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Editorial: No room for complacency – vote to reject the politics of austerity and hate

GRIM polls for the Tories suggest electoral wipeout tomorrow, but we cannot be complacent.

Their chaotic campaign doesn’t mean they have “lost their way,” as rightwingers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Suella Braverman claim while jockeying for post-election position.

It is a wild scramble to distract the public from 14 catastrophic years, in which they have starved the public sector of funds, creating the collapsing service we now see in the NHS, education and across local government; started or fuelled devastating wars, from Libya through Syria to Yemen and Gaza; and engineered a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the richest.

From 2010 onwards — with the Liberal Democrats entirely complicit up to 2015 — this was not just a government shaping what TUC general secretary Paul Nowak calls a country of “public squalor and private affluence,” but one that systematically scapegoated the vulnerable through the politics of cruelty and hate.

It was the Cameron-Clegg regime that gave us Go Home Or Face Arrest vans, and a rigged work capability assessment programme that humiliated and tortured disabled people. Britain is a poorer, nastier place because of the Conservatives, and they must be swept away.

The polls all say they will be. But they could still exceed expectations. 

The phenomenon of the “shy Tory,” embarrassed to say they will vote Conservative but doing so in the privacy of the ballot box, has been observed at many elections. 

Turnout is unlikely to be high, given Labour’s refusal to offer an economic alternative, and the Tories have made voting harder with new ID requirements that discriminate against the poor, young and ethnic minorities. 

Most seriously, there is Reform UK. The apparent collapse of the Tory vote is almost entirely due to Nigel Farage’s extreme nationalist insurgency: add the Reform and Tory votes together and they are neck and neck with Labour.

This could presage a fatal split in the right, crippling its electoral prospects as the Social Democrat split from Labour did for the left in 1983, gifting Thatcher her huge majority. But people are more likely to say they will vote for a “third party” than do so, and an unknown number of these Reform-backers could return to the Tory fold when it comes to the crunch. 

So we must get the vote out, prove the polls right and deliver as heavy a defeat for the Tories as we can.

Emphatic rejection of this authoritarian and racist government is a basis on which to fight back against Britain’s increasingly authoritarian and racist state.

A fightback will be needed. The Reform UK surge shows Farage’s great deception, that immigration rather than a refusal to tax the rich is responsible for the strain on public services, remains persuasive to millions.

The electorate is volatile: when the Tories won their 80-seat majority in 2019, pundits said it would take at least two terms to overturn. They underestimated the deep dissatisfaction with the system that exists throughout British society: the mutinous mood that drove Brexit and the Corbyn movement, that backed Boris Johnson to secure the former but has now turned furiously on the Conservatives. 

That mood could turn on Labour just as quickly — is likely to do so, as Treasury orthodoxy shuts off any prospect of restoring working-class living standards — with a proven authoritarian in Keir Starmer likely to be in No 10 and a wildly xenophobic opposition waiting in the wings.

Being ready for that prospect means returning decent socialists to Parliament where we can, especially Jeremy Corbyn, whose period leading Labour has made him a figure of international significance. Brave voices for a different future are needed at Westminster.

But crucially it means organising political resistance after the election. Tory hype about “supermajorities” shouldn’t scare us: as we’ve seen from the Palestine demonstrations, governments are moved by the streets, not the parliamentary opposition.

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