The Greasy Pole Column from the August 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the beginning it was a major event in British politics but then the election for David Cameron’s replacement as Conservative Party Leader began to crumble away, until Theresa May stood supreme with no other contenders. The first to fall, in the first round, was Liam Fox, who was eliminated with only 16 votes. Fox is a politician with a not-entirely-creditable past. His standing as a Party favourite was once asserted in his being the Secretary of State for Defence but this perished when he allowed a particular aspect of his ministerial relationships to become what he described as ‘blurred’. This imaginative euphemism referred to his contact with one Adam Werritty, a friend and flatmate from his past. According to Fox they happened to meet again when he was on ministerial business abroad and their previous friendship was allowed to flourish to the extent that Werritty was included on a succession of such trips and gave out his own business cards, encouraging the impression that he was an official adviser and assistant to Fox, attending meetings with foreign diplomats, contractors and military commanders. It was inescapable that Fox should be sacked, but he seems now to have been regarded as entitled to enough remission to be rewarded by May with the new Ministry for International Trade.
The next hopeful to crumble away was Stephen Crabb, who since his first promotion in 2012 to Under-Secretary of State for Wales, had risen to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. When he declared his intention to stand for the party leadership Crabb was careful to announce that he had already appointed his prospective Chancellor of the Exchequer in Business Minister Sajid Javid. During his brief campaign he made much of his materially deprived history, including when he was eight and his mother left his father who had lived on the old Sickness Benefit since before Crabb’s birth. Crabb then indomitably studied his way up the educational and career ladder, into Parliament and then as a Minister. Whatever Crabb’s background may have taught him it was not to have any reservations in the matter of the so-called welfare scroungers, so often denounced as the serious cause of their own chronic misery rather than to face the cruel reality of poverty in a class divided system. In May 2015, after the introduction of an example of ‘welfare reform’ by Iain Duncan Smith, Crabb commented ‘We can’t go soft on welfare reform in a place like Wales – it’s precisely the place that needs it’.
He went on to vote in favour of the reduction by £30 a week of the Employment and Support Allowance to disabled people in the ‘work-related activity group’. Soon afterwards he was asked ‘Why do you hate the sick?’ in some graffiti on the vandalised façade of his office. With all this it is not surprising that Crabb is a firm believer in prayer as an aid in making way through the turmoil of capitalism and its structures of family, class, deprivation, human relationships and the like. He has links with Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) which is opposed to full LGBT rights and which, while asserting that it does not actively support the concept of ’gay cure theology’ did sponsor a conference which discussed ‘therapeutic approaches to same sex attraction’. CARE supported him as a parliamentary intern and has supplied interns to his office. Recently he voted against same-sex marriage. Crabb has been married for 20 years to a woman he met at university; they have two children and he has respected his family for its ‘core values of resilience, optimism and humility’. However it has recently been revealed that he has resumed contact with another woman, who is in her twenties. They met several years ago and at the time of the Referendum they were exchanging suggestive internet messages such as his telling her of the ‘toxic mix’ faced by MPs who are ‘risk-takers to one degree or another. Usually in the areas of money, sex, political opportunism.’ According to the newspapers he also provided her with detailed versions of the sexual activity he desired to share with her.
A certain source of relief for the Tories in their struggle was the defeat, in the next election round, of Michael Gove. Which left Theresa May as the favourite for the final ballot, challenged by Andrea Leadsom, the MP for South Northampton and Minister of State for Energy, who emerged as a formidably forceful opponent when sounding off in a succession of TV debates from the base of her claiming a high-rank career in banking, finance and the like. Except that there were some inconsistencies behind all that power and assertion. Her present strong opposition to British membership of the European Union was in contrast to her previous stance; in April 2013 she was clear that to leave would be ‘…a disaster for our economy and it would lead to a decade of economic and political uncertainty’. There were also serious questions about her record of her previous work status; in one typical case former colleagues of hers described her claims as ‘categorically not true’ and ‘just ludicrous’. At the same time she was busy reminding us that she is a mother of three in contrast to Theresa May who is childless: ‘She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next… I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake’. But her assumed experience had not developed any suitable sensitivity or any alarm that it would help May gain votes. Among the media she was re-named ‘Andrea Loathsome’. But she was unable to carry on her campaign and withdrew in favour of May. And now May has promised, from the door of Number Ten that her government will be driven ‘…not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours’. Which would be a lot more impressive if it did not remind us of Thatcher on the very same spot in May 1979, declaring that ‘Where there is discord may we bring harmony. Where there is error may we bring truth. Where there is doubt may we bring faith….’ To put it another way, we have been here before and as long as this society continues with its exploited people we shall have to be here again.