Party force major union contributors like Unite and the CWU cut their funding of the Party, while the Bakers Union, one of its founders in 1902, has disaffiliated.
Every trade union must follow the lead of the Bakers and break with the Labour Party and put an end to the treacherous plans for a national government.
The way forward is for the working class to break completely with the Labour Party and rapidly build the WRP as the only party prepared to organise a general strike to bring down this weak Tory government and bring in a workers’ government and a socialist society that acts only in the interests of the working class.