Richi Sunak calls British election amid a serious crisis

Contributed by Joe Montero

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a general election 6 months early. The set date is 4 July. He has done so in a position of extreme weakness. Why he chose this is no mystery. His prospects aren’t going to get better, and his jittery and divided team might roll him at any moment. This is a gamble born out of personal desperation and the demand of the Conservative Party’s financial backers threatening to pull the plug last October. and this threat hasn’t eased.

Sunak and his government are expected to fall over a political cliff. This doesn’t worry the power brokers behind the scenes too much, so long as they can still manage the outcome, and they have this with a Labour Party under the leadership and control of Sir Keir Stramer and her team. Polls and predictions suggest this is the way it will go.

Image from the Financial Times

In normal times this would be stage set for the transition. But these are not normal times, and nothing is certain. The Conservatives are not merely imploding because of incompetence. Their big problem is their inability to deal with a failing economy and political crisis they lack the capacity to resolve.

There is a cost-of-living crisis, and the cost of housing has hit the roof. Jobs are scarce. The health system, which once the envy of many other countries, has been hacked reduced to a shadow of its former self. All this is familiar in Australia too. But it has gone further there.

 In failing, the Conservatives, have been seriously damaging their legitimacy, isolating themselves from the nation, and this is feeding political blunders and internal bickering.

The council elections on 2 May saw a crash in the number of Conservative Party councillors elected. Labour also did poorly, gaining only 186 seats, where the combination of the Liberal Democrats and Greens got 178. The pattern may by repeated on 4 July. The result was so bad for the Conservatives that more than 40 of their members of parliament threatened to rebel in a letter to the Prime Minster.

As the British become more discontented and disconnected with the political leaders they have, Labour under Kier Starmer has morphed into a pale imitation of the Conservatives. Labour’s political base isn’t happy about it. This may see part of it defecting to third parties or not bothering to vote on election day.

In March, George Galloway and leader of the Workers Party of Britain won a massive majority in Rochdale. In his victory speech he said: “Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are two cheeks of the same backside and they both got well and truly spanked tonight here in Rochdale.” This resonates widely.

During the general election, a significant difference is that the focus will be more sharply on the performance of the Sunak government, its blunders, and paralysis. Conservative campaigners are sticking to the usual line of a steady hand, and Labour’s call for ‘change.’ Although this change is largely confined to changing the faces in the parliament.

As the established alternative government, Labour is poised to take office by default. But this will be conditioned by the growing proportion of the electorate wanting much better than this. This could be big enough to upset the apple cart. It won’t save Rishi, but it might make life uncomfortable for Keir, by challenging his government, which will inherit the problems faced by Rishi and his immediate predecessors. Since Labour in its present incarnation has pledged itself to be a replica of what the Conservative Party used to be, it will face the same problems.

This will open the gulf between this government and the needs of society. Disillusionment will continue to grow in according to Britian’s conditions, as the crisis facing it continues in its various forms.

Change, however, is more than about votes at elections, and encompasses how well prepared, how well organised, and how much citizens participate it exercising their own authority.

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