So it’s July 4

Rishi Sunak has gambled on falling inflation, tepid economic growth and Rwanda flights to win this summer’s general election. Carla Roberts says: while the Tories richly deserve to lose, we should do nothing to foster illusions in Sir Keir

Despite his party trailing 20 points in the polls, Rishi Sunak has called a surprise general election. After 14 years of Conservative-led government, Labour is widely expected to win. Of course, it could all go horribly wrong for Sir Keir Starmer, as it did for Theresa May in 2017. However, while there are a few talkative sages on the left who are determined to go against the grain and display their brilliance, or maybe just their stupidity, by predicting a Tory victory, this seems highly unlikely.

Sunak’s general election campaign got off to a dreadful start. As he was speaking outside No10 Downing Street from his lectern, the heavens opened and he was drenched to the skin. To make matters worse, the semi-professional anti-Brexit protester, Steve Bray, played New Labour’s anthem, D:Ream’s ‘Things can only get better’, from just outside the gates on Downing Street. The prime minister plodded on and on with his pre-prepared script, but with helicopters whirring above he was barely audible.


A skilful speaker such as Boris Johnson would have referenced the downpour and the booming music. But Sunak is not a skilful speaker. He did, though, come across as somewhat pathetic - a figure of fun, a loser. Having delivered his claims about inflation being back under control and the economy being set to improve, he scurried back into No10 … and perhaps cursed the gods for being so unkind to him.

Rumours of a pending general election had been swirling around Westminster and the media all day. His gamble triggered speculation that Tory MPs were submitting no-confidence letters to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the backbench 1922 committee. Those who have not already announced that they are stepping down from the Commons come a general election obviously fear a drubbing and losing their precious seats. Even those who manage to hang on will lose the lucrative opportunities that come with sitting on the government benches.

The general assumption had been of an October election … after Jeremy Hunt had delivered his autumn statement along with another cut in taxes, national insurance or whatever. However, despite lower inflation and a projected 0.7%, growth in the UK, exceeding Germany and the US, it is clear that the general perception amongst the population is that wage levels, rents, mortgage repayments, tax levels, national debt, the NHS and other public services are all grim and expected to get grimmer still: ‘Things can only get worse’.

So he went for broke.

After Sunak’s rain-sodden announcement, Starmer delivered what was for him a slick speech, saying it was “time for change” and warning that five more years of the Tories would mean yet more muddle, chaos and incompetence. His unique selling point is that, having transformed Labour - ie, purged the left - his government will reverse national decline, restore public services and transform the UK. And, in a coded message to the City, big business and international allies, he concluded with his “Country first, party second, always” slogan. In other words, he will put the interests of capital first, the working class always second.

What of the left?

It is now only a matter of time until Jeremy Corbyn announces that he is standing in Islington North. This will allow Sir Keir to finally rid himself of his troublesome former leader. Corbyn, was, of course, suspended in 2020 over his insufficiently grovelling response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into so-called anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. However, he was restored to party membership the following month, but not let back into the Parliamentary Labour Party. As soon as he shows his hand, Corbyn will be automatically expelled from the Labour Party. Its rules forbid anyone standing or supporting a candidate standing against the official Labour candidate.

The application process for the Labour ticket in Islington North has now closed and, unsurprisingly, only ‘no names’ seem to have applied.1 After all, they are standing to lose. The most recognisable is Paul Mason, the pro-Ukrainian former BBC journalist and ex-member of the Trotskyist sect, Workers Power, who has become a state asset in the real sense of the word: in 2020 he produced a ridiculous map entitled ‘Network of influence’, where he drew often bizarre connections between the Kremlin and leftwing groups, young Labour officials and ‘the black community’. In leaked emails, Mason wrote that he had forwarded it to the head of the foreign office’s ‘counter-disinformation unit’ (who probably threw it in the bin!).2

Corbyn is a well respected local MP and has built up a thumping majority since 1983. Many expect him to trounce his ‘official’ Labour opponent. We certainly hope so, especially if it is the renegade Mason.

Corbyn will be supported by the new organisation, Collective, which last week published a list of around 120 candidates it backs, most of whom will be standing as ‘independents’. The list also includes two candidates of SPEW’s electoral front, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and six candidates of George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain (which is standing many more).

Collective is a strange outfit - and it is getting stranger by the day. It has very little to offer, when it comes to a political programme. The call for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza” is tacked onto the five lame demands of Corbyn’s Peace and Justice Project: a real pay rise, a green new deal, housing for the many, tax the rich to save the NHS, and welcome refugees in a world free from war.3

No doubt Jeremy Corbyn has a hand in Collective, but he is keeping it quiet for now. Plus, it seems that he does not want to be associated with any particular group or party during the general election campaign, so as not to damage his chances.

Among the six groups that Collective is “in solidarity with”, we now find Just Stop Oil and its ‘political arm’, Assemble. The other groups are Transform (stillborn in November 20234), Ken Loach’s equally ‘energetic’ For the Many Network, the Liverpool Community Independents of ex-Momentum honcho Alan Gibbons and the very odd, Midlands-based ‘party’, Reliance, which wants a “real political alliance with the people” (?) and declares that its candidates are “free from the constraints of party politics, allowing them to truly represent the interests of the people in their communities”.5 “Free” and therefore unaccountable.

But it is Roger Hallam who seems to play an increasingly big role in Collective. The organisers probably hope that his ‘fame’ among climate activists will open up the organisation to potentially tens of thousands of politically motivated young people. But Hallam is a very loose cannon and comes with plenty of baggage - and a firm hatred of party politics and the boring matter of democratic and transparent decision-making. “Enough of political parties and broken politics: let’s assemble ourselves!”, states Assemble’s excitable website.

Vote for who?

So who to campaign for? Who to vote for?

There most certainly should not be a blanket Labour vote. Auto-Labourism is the politics of bankruptcy that we can and should leave to the social-imperialists.

We say: campaign for the most viable left candidate. Eg, Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North and George Galloway in Rochdale. In certain cases it might be the most principled candidate (a relative concept, admittedly). Almost without exception the left candidates on offer are god damn awful when it comes to anything approaching principled politics.

Not that we should rule out voting Labour. In a straight fight between a Labour candidate and a Tory, Lib Dem, Green, Scot nat, Reform, etc, candidate, go for Labour, not because of the candidate, who almost without exception will stink to high heaven of self-serving careerism. No, vote Labour in such circumstances, because Labour remains a bourgeois workers’ party. In other words, cast a class vote.

We should consider campaigning for what little remains of the Labour left … but conditionally. Will this or that member of the so-called Socialist Campaign Group, or Momentum, or whatever, publicly call for the end of UK arms supplies to Israel? Will they publicly demand the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza? Will they publicly condemn Sir Keir and the Labour front bench for their effective complicity in Israeli genocide?

If the answer is an emphatic yes, yes and yes, to each question, then such a candidate deserves support. We ought to campaign for them and do all we can to get them elected on July 4. A victory for such a candidate would indeed be a cause for celebration.

  1. labourlist.org/2024/05/jeremy-corbyn-islington-north-labour-selection-process-general-election.↩︎

  2. thegrayzone.com/2022/06/07/paul-masons-covert-intelligence-grayzone.↩︎

  3. thecorbynproject.com/demands.↩︎

  4. See Weekly Worker November 30 2023: weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1469/sixty-seconds-and-no-politics.↩︎

  5. reliance.vote.↩︎