Boris Johnson is Tories’ last hope of averting electoral annihilation

But can he convince voters that he really is prepared to deliver Brexit, in the teeth of ruling-class opposition?

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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When the Tories elected Boris Johnson as their new leader on 23 July, it was in the hope that he might be able to save their party from electoral annihilation at the hands of the surging Brexit party.

Brexit party threat shows workers’ anger

The Brexit party’s popularity rests on three pillars: first, voters believe the party really does want to get Brexit done, deal or no-deal; second, they believe that the party’s leader Nigel Farage is equally sincere in this ambition; and third, the party has tapped into the widespread anger at all the other capitalist parties’ refusal to deliver on the outcome of the 2016 referendum. Democracy is broken, says the Brexit party, and the workers are in agreement.

Naturally, then, the Tories realise that to avoid destruction at the next election, they need a leader who can be presented as being as sincere about delivering Brexit (and as ready to ‘speak his mind’ and ‘take on Europe’) as Nigel Farage. Especially as it is looking increasingly unlikely that a Brexit of any kind can be delivered by the present parliament, which is overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the European Union, despite the instructions of the British people who they claim to serve.

What does this sound and fury signify?

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

— William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Since his promotion, Boris has been rushing around making all sorts of announcements and appointments to generate the impression that he personally is determined in pursuit of Brexit; hell-bent on delivering it “come what may” on 31 October.

But, given Boris’s track record – his infamous writing of two articles to decide which side of the Brexit debate to come down on; his careerist propensity for doing whatever will serve his personal ambition; his ultimate dedication to his imperialist masters’ interests – can workers take all this activity seriously?

There is still the possibiity that Britain will fall out of the EU by accident, as it were, since that is currently the legal default if nothing else is negotiated in time. But would Boris actually welcome such an outcome?

He has assured business leaders that a no-deal Brexit is “a million to one” chance; that he intends to renegotiate the much-reviled withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May and remove the northern Ireland ‘backstop’ clause (inserted to prevent the reappearance of a hard border in Ireland).

But the EU has said it won’t renegotiate, and if it holds to that, what then? Clearly, if he can’t deliver on his promises, Boris hopes to be able to convince voters that it was the EU’s fault, or Parliament’s fault, or the Tory remainers’ fault, and that he did his very best and should still be trusted and re-elected.

He is being helped in this regard by the good-cop bad-cop routine being played out in his own party. With Tory remainer heavyweights like Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke on the back benches, Boris’s parliamentary majority (reduced to one after the recent by-election handed the Tory seat at Brecon to the LibDems) will disappear the moment he tries to push no-deal through the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the option of suspending Parliament to push no-deal through anyway was flagged well in advance, so our rulers now have plenty of time to make sure such a thing can’t be done when the time comes.

Does Boris actually want to do Brexit, as he says, or does he just want to be prime minister? Is he, in reality, preparing to fail at Brexit but win at the polls?

Sham democracy

The lesson for workers is clear. The much-praised ‘British parliamentary democracy’ is in fact a sham, as far as workers are concerned. It is democracy for the rich, not for the masses, who are allowed to vote so long as the outcomes on offer are acceptable to the ruling class.

Our rulers never meant to hold the Brexit referendum, which actually gave workers a say on something important, and they certainly never meant to lose it. Boris himself was clearly shocked when the result was declared, having joined the leave campaign as a way of burnishing his popularity against his old schoolfriend and rival David Cameron.

The big capitalists and their servants in parliament and the press are determinded to do what they can to overturn Brexit. The question they still can’t agree on is: HOW?

Workers, meanwhile, must learn to put their faith in themselves and work to build a socialist system that really will put their interests first.