UK: New scandals shake Tory government to its foundations

The revelations of harassment in Westminster reflect the rottenness of the establishment and the crisis facing this Tory government.

“I have never seen a class so deeply demoralised, so incurably debased by selfishness, so corroded within, so incapable of progress, as the English bourgeoisie,” commented Frederick Engels more than 150 years ago. Such an appraisal could have been written today. The establishment is in crisis and so is the Tory government. They are being paralysed by one revelation and scandal after another. There appears to be no let up. Meanwhile, the stalemate over the Brexit negotiations is forcing them to peer over a very-unnerving precipice.

“Theresa May tried to shore up her fragile government on Thursday after the resignation of her defence secretary over his personal behaviour, but for many Conservative MPs the whiff of decay in her administration has grown only stronger,” stated the Financial Times on 2 November after the latest wave of scandals hit the national papers.

This “whiff of decay” is but a symptom of a government on its last legs. For many it has become a stinking corpse, made up of the living dead. Every day brings new and irresolvable problems. Not since the 1990s has the establishment been hit with so much sleaze and scandal in one go. But unlike in the 1990s, we are today also facing the deepest crisis of the capitalist system.

This current crisis is especially problematic for a Tory government with a tiny majority and facing a possible debacle over Brexit.

How the mighty hath Fallon

The defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, was forced to resign, after admitting his “standards had slipped” below those required by the armed forces, whatever that means. He is just the first high-flying casualty of the scandal sweeping Westminster, the first scalp but by no means the last. It is a reflection of the backstabbing that is going on at the very top of government, where individuals are jockeying for greater influence.

Michael Fallon Image Wikimedia CommonsMichael Fallon / Image: Wikimedia Commons

It was therefore no surprise that Cabinet “unity” was seriously shaken after it emerged that Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, played a key role in ending the career of Fallon. She was elbowed out of the last Tory leadership election, which crowned Theresa May as leader without a vote. The bitterness was palpable. But this quickly led to a furious response. One cabinet ally of the former defence secretary said: “He made mistakes in the past, but what the f*** does Leadsom think she’s doing? We’re supposed to be a team. Does she want to bring down the whole f***ing government?”

The government is clearly hanging by a thread. There are many loose cannons inside and outside government. No wonder that the Financial Times, the mouthpiece of finance capital, chimed in with an article entitled “The high price of inept political leadership”. Not so long ago, Theresa May was seen as walking on water. Now she is clearly drowning.

Her government has been undermined by a series of calamities, from her disastrous election campaign, to her shock-horror Tory conference speech, to the incessant coup plots. “The lack of direction from the top could not come at a more inopportune time for the UK, given the daunting policy challenges,” warned the Financial Times. (3/11/17)

Her replacement for defence secretary reveals how precariously she is placed. The appointment of Gavin Williamson, a former chief whip, quickly created another storm of indignation. Jumping from obscurity into a top job has angered many. He has no experience of running a major department and knows nothing of defence. His personal role in Fallon’s removal has not gone unnoticed.

One minister called Williamson a “real slime ball”. Another branded his appointment as “the most unpopular political decision I have ever known”. A Tory backbencher said he was “the most loathed person in the parliamentary party.” Another claimed it was “Mrs May’s biggest and probably last mistake.” He has become known as ‘Cronus’, the name of his pet tarantula, a Greek god who deposed his father and ate his children.

Beginning of the end

Given that the Tory administration seems fatally wounded, such scandals now threaten to bring down the whole government. The DUP, which was prepared to help keep the Tories in power in exchange for certain perks and privileges, may now believe that this is not worth their while. The thread is fraying at the edges. Fallon was a key figure in the government, now he is history. This could end badly for May’s government. The only thing that is preventing a collapse is the threat of a Corbyn Labour government.

But this cannot hold back the bloodletting indefinitely. An aide to the prime minister admitted: “There is no doubt it’s sapping morale. It’s distracting from what we need to be doing.”

All this is unlikely to go away. New and damaging revelations are likely to come to light. The whole establishment is now in the spotlight, be it abuses of position, tax avoidance or just the chaos over Brexit. The First Secretary of State, Damian Green, in effect the deputy prime minister, is being investigated for alleged unacceptable behaviour which he is denying. Still pressure is mounting for him to stand down. Several others are in a similar position. One has even referred himself to the police.

Damian Green left and Matthew Coats Image Wikimedia CommonsDamian Green (left) and Matthew Coats / Image: Wikimedia Commons

There is fear and alarm in government circles that these scandals could force several resignations, possibly even of MPs, which would then mean a number of by-elections. The government’s 12 seat majority after a deal with the DUP could easily vanish. This would mark the end.

Asked if the government would collapse without Damian Green, Amber Rudd, the home secretary, said: “Absolutely not.” But she would say that, wouldn’t she, even as the government dangles over the edge.

Power corrupts

“At its heart”, explained an article in the Evening Standard, “this is more serious than taxpayers funding MPs' duck houses, moat-cleaning and ice-cube trays. Abuse of public money is bad enough. Abuse of people is worse. The common thread is the exploitation of power for improper ends.” (1/11/17)

These new scandals in Parliament involve people at the very top of government. This should not surprise us in the least. The whole British establishment is rotten to the core. All this follows on from the banking scandals, the House of Lords scandal, the paedophile scandal involving celebrities and politicians and so forth. During the early 1970s, the Edward Heath government seemingly covered up scandals involving child abuse. The Westminster swamp is very murky indeed.

Edward Heath Image Wikimedia CommonsEdward Heath / Image: Wikimedia Commons

This current wave of scandal is all about political power and the cesspit that defines it. The Mother of Parliaments is supposed to be above reproach, but is now seen as being up to its neck in sleaze. Like the Augean stables, the whole thing stinks to high heaven.

The scale of the unsavoury dealings is thought to involve a lot more and goes to the very top, as the case of Michael Fallon has shown. Power corrupts, they say, which is now very evident in this scandal. They thought they were untouchable and could get away with anything. And that has certainly been the case. With power comes arrogance. According to Jeremy Corbyn, abuse of power was “hiding in plain sight”.

The rottenness of capitalism

The powers-that-be are trying to close all these scandals down. Senior Tory MPs previously obstructed proposals for a binding code of conduct to protect staff from inappropriate behaviour. There are now complaints from MPs and their friends of witch-hunts and mob justice. But the establishment is once again caught in a maelstrom.

For them, all this could not have come at a worst time. The whole capitalist establishment is even more discredited than before, with the support for MPs already at rock bottom - at minus 74! These new scandals further drains away any authority they may have had. This is simply another nail in the coffin of the ruling elite - the rich and powerful - who dominate our lives.

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Tories, has talked of “cleaning out the stables”, but it is too late for this. A whitewash will not sweep this stench away. It is part of the rottenness of capitalism in decline. The establishment have been getting away with murder for years. It is time we put a stop to this.

Ruth Davidson Image Wikimedia CommonsRuth Davidson / Image; Wikimedia Commons

Only by ending the power of big business and their apologists can we put an end to the dehumanisation of society. Only by ridding ourselves of a system based upon exploitation and greed and replacing it with a socialist society based on cooperation and need, can capitalism’s abusive relations and corrupt scandals be thrown into the dustbin of history.