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Editorial: Tories surrender to business, Starmer surrenders to Tories

“SURRENDER” is the new Tory buzz word. Clearly Rishi Sunak hopes it can turn polling dross into electoral gold since he used it at least 17 times during his final television debate with Keir Starmer on Wednesday evening.

He followed it up with an advertisement today showing a family with their arms up under the heading: “Don’t Surrender Your Family’s Future to Labour.” And right on cue, the Pavlovian, and desperate, Tory press had the word in their headlines.

As to what might be at risk of being surrendered, it is a long list — taxes, the welfare system, borders, local councils, pensions and more.

The Prime Minister’s debate performance was full of bluster, faux aggression and falsehoods, but at least he can be credited with staying on message.

But what a message. He is gambling — well, which Tory isn’t? — on mass amnesia afflicting the electorate.

Fourteen years of Tories have been years of one surrender after another. It started with surrendering to the money markets by imposing an entirely unnecessary and deeply devastating austerity programme.

On housebuilding, the Tories surrendered to local interests obstructing much-needed developments.

When it comes to rental reform, there was surrender to rapacious landlords.

Promises of levelling up were surrendered to the Conservatives’ vociferous south-east-first faction. Manufacturing has been surrendered to City finance.

Pledges to tackle employer abuses like “fire and rehire” only led to surrender in the face of intensive lobbying by big business.

Public procurement during the Covid pandemic was surrendered to cronies and friends of ministers.

The state of our rivers and shorelines testifies to Tory surrender to the privatised water company vultures.

Initiative on foreign policy, from China to Palestine to Ukraine, has been surrendered to Washington hawks.

Decency and probity in office was surrendered to Boris Johnson, while responsible and rational policy-making was surrendered to Liz Truss.

Surrender to vested interest is not an occasional mishap for the Tories, it is a way of life. In fact, it is a class policy, reflecting the Conservatives’ enduring role as the political expression of established wealth and power.

In the capitulation-mongering stakes Sunak is therefore in no position to lecture, particularly as if everyone on D-Day had left the Normandy beaches as fast as the Prime Minister did at the commemoration this month it would have been Hitler accepting the instrument of surrender.

But as a line of attack it has one thing going for it. Labour is indeed surrendering. It is surrendering to Tory policy and ruling-class priorities on one point after another.

That was all too clear during the sterile Sunak-Starmer debate.  Labour has indeed surrendered to Treasury fiscal rules which will prevent the necessary rebuilding of our public services.

It has surrendered to City demands that public ownership of utilities be abandoned. It has partially surrendered to business on employment law, and there is a reasonable fear that further capitulations are ahead.

It has surrendered on climate change by dropping the ambitious green new deal. And it has conceded the argument to the right on migration.

As for foreign policy, it has surrendered any capacity for independent thought or action altogether.

It is hardly surprising that in the face of this duopoly many voters do indeed feel like giving up. If soldiers only surrender when the situation is hopeless, the voters may feel justified in waving the white flag now.

It has been left to those outside the official Labour campaign — left independents, communists, some Greens, but also unions representing doctors and teachers who are warning of industrial action if the next government doesn’t immediately get serious on pay rises — to raise the questions everyone wants answers to. Questions which will assert themselves from July 5, however hard Labour tries to ignore them.

 

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