With their polling figures tanking even harder than the British economy, the mood at the recent Tory Party conference was one of doom and despair.
“I just went back to my hotel room and cried,” stated one anonymous ally of Liz Truss, speaking on the back of the new party leader’s keynote speech. “It’s a total disaster.”
This year’s Conservative gathering was marked by infighting and open rebellion, as rival factions publicly aired their dirty laundry. It was a “showcase of dysfunction and division”, in the words of the BBC.
With the latest surveys predicting electoral annihilation for the party, despondent Tory MPs could be seen wandering the hallways of the Birmingham convention centre searching for someone to blame for their misfortunes. And all eyes pointed at Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.
Our latest VI poll has Labour with a *33pt* lead over the Tories, the highest of any recorded poll since the late 1990s. (Fieldwork 28-29 Sep)— YouGov (@YouGov) September 29, 2022
Con: 21% (-7 from 23-25 Sep)
Lab: 54% (+9)
Lib Dem: 7% (-2)
Green: 6% (-1)
Reform UK: 4% (+1)
SNP: 5% (+1)https://t.co/qjE87FPC0i pic.twitter.com/ddQLH2tixo
The incoming prime minister and chancellor have undoubtedly enraged voters by alighting an uncontrollable blaze in the UK economy, sparked by their incendiary agenda of debt-funded tax cuts for the rich.
But the truth is that the Tories bear collective responsibility for the mess they now find themselves in. They are getting their just deserts.
After 12 years of austerity and attacks on workers, the vulnerable, and the oppressed by successive Tory governments, all the chickens are coming home to roost for this gang of degenerates, and for the capitalist class that they represent.
Even the bosses are not happy with the Tories, however.
After the chaos of coronavirus and the Ukraine conflict, not to mention all the scandals surrounding Boris Johnson’s previous administration, the capitalists are desperate for stability.
Instead, they are now burdened with an even-more short-sighted and self-seeking Conservative leadership, who are acting not in the interests of big business, but in response to the deranged desires of the rabid Tory ranks.
“It’s my fourth prime minister and sixth chancellor, and these two won’t be here by Christmas,” stated one experienced (and exasperated) corporate chief visiting the Tory conference. “They keep making plans about things that we don’t want.”
“The Conservatives feel like they are dashing off in their own direction and not engaging with what business really wants,” remarked another boss. “It feels like it’s all coming from the right wing of the party.”
At the same time, traditional Tory voters – such as homeowners and managers of small businesses – are growing increasingly alarmed by the financial damage being done as a result of the government’s reckless economic plans, as interest rates rise and borrowing costs soar.
Crisis of the regime
Not content with alienating these once-reliable bases of support, Truss’ government – looking for a scapegoat to pin their problems on – is also picking fights with almost every bourgeois institution imaginable.
The IMF, the Bank of England, the Office for Budget Responsibility, Whitehall: all of these, and more, are being dragged into the Tories’ omnishambles, admonished by the new prime minister and her zealous accomplices for standing in the way of their neo-Thatcherite mission.
The country’s central bank is at loggerheads with the Treasury. Downing Street is at war with its mandarins. And cabinet ministers are sparring with each other, whilst mutinous backbenchers and party grandees plot behind the scenes.
The result is a crisis, not simply of the Tory government or the Conservative Party, but of the entire regime.
All of this political instability, meanwhile, only serves to intensify the panic on the markets, with investors fearful that British capitalism is heading full-throttle towards an iceberg without anyone to captain the ship.
The markets have lost confidence in the government. The ruling class has lost control of the Tory Party. And the Tories have lost their marbles.
The capitalist press is also turning on the Tories.
“Get a grip,” demanded the frontpage headline in a recent edition of the Daily Mail, never normally one to criticise the Conservatives.
“These people are mad, bad, and dangerous,” asserted Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, a serious mouthpiece of the British capitalist class. “They have to go.”
Of course, strategists of capital like Wolf make such calls not on behalf of the working class, but as sober voices of the establishment.
Removing Truss and Kwarteng won’t stop the rot, however. Nor will U-turns and utopian reassurances of growth from the Tory leaders.
British capitalism – and the party that represents it – are in terminal decline. And anyone who seeks to defend this sick, stinking, sinking system will find themselves engulfed by its putrid stench.
As the old Greek proverb states: “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”
This latest ill-fated Tory government, in turn, bears all the hallmarks of an ancien régime on its last legs.
“Those of us who have watched previous governments disintegrate detect the familiar smell of death,” commented the FT’s Robert Shrimsley, predicting the potentially imminent demise of Truss’ premiership – barely one month old.
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Who can say how long she will stagger on for? Sooner or later, however, Truss will go the same way as her gambler predecessors: Cameron, May, and Johnson.
And whoever succeeds her – whether it is Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, or anyone else – will face the same insoluble problems, opening up a new chapter in the crisis of British capitalism.
Britain’s special crisis
The crisis in Britain is not isolated. Rather, it is a harbinger of a new world slump. The chain of global capitalism is breaking first at its weakest links.
British capitalism is facing a special crisis, however, as a century of decline – compounded and accelerated by successive Tory governments and their myopic political decisions – catches up with reality.
With mounting debts, stagnant productivity, and a widening balance of trade, the UK economy is beginning to resemble more Greece (or even Sri Lanka) than the dynamic, industrious powerhouse that deluded Tory ultras imagine it still to be.
It is the working class, meanwhile, who are being asked to shoulder the costs of British capitalism’s senile decay, with poverty wages, rising rents and bills, and deteriorating infrastructure and public services.
But the fightback has begun. Whilst the Tories splinter, slither, and scheme, workers and youth are mobilising. From dockers and bus drivers, to rail and mail workers: industrial militancy is back.