By Manny Thain
Prime minister Theresa May’s attempt to strengthen her position in the Tory party and to increase the Tories’ majority in parliament has failed.
From having a small majority of 17 MPs, she now is 8 short of a majority and is trying desperately to cling onto power by doing a deal with the right-wing sectarian Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP’s very existence is based on bitter communal division.
May’s gamble was to take on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party at a time when it was low down in the polls. The Tories were, in fact, between 22 and 25 points ahead when the election was called seven weeks ago.
In the end, the gap came down to two or three points.
The main reason Jeremy Corbyn did so well was that he outlined policies which addressed the concerns of most people: an end to the vicious austerity cut-backs to the essential public services we depend on, an end to university tuition fees which put students from working-class communities at such a disadvantage, increased spending in health, education and social care, nationalisation of rail and a fairer tax system.
Theresa May’s only boast was that she would deliver a hard Brexit – the famous strong and stable mantra.
But she went into meltdown – refusing to debate in public, only taking part in stage-managed press conferences – and the Tories went with her. May’s robotic denial of reality was summed up in the u-turn on social care: ‘Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed!!!’ she insisted.
Yet she couldn’t see the reality: everything had turned upside down.
Now, what will happen?
It is clear that May’s days are numbered – it won’t be long before she is forced out. The only reason she is still sleeping at No10 is that the Tories do not have a clear leader to take over, and they fear a brutal leadership election which would expose all their splits wide open. That would threaten to blow the lid off Tory attempts to form the next government, leading to a Labour-led minority government or even a new election.
Tamil Solidarity actively campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity programme. We interviewed the shadow chancellor John McDonnell during the campaign, and our members knocked on doors in areas where there are large Tamil communities to get across that message.
We realised that the policies they were putting forward were in the interests of the vast majority of people in Britain – including, of course, Tamils. We know that the Tories only stand up for the interests of the small minority of people at the top, whatever they may claim.
We celebrate the fact that they did not get away with it this time.
The important thing now is to keep the campaign going. It is not only an issue of parliamentary arithmetic – which party or combination of parties has the most seats. It is also about mobilising all the enthusiasm and mass support that Corbyn’s policies generated. That means continuing to campaign against the Tories’ poverty plan, against their cut-backs, and in defence of public services, for the rights of Tamils and other minorities, for refugee rights, etc.
The Labour Party in this election won just over 40% of the vote – in the last election in 2015, it was just over 30%. That was the biggest increase in vote share for any party since 1945. There was a big increase in turnout, above all by young people, two-thirds of whom voted for Corbyn’s programme.
The demand must be made on the parliamentary Labour Party to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and mass pressure put on them to end the divisive attempts to replace him.
Although the strength of Labour’s vote has silenced some of Corbyn’s critics, unfortunately some Labour MPs are still trying to undermine his position – even though Labour is now 7 or 8% ahead in opinion polls.
It was outrageous, for instance, that Tamils for Labour did not back Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, they even attacked him on TV. Meanwhile, the British Tamils Forum hitched its wagon to the Tories!
With the possibility of another election being called, it is necessary that future Labour candidates are chosen who fully back the anti-austerity programme put forward in this election.
Tamil Solidarity will continue to support Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s policies – just as they both have consistently backed the right of self-determination for Tamils. We urge all Tamil youth and others in the community to join the campaign in defence of our rights and for our future.
Contact us to find out more.