Lenin once said that the first condition of revolution is a split in the ruling class. That is an apt description of the situation in Britain, as civil war rages within the ranks of the Tories, the governing party.
Boris Johnson was known as the Teflon Tory, seemingly able to glide over a series of blunders over the years. He seemed to be like a comic book superhero, able to escape from the most precarious of predicaments: ‘And with one mighty bound, he was free!’
But now Boris has run out of road.
Last week, Tory ministers insisted there would be no vote of confidence in the Prime Minister. Then, just when he thought he was off the hook, a dramatic escalation occurred – confirming Harold Wilson’s remark that a week is a long time in politics.
By the time of the weekend’s Jubilee celebrations, 54 deadly letters from Tory MPs – 15% of the parliamentary party – had reached the desk of Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee. This forced last night’s vote over Boris’ future.
The fact that Johnson had been booed by flag-waving royalists at St Paul’s Cathedral was an ominous omen of what was to come. It was only a matter of time.
Mighty hath fallen
For poor old Boris, it doesn’t rain these days, it pours.
His ‘victory’ in last night’s vote – by 211 to 148, in a secret ballot of Tory MPs – left him badly wounded.
Above all, the vote exposed the deep divisions and animosity within Johnson’s own party. The poison and bile was overflowing. Theresa May, for example, gleefully turned up in a ball gown and twinkley shoes, clearly savouring the occasion. Nothing tastes so sweet as revenge.
The numbers voting to get rid of Johnson equate to a loss of support for the Tory leader of a whopping two-fifths of his parliamentary colleagues. Their saviour in 2019 was now a lead weight around their necks. How the mighty hath fallen!
As we know, there is no honour among thieves. These Conservative MPs are terrified of losing their seats. They feel the ground shifting beneath their feet. They hope that by sacrificing Johnson, they might save themselves. But they are deluding themselves. The rot has gone too far.
The rebels had a better chance of removing Boris if they had waited until after the two upcoming by-elections on 23 June, where the Tories are expected to lose. But it seems they couldn’t wait. Johnson had to go! Their parliamentary careers depend on it!
Now the real fun will begin, as one plot after another is hatched against this maimed, lame-duck prime minister. Johnson and his government will be thrown from pillar to post by event.
“We need to think bigger, much, much bigger,” bragged rebel Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, a former defence minister.
And what is Ellwood’s big idea? “If you are interested in bringing down the cost of food, then let’s lean into Ukraine and keep the port of Odessa open,” he said. “There’s a gap in the market for international leadership there.”
Imagine the British barging their way into Odessa, with foreign secretary Liz Truss waving the Union Jack? What a great idea of solving Boris’ problems: by starting World War Three! What a MAD idea – Mutually Assured Destruction!
Without doubt, Johnson has presided over the most inept government in British history. He has headed the most short-sighted, stupid, cavalier gang of charlatans and crooks ever produced by the Tory Party.
Boris was the clown that led this court of degenerates and liars, only interested in one thing: himself. He has no principles, and is prepared to do a U-turn on anything to save his skin.
One ancient Greek proverb says that “whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”. But Boris and co. are already stark raving bonkers.
Johnson was most certainly not the choice of the ruling class. Instead, the choice rested – and still rests – with the even crazier, rabid ranks of the Tory Party.
The biggest mistake the ruling class ever made was to allow the introduction of democracy into the party, giving these ‘swivel-eyed loons’ (in the words of ex-PM David Cameron) the vote.
Far better were the ‘men in grey coats’, who would mysteriously appear and make any necessary changes behind closed doors – a far more reliable method for choosing the right person for the job.
Now everything has come back to haunt them.
The problem faced by the ruling class is: who could replace Boris? The choice is very limited, with some even worse, more worrying options. As the old saying goes, be careful of what you wish for.
The ruling class could end up with the likes of Liz Truss. Rishi Sunak was the obvious choice, but he blew it in defending his millionaire wife’s non-dom status.
Last night, Boris won the support of 59% of his MPs. In December 2018, Theresa May got 63% of the vote, and was gone within months. In 1990, an injured Thatcher was gone within days.
But Boris is determined to stagger on, whatever the weather, refusing to leave voluntarily. The only way he would go is if he is forced to do so, kicking and screaming. They would have to drag him out of Downing Street by the ankles, with his fingernail marks imprinted on the door of Number 10.
Under Conservative Party rules, there cannot be another confidence vote for twelve months. In theory, therefore, Johnson is safe until then. But if the crisis deepens, Tory MPs can always change the rules to allow an earlier challenge.
‘Blood on the carpet’
Has Boris’ luck run out? All the Tory papers say he is a dead man walking, and that he will have to go.
“Boris Johnson winning Monday’s vote would be unlikely to solve his, the party’s, or the country’s problems,” stated Paul Goodman, editor of the ConservativeHome website, and a former MP.
“There are difficult by-elections to come, allegations pending, and Commons’ committee investigation pending in the autumn,” Goodman added.
Goodman noted that the vote would reveal fault lines in the parliamentary party, and in the wider Tory membership.
“It is disputed whether there is a Johnson loyalist base in the Commons, but there certainly is in the country, Goodman continues. “They will cause problems for any successor if a stab in the back myth ever arises.”
Whatever happens, there is no single candidate who can unite the warring factions of the Tory Party. As one minister asserted: “Anyone who thinks this will draw a clear line in the sand is wrong. All the people who were unhappy with Boris will still be unhappy. It just makes us look divided, which we are.”
“There’s already blood all over the carpet,” the anonymous government source continued. “And I can’t see why anyone would take over the party right now when there’s a civil war and there’s blood everywhere.”
Despite its 80-or-so seat majority, this Tory government will continue to be a government of crisis.
The crisis in the Tory Party is at bottom a reflection of the sickness and decline of British capitalism. The Tory rebellion is only a reflection of the turbulent period we have entered. And it is going to get far stormier, with ‘stagflation’ looming and the class struggle sharpening.
‘Sir’ Keir Starmer is crowing over Boris’ plight. But his main criticism of the Tory leader is that his actions are bringing the whole of the British establishment into disrepute.
Starmer, in turn, is putting himself forward as the real champion of the capitalist establishment – a man who the ruling class can trust.
Whatever the outcome of these struggles at the top, the deepening crisis of British – and world – capitalism is preparing massive class battles ahead, as the accumulation of anger and discontent within the working class reaches explosive levels.
Rather than looking to reform or patch up capitalism, demands will grow louder for the overthrow of this whole rotten system.
A split in the ruling class is only the first condition for revolution. The other conditions are maturing in Britain, as elsewhere.
Most important amongst these is the subjective factor: the presence of a bold revolutionary leadership that can show the way forward. Providing this – building the forces of Marxism – is the urgent task in front of us.