Forgive the allusion to Taranatino, but the recent Tory Party conference does indeed have more than a passing resemblance to that director’s Reservoir Dogs climactic standoff where the protagonists - all supposed to be part of the same gang - end the movie pointing guns at each other. While the specifics of the dispute are not in doubt – the market thumbs down to Truss’s mini budget that promised tax cuts without a reduction of public spending, leading to a collapse in the value of the pound and all that flowed from that – the underlying differences are debatable. On the one hand it has been portrayed as civilised one-nation Toryism versus feral capitalism. But as many of the anti-Truss Tory MPs have made clear, with the cost-of-living crisis dominating the lives of most working people, their opposition to the plans to remove the 45% rate of income tax on those earning more than £150,000 was about timing, not about scrapping the rate.
What seems like total chaos and a major crisis for most of us is money in the bank to others.
The very people that Truss set out to help with tax cuts and reinstating banker’s bonuses are the ones who are sinking the pound.
This confirms what we already knew, the state isn’t neutral, and neither are constitutions. Constitutions are framed by the powerful to serve their own needs and to shape the state for future generations.
The fact that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution may in theory make it easier to change. On the other hand the British state is one of the most centralised in the western world. Ultimate power is theoretically concentrated in the sovereignty of Parliament.
Since Starmer blagged his way into the leadership of the Labour Party, there has been a lot of soul searching about whether socialists should remain in the Labour Party or even help build a left-wing alternative – less, I notice, consideration of joining existing left alternatives – more of them later.
The British Left inside and outside the Labour Party have faced this dilemma time and again, but perhaps the consequences of adopting such a strategy have never been more dire than the Independent Labour Party’s disaffiliation from the Labour Party in July 1932, exactly 90 years ago.
Brexit and the handling of the COVID 19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the existential crisis facing the British state; it is plagued by huge economic and political imbalances, an inordinate centralisation of power and wealth, vast regional inequalities across the UK, and an empty commitment to devolution.
Even after 21 years of devolution the UK continues to have one of the most centralised constitutions in the world based on the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament. Within a few square miles of central London you will find the Houses of Parliament, the Supreme Court, the Bank of England, most financial services, the BBC and national centres for music, culture and the arts.
London doesn’t create the wealth and talent of the UK, but its elite suck it in leaving whole swathes of the rest of the UK struggling with low pay, unemployment, poor health and lack of opportunities. It is not only Scotland that feels excluded, so does Wales, Northern Ireland and many of the regions of England as well as large parts of London itself.
The nature of the debate about socialist engagement in the Labour Party has changed. For sure it has always been a contested issue but in the 1980s and 1990s there was often a nostalgia by those on the Labour left aggrieved with the then leaderships for a period of real socialist endeavour in the Labour Party primarily of course what was seen as the apex of radical achievement, the 1945 Labour government.
It has also changed because there are now significant differences between the Party in England and Wales and Scotland, where, as we are all no doubt acutely aware, Scottish Labour, already irrelevant in Westminster, may be on the brink of becoming similarly irrelevant at Holyrood and local elections.