It was a typical Boris Johnson performance in the Commons today, all waving arms and blustering rhetoric.
It’s nothing new – we’re used to him offering us dead cats, or even kippers. But it shouldn’t disguise the fact that he is committed to a dangerous, hard-right agenda.
The “born to rule” arrogance just poured off him. Jeremy Corbyn posed 10 questions on vital issues, ranging from investment to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Johnson didn’t answer any of them.
People have a right to demand more from their prime minister. Behind the comedy routine, the truth about Johnson is he’s a real Tory, the bankers’ friend (“No one stuck up more for the bankers,” according to Johnson himself). He has no plan for Brexit, no plan to rebuild our public services, and no plan to tackle the climate emergency. He’s a phoney who promises big but whose priority, when it comes down to it, is tax cuts for the super-rich and the biggest corporations.
Just look at the cabinet he has chosen: a collection of hard-right zealots plucked from the most reactionary reaches of the Tory party. Not only that, but two of them pose a national security risk: education secretary Gavin Williamson was only recently sacked from the cabinet for leaking information about Huawei, and home secretary Priti Patel had to be dismissed for secret meetings with a foreign government behind the UK’s back. So much for the party of national security.
How can it be that a man who only became prime minister because of Brexit doesn’t have a serious plan for leaving the European Union? The no-deal swagger is a sign of Conservative failure, not success. It is designed to protect the interests of the Conservative party, not the country.
No deal wouldn’t return sovereignty to the UK, it would make us dependent on a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump. No wonder the US president is delighted, christening Johnson “Britain’s Trump”. He already named his price when he was in the UK: our NHS, prised open for US corporations to feast on.
For Johnson, no deal is an opportunity to put on his best suit and fly a union jack like he’s at the Last Night of the Proms, but it’s people from working-class communities like mine who will suffer the consequences when British industry is savaged, jobs are destroyed, food prices rise and the NHS runs short of medicines.
It won’t be Johnson and his allies who pay the price, just as it wasn’t ultimately the bankers who paid the price for the financial crash of 2008 – it was working people here, and around the world.
Labour won’t let that happen again. That’s why we will do everything possible to stop no deal.
Johnson’s tactic is already clear. Question his wild promises, challenge his lies, even just ask for some details and you will be denounced as a defeatist. Perhaps it’s easy for Johnson and the rest of the super-rich elite to be upbeat about the world. But it doesn’t reflect the experience of millions of people in our country.
Take the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaigning for the pension money that has been taken from them. How about students calling for education to be a right, not a privilege? Or the young people angry that they can’t afford a decent house? What about the older people who struggle to afford heating in winter while private energy giants pay out huge dividends to shareholders?
Are they all naysayers? Are they all defeatists?
No, of course they’re not. These people are the heart of our country, and they want it to work in their interests, not those of the few at the top.
Only Labour has a plan to make that happen. So here’s some real optimism about the kind of country we could be: a country that values our NHS, and gives it the funding it needs; one with free childcare, free school meals for primary schoolchildren, and free colleges and universities so our young people get the start they deserve; and one where older people are respected, with the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences and bus passes locked in and guaranteed.
A country where workers are paid properly for the hard work they do, with a real living wage of £10 per hour for all ages. A country that tackles climate breakdown with a green industrial revolution that will create 400,000 jobs while helping to reduce our emissions to net zero.
Labour will boost the economy by getting investment to where it’s needed most. And we’ll force corporations and the rich to pay their fair share of taxes and stop ripping us off, so we can change the country and deliver world-class universal services.
Johnson and his cabinet of hard-right ideologues are in the pockets of millionaire bankers and corporate lobbyists; Labour is a movement of millions that can’t be bought off. That’s the difference.
It’s Labour that’s the party for the many. Johnson leads a government of the few, by the few – and for the few.
• Angela Rayner is MP for Ashton-under-Lyne and shadow education secretary