By Connor Rosoman, Socialist Alternative, our sister organisation in England, Wales & Scotland
Britain now has its 3rd Prime Minister since the last General Election in 2019. Following the resignation of Liz Truss last week, Rishi Sunak will now become Prime Minister, elected by only a few hundred Tory MPs. Some in the ruling class may be hopeful that this will mean a consolidation of the turn toward the capitalist consensus of austerity, in the form of tax rises and spending cuts, to tackle soaring inflation. But in reality, Sunak’s victory will mean anything but an end to the turmoil of the last few months.
Significantly, the nature of Sunak’s government as one of the super rich against the poor is perhaps more exposed than ever. With a net worth of over £730 million, our new Prime Minister is even richer than the king. His wife, Aksharta Murty, comes from one of the richest families in India. Only a few months ago, Sunak himself found himself in his own scandal over his wife’s non-dom tax status, used to avoid up to £20 million in taxes.
As chancellor, Sunak was responsible for the scrapping of the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift. Despite his reputation for big spending packages such as the furlough scheme, which the Tories were forced to adopt by the scale of the covid crisis, Sunak has insisted over the last year that he is a devout Thatcherite and is by no means committed to supporting those suffering from rising prices beyond what is necessary to stave off complete collapse. This is what we should expect from Sunak going forward as well.
Already, some sections of the pro-Tory media have highlighted that he is the first non-white PM. But in the same way as Liz Truss’ right-wing cabinet threatened women’s rights with the appointment of anti-abortion figures in its cabinet, or Suella Braverman’s racist, anti-immigrant tirades in recent weeks, we should expect no change from the racist status quo of the Tories. For instance, on the campaign trail this Summer, Sunak redoubled his commitment to the government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, and to reverse “recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender-neutral language”, and similar transphobic and anti-”woke” rhetoric.
How Sunak won
Following the collapse of the cabinets of both Johnson, but also of Liz Truss, the Conservatives have been thrown into total disarray. This was particularly triggered at the start of Summer by the piling up of corruption scandals, most notably partygate, but has been driven fundamentally by the huge pressures of the cost of living crisis, wider economic crisis, and the inability of the capitalist system to offer any genuine solutions.
This is the context in which Sunak now takes the reins of power. Just today, a new survey, published in the Financial Times, suggests that the UK economy is already in recession. Deep splits which have emerged in the Conservative Party are still open fissures. These factors will make Sunak’s premiership another fragile one, prone to collapsing once again.
The leadership of the Tories has become a poisoned chalice. It was essentially for this reason that Boris Johnson pulled out of the leadership race, citing the fact that “you can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament”, leaving the door open for Sunak. Johnson will undoubtedly wait in the wings, plotting to return as leader to a party on its knees following likely election wipeout.
Fight for a general election now
Under the chaotic rule of the Tories, and under a new Prime Minister with no mandate to rule from working class people (or even his own party, ironically) there will be huge pressure now for a General Election. Socialist Alternative fully supports this government being brought down immediately and a general election being called. The Tories have shown their utter contempt for working class people by this undemocratic move. We should not wait and hope that Sunak declares one in the coming weeks, or rely on Keir Starmer’s speechifying to bring one about.
We need to continue to coordinate, escalate and broaden the ongoing strike wave taking place. This should include building for the November 5 People’s Assembly demonstration in London as a mass show of force against the Tories and to demand a general election. Backed up by coordinated strike action — preparing for a general strike – this could force the crumbling Tories from power.
But such action should also begin to take up the question of what alternative we need. Keir Starmer’s Blairite Labour Party has spent almost 2 years trying to win over the ruling class to its side as a safe — indeed a safer pair of hands — for capitalism than the Tories. Recently, this has included a burst of meetings with Britain’s biggest corporations and promises of “tough decisions” including sacrifices on their already insufficient programme. Starmer’s government will ultimately accept the diktats of the “markets”, which will ultimately mean a continuation of the austerity plans put forward by groups such as the IMF — something working-class people simply cannot afford.
While struggling to force the Tories out, we need to be on the offensive to force the change we need even under a Labour government. This should also include building a new left party of struggle that can give a political expression to the movements of workers, young people, women, refugees and all those looking to fight back.
But as part of this, we also need to build an organisation that can lead the fight against capitalist crisis, and for revolutionary change to take the economy out of the hands of the super-rich and end the chaos of the market. Socialist Alternative stands for exactly that. Get in touch to join us at the People’s Assembly demonstration to demand mass strike action to kick out the Tories, and join us in the fight for a democratically planned economy that can meet the needs of the people and the planet.