Watching the Tory Leadership debates

Some of us at ACR sat through the blandness and cat fighting of the Tory leadership debates so you did not have to...(contributions from Susan Pashkoff, Mark Findlay and Dave Kellaway)


I am engaging in a bout of masochism listening to the Tory candidates who will be our unelected Prime Minister and it is rather depressing.

Debate 1 (Susan Pashkoff)

I am not expecting them to call for the obvious, a living wage of £15 per hour or increasing all benefits by £20 — or even nationalising the energy sector, they are the Tories after all.

But who the hell calls for a cut in Corporation Tax now? Do they not understand that Say’s Law does not work in the real world? Have these not noticed such cuts lead both to increasing speculation and financialisation rather than long-term investment in infrastructure and job creation?

When someone says we need to build private homes, do they not understand that given both the increase in the rate of interest as well as the cost of living crisis, working class people cannot afford to purchase homes (they can barely pay their rent). We need social and public housing, not increased home ownership when real wages are being eaten by rising inflation that is due to increased profits and profit margins.

Increase corporation taxes? We need a wealth tax that can target the wealthy as well. Instead of talking about autumn, people need help now. Put price caps on necessary consumption goods, put rent caps on. Do not subsidise the fossil fuel industry; subsidise investment in green renewable energy, and build accessible green homes, It’s like they haven’t noticed that global warming is actually impacting this country. Now that extreme idiot Truss has argued to get rid of the green fuel levy and increase usage of natural gas and nuclear. We live in a country which is currently and in the future will be run by idiots.

We live in a country which is currently and in the future will be run by idiots.

We need a massive programme of insulation for existing housing as well, plus alternative renewable heating solutions for buildings that cannot have heat pumps etc. Subsidies for heat pumps where they are suitable, solar panels on every roof, solutions to the storage of excess generated electricity, mass electrification of the entire railway network, moving towards replacing long-distance road transport, ending most short-haul flights, [Mark Findlay]

We need to use freight trains to get goods into cities and then use electric vehicles to redistribute them. This bunch are far too ideologically dysfunctional to even understand that; Truss actually contradicted herself within 2 questions … a desperately stupid person!

In their race to the bottom, they stagnated nominal wages which led to a complete collapse of the real wage due to increased prices caused by rising profits and profit margins. What planet are they living on? Export-led growth policies were used to destroy working conditions and wages. Universal Credit was never meant to be a benefit to survive on. It is organised deliberately to force people into (any) work as though they are just being lazy. A big percentage of those on universal credit are actually working, the state is just subsidising bosses in the payment of starvation wages…

My god, one idiot just mentioned the “magic money tree”. More bullshit … these people are liars and filth … amazingly there is always money to subsidise the wealthy, but none to help the majority. There is always money to fund wars, but not to feed people.  They keep on talking about growth, but not the role of domestic demand to ensure growth and productivity … so many hopelessly delusional and stupid people that want to further destroy this country.

It’s shocking how stupid they are; they are also ideologically blinded so they cannot address something outside of how they are supposed to behave as Tories  What they are good at is dissembling and prevarication. Truss is painfully stupid …you try to think what if anything she said made any sense and you are left to conclude that nothing made sense and she didn’t realise that what she said made no sense, it was painful to watch and listen to.

Truss is painfully stupid …you try to think what if anything she said made any sense and you are left to conclude that nothing made sense and she didn’t realise that what she said made no sense, it was painful to watch and listen to.

Debate 2. (Dave Kellaway)

The second debate was not much more memorable. I wonder if the Tory candidates realised the irony of using a studio set up like the erstwhile popular TV quiz show, The Weakest Link.

Once again all the candidates promised eye-watering tax cuts.  Sunak stood out as the one candidate saying he would only do so once inflation was under control and the conditions were right. Tax cuts were anyway mostly focused on giving big businesses more presents. Anyone too poor to pay much tax was not really considered at all.

At least one question was pertinent to the current cost of living question. The presenter asked if they agreed with a 5% increase for all public sector workers. Not even that offer, which would be a wage cut of 5% given inflation, was supported by any of the candidates. They all hid behind the various public sector pay boards that have to advise the government on salaries.

At the same time, they made ludicrous claims to be on the side of these workers. The justifications for this claim were quite amusing.  Badenoch vaguely said she was involved in settling one historic dispute. Mordaunt told us she was a Portsmouth MP which sort of automatically qualified her to be the workers’ friend since she defined the town as a working class stronghold. Tugendhat (‘you do know I was in the military and in the front line’) said he would sort it out because he had been an officer and he knew how to get the trust of his soldiers. Maybe someone should tell him that nurses and rail workers are not under military discipline.

When it came to a straight question about whether they would stick to the government’s net zero commitment by 2050 the responses were revealing. Remember most specialists think 2050 is too late but even here every candidate qualified a vague acceptance with massive caveats about not affecting the economy or ‘clobbering’ people. None of them came up with any realistic measures that are needed to deal with the climate emergency just when we are heading for new record summer temperatures. At least Bedenoch was honest enough to say she was not necessarily committed to it. Her programme is even too extreme for the hard line Brexiteers who now lined up behind Truss.

None of them came up with any realistic measures that are needed to deal with the climate emergency just when we are heading for new record summer temperatures.

No candidate raised their hands when asked if good old Boris would be welcome in their cabinet. Johnson’s hold on other MPs has obviously melted away. Although Mordaunt wanted it both ways by exclaiming in the silence that he had ‘got Brexit done’. Perhaps she thinks it will play well among the members if she gets through.

Clearly, Sunak is seen as the front runner and when offered to question another candidate most chose him. He looks nailed on as one of the final two. The problem for the ‘spartans’, led by hard-right Steve Baker, is that the rightwing candidates are divided and there are real presentational problems with someone like Liz Truss. Although the latter thinks that mimicking Margaret Thatcher at every turn – the headscarf, the tank, the pussycat bow and a certain gleam in her eyes – will bring her victory, there is growing despair among the hard right that she would be as useless as Teresa May in an election campaign.

Surveys of Tory members suggest Truss or Mordaunt would both beat Sunak. This reflects the Ukipisation of the party but Sunak has backing from some of the more serious Tory press and is the candidate of the key business interests who prefer austerity and sound money to any reckless levelling up spending. Indeed the levelling up rhetoric seems entirely absent from the mouths of all candidates.  The Tory members though will be weighing up who can beat Starmer and Labour and after another four weeks of hustings, Sunak’s edge in communication and competence could tell.  If I were Sunak I would try to manipulate the vote by telling any surplus support to vote for Truss to eliminate Mordaunt. The latter’s surge seems to have stalled a bit under the relentless attacks of the Truss/Baker/Braverman people.

Even if Sunak were to win the prize he will still have a mountain to climb to restore Tory support and credibility. However, against Sunak, Starmer’s line of managerial competence and moderation may be a lot less effective. Despite the difficulty of actually determining the Labour manifesto, the left inside and outside Labour should be fighting for policies that can really deal with the cost of living crisis for working people such as the public ownership of all utilities and a massive investment in a redistributive green transition. Supporting and extending the ongoing strikes could well help in mobilising the labour movement to fight for Labour to take on more radical policies.

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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

Susan Pashkoff is a revolutionary Marxist, Economist, political activist and blogger. She writes on issues around US and British politics and economics, gender and women's oppression, and disability.

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