Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 November 2021

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1155

Sleaze and pay a toxic mix for Tories

Owen Paterson, photo CLA Midlands/CC

Owen Paterson (left), photo CLA Midlands/CC   (Click to enlarge)

"Is anybody in charge at No.10?" This was the headline in the normally Conservative-supporting right-wing Daily Mail as Tory MP Owen Paterson resigned after Boris Johnson's latest U-turn.

Paterson faced a 30-day parliamentary suspension after the standards committee found him guilty of taking £100,000 from two companies for lobbying. Johnson's response was to propose a new alternative committee that would be chaired by his wife's former boss, with an in-built Tory majority!

Johnson won the vote, after allegedly threatening to withhold funding from areas represented by Tory MPs if they voted against. But his 79-strong majority was slashed to just 18. It has been reported that furious Tory MPs were going into the voting lobbies in tears. But rather than some principled objection, this has far more to do with realisation of the storm of outrage to come.

The result is that instead of one of Boris's mates having a month out of the Commons, a Tory MP is forced out and Johnson's government has becomes mired in a row over sleaze. Some capitalist commentators have claimed that Johnson was motivated by the fact that he is next in line for an investigation by the standards watchdog over the extravagant refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, allegedly to the tune of £200,000. This would be the fourth time in the last three years that he was under scrutiny - more than any other MP.

This is entirely possible. But his actions were also a reflection of the arrogant overconfidence of the Tory government, and Johnson personally, unchallenged as they are by Starmer's New Labour. Before the recent spending review, Labour's Blairite shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves opposed tax rises not just to "people" but to "business" too.

Cost of living crisis

Even now, the Tories may feel they can ride out what they hope will be seen by ordinary people as 'parliamentary intrigue'. But what has added dynamite to these events is the deepening cost of living crisis facing workers and their families, and some from middle-class backgrounds. This is behind the Tory splits that have come back to the surface, reflecting the frustration and suspicion of the capitalist establishment who, in the main, never wanted Johnson as their prime minister and have struggled to control him.

Margaret Thatcher thought that she'd dealt with the opposition of Neil Kinnock's Labour and the union leaders after the defeat of the miners' strike, but complacently slumbered into the poll tax, which ultimately brought her down after Militant, the predecessor of the Socialist Party, played the leading role in organising a mass non-payment campaign involving 18 million people.

Similarly, Johnson's sleazy government, overriding rules that don't suit, can face the fury of millions of workers. The events of the last few days are a continuation of decades of parliamentary sleaze, involving not just the Tories but the other pro-capitalist parties too. But when workers are facing fuel increases of 10p a litre in one week, Johnson's bumbling defence of more Tory sleaze isn't so amusing.

We are seeing a rising tide of strikes by workers - either facing down the brutal attacks like 'fire and rehire' or demanding pay rises to keep their heads above the water of price rises. Many of these disputes are resulting in significant victories - some before action is taken, such as the 17% pay increase by Liverpool tanker drivers.

The excellent 53% turnout by UCU members in higher education means that significant industrial action to defend their pension rights is on the agenda (see page 12). It shows that the ballot for strike action in local government against the miserly 1.75% pay 'rise' - effectively a cut as real inflation rises towards 5% - can also be won, as well as the fully justified 15% pay claim for NHS workers, fighting to win both statutory and indicative ballots. With a decisive lead from the union leadership, a public sector-wide strike over pay could be a real possibility.

The somersaults and U-turns this week and previously show that, despite his populism, Johnson's government, like all Tory governments, puts the bosses' profits before the interests of workers. And a government led by Starmer's Labour Party would do no different. The fight in the workplaces must be stepped up, along with the struggle to build a new mass political alternative that can take on the Tories by fighting on a socialist programme that offers a decent future to workers.

A workers' MP on a worker's wage

In the wake of the Tory sleaze crisis, Dave Nellist, former MP, national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and Socialist Party member, was interviewed on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 programme about whether it's OK for MPs to have other jobs. Below are extracts from that interview. The whole thing can be found on YouTube.

Jeremy Vine: You don't think they should have second jobs at all?

Dave Nellist: No. I don't. I think it's a public service. And in fact, they shouldn't even get the wages they're getting today. I think we'd get a lot better MPs if they shared the same day-to-day problems as the people they represent. So I would put them on the same wage as the people they represent.

Jeremy Vine: When you were in the Commons in the early 80s you would only take a living wage or a worker's wage?

Dave Nellist: In my local Labour Party we looked at the wages in the ten biggest engineering factories in Coventry and averaged the skilled rate, which was a bit over 40% of an MP's wage. And for nine years in parliament that's what I took. My partner Jane wasn't working for the majority of that time and we had three children. So I like to think that we weren't isolated or insulated from day-to-day problems like MPs on three times the average wage are.

Jeremy Vine: What about the argument that we need 'men and women of the world', and the best way for them to be that person is to work for someone else?

Dave Nellist: The majority of men and women of the world are HGV drivers, nurses, cleaners, and I'd like to see a lot more of those in public office. I don't want to see the lawyers and company directors we have today, who once they get in there are looking for ways to make money on the side.

In the 80s there was one Tory MP, Geoffrey Rippon, who was a QC and had 63 other jobs! That sort of thing was so rife in the 1980s, and I don't think it's fundamentally changed today. I can remember Labour MP Dennis Skinner referring to Tory MPs on the other side of the chamber as the 'honourable member for Barclays Bank', or whatever company they happened to represent.

We don't have transparency and accountability. So in the last eighteen months during this pandemic loads of companies linked to Tory MPs have been allowed to get billions of pounds of PPE and other contracts. That's the reason these MPs are really there, not to represent ordinary people.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 10 November 2021:


Capitalism's COP26 failure: socialist planning vital

Thousands march in Glasgow and elsewhere to save the planet


Socialist planning to meet housing need

75 years after the first new town


Fight together for a pay rise

Council workers ballot on pay offer that's really a cut

School staff need a pay rise

Harsh Tory regime for benefit claimants and workers

Tories under pressure in bid to remove pension triple lock

What we think

Sleaze and pay a toxic mix for Tories

Socialism 2021

Why I'm coming to Socialism 2021

Workplace news

CWU conference debates political strategy

RMT AGM: Delegates focus on the looming battles

University workers vote for action in two disputes

Sheffield bin workers strike: "End rubbish pay!"

Support for all-out scaffs strike spreads

Weetabix workers escalate action in crunch dispute

International news

Portugal's government falls: Left must adopt a new course


John Barnes on class and capitalism. What's missing?


Home   |   The Socialist 10 November 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleTV review: This is Going to Hurt

triangleJust Eat couriers continue action to fight pay cut

triangleUniversity workers continue strike against bosses' attacks

triangleTube workers strike in defence of pay, pensions and conditions

triangleJohnson scraps Covid safety measures


triangleTories instruct teachers to wipe Britain's real history

triangleTories' 'partygate' crisis continues - kick them out

triangleTories' 'levelling up' falls well short

triangleTories attack UC recipients with 'get any job' threat


triangleTory sleaze scandal continues, an ex-workers' MP responds

triangleFight together for a pay rise

triangleCapitalist sleaze and cronyism


triangleFor workers' unity against war in Ukraine

triangleWorkers and students unite and fight

The Socialist:

triangle1 March: Socialist Party new website launch


triangleCarlisle Socialist Party: What now for Ukraine and Russia?


triangleTory stealth taxes burden 'packhorse generation'


triangleLeft Labour MPs under pressure over Erdington


triangle"If we don't fight, we won't win!"

Dave Nellist:

triangleTrade Unionists Support Dave Nellist - a Socialist for Erdington

Labour Party:

triangleThe Erdington byelection and the fight for a new mass workers' party

Boris Johnson:

triangleShameless Johnson partied through lockdown

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



The Erdington byelection and the fight for a new mass workers' party



Vote Nellist for a workers' MP in Erdington



Unite and fight for a decent pay rise



Privatisation and crisis in the NHS



Johnson scraps Covid safety measures



Tories instruct teachers to wipe Britain's real history



Bus services under threat



PCS Elections 2022: Time for new union leadership



Britain's economic growth figures mask fragile false recovery



Covid: Fight for full sick pay



'Labour by name - Tory by policy'



Tory stealth taxes burden 'packhorse generation'



Left Labour MPs under pressure over Erdington



Neither Washington, London nor Moscow



Met police boss ousted

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

August 2022

July 2022

June 2022

May 2022

April 2022

March 2022

February 2022

January 2022