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Editorial Unions suddenly grow by almost 100,000 as class consciousness returns

PEOPLE are joining unions in great numbers because the irresponsibility of this irredeemably compromised administration has put fear in the hearts and minds of millions. 

How we are governed is at root always a class issue. And faced with a sharpening of the conflict with capital, workers spontaneously and immediately respond by strengthening their collective organisations.

Sensible workers know, most especially those in front-line occupations, that their best personal defence lies in the collective security that unions provide and that no other institutions in modern-day Britain have their health and safety as a first priority.

If on one side of the class divide workers are finding unity and organisation, on the other side we are seeing cracks appearing in the government and, through the fissures in the facade erected by Number Ten, divisions among Tory MPs.

Boris Johnson has suffered a steep decline in his opularity. That Labour and Keir Starmer are perhaps the beneficiaries of this more by comparison than by any energetic efforts of their own is nevertheless a good thing.

This is principally Johnson's own fault. Even the Number Ten cat knows that the premier is easily distracted from a detailed brief, that he favours the grand gesture over the well-formulated argument, that rhetoric stands in the place of reason and that he needs someone else to do the dirty work and come up with an approximation of a strategy.

Into this role he assigned someone who, while he swims confidently, if erratically, in a sea of late capitalism's reactionary thought and is tuned into any number of disruptive ideological currents, is not seen by MPs as remotely resembling a typical Tory of any school.

In itself, this is not necessarily a bar to deployment in the senior circles of government. The Tory Party has survived and prospered as the party of bourgeois continuity for two centuries precisely because it is tuned to respond with flexibility to every threat to capital's dominance over labour.

This is why it was able to switch tactics in the great Brexit debate and why Johnson – who cared neither one way or the other about the issue — sits on an 80-seat majority because of a strategy attributed to Cummings.

Is this enough to protect his present position? Johnson has expended a great deal of political capital in the hopeless task of persuading people that Cummings' jaunt was within the range of discretion permitted by the government's own injunctions.

That he thinks this expenditure worthwhile is in itself a measure of his own inadequacy and isolation.

There are all kinds of contradictions subsumed beneath the thin veil of unanimity which the Tory Party has clothed itself in recent months. The defenestration of Theresa May and then-chancellor Savid Javid at Cummings’ say-so marginalised, for the moment, several tendencies.

There is the awkward squad of those Brexiteers libertarian oddballs that Cummings alienated plus those new MPs in Red Wall seats acutely conscious of the dangers posed by a narrative that puts them among the elite.

The independence of mind showed in the first ministerial resignation is one sign of division, as are the critical voices expressed by various Commons select committee chairs who owe their positions to cross-party support and are thus possessed of some autonomy.

If the main unexpressed contradiction within Tory ranks reflects the deeper division in big business and banking circles about the nature of Britain's relationship with the EU, it is clear that the present balance of forces is unstable.

Whether Labour is geared up to take advantage of these divisions is as yet unclear.

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