The renewed infighting within the Tory Party has taken on a new intensity as MPs return to Westminster. Ever since Theresa May’s botched general election, her authority has slowly drained away. This has sparked a blatant jockeying amongst leadership hopefuls, keen to make their mark ahead of the Tory Party conference.
The latest incident was when Boris Johnson, the invisible foreign secretary, went off-message yet again with a 4,200-word article in the Daily Telegraph that departed substantially from known government policy. After months on the fringes, blundering around, Boris the Barbarian decided to revive the contentious £350m figure we were told the NHS would pocket after Brexit, saying in the article:
“Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”
This nonsense was refuted by David Norgrove, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, who wrote to Johnson criticising the use of the £350m figure, calling it “an egregious misuse of statistics.”
The article also caused an immediate rebuke to come from Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, attacking Boris for “back-seat driving”. In an interview with the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, she said that she did not want Boris “managing the Brexit process” and that Mrs May was “driving the car.”
Johnson was then slapped down by Theresa May herself, saying she was indeed in the driving seat and the government would decide how money would be spent, not Boris.
This is just another wild episode in the ongoing struggle for the Tory leadership, with Johnson busy demanding a “hard” Brexit, where the Europeans can “whistle for their money”. Such talk is intended to go down well inside the ranks of the Tory Party, which are packed full of aging reactionaries. Now insiders are saying that Boris may soon quit the Cabinet in a huff if a “hard” Brexit gets watered down, ready then to challenge May openly.
Boris is also trying to bolster his position against the new rising Tory star Jacob Rees-Mogg, the honourable gentleman for the 18th century, as he is called behind his back. Aristocratic toff Rees-Mogg is even more reactionary than Johnson, which plays well with the Tory membership, which is way to the right of the leadership.
Despite this laissez-faire approach, Rees-Mogg is not averse to taking handouts from the state. The government has spent £7.6m on restoring Wentworth Woodhouse, England’s largest private home, which happens to be the ancestral home of the mother-in-law of Jacob Rees-Mogg. We are told this is worthwhile, despite cuts to the benefits of the poorest, as we must surely keep these aristocrats in the comforts to which they are accustomed.
Clearly Mrs May’s days are numbered. The knives are already being sharpened as a prelude to a bloody civil war within the Tory Party.
This will provide the Labour Party with great opportunities to force a new general election. Labour must seize them with both hands.
Labour is, however, being partially hamstrung by the Blairite wing within Parliament. They are constantly plotting behind the scenes to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.
To ensure that the Labour Party becomes the vehicle of the rank and file, the tail must not wag the dog. The membership must have the right to choose their representatives. That means the introduction of mandatory reselection of MPs, which is a democratic means of accountability.
This must go hand in hand with the fight to rearm the party with a socialist programme that can deliver the changes that workers are demanding.