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From Churchill to Sunak – toxic divide and rule has always been the Tory weapon of choice | Owen Jones

Boris Johnson’s impact on British democracy was corrosive in many ways, overshadowing the fact that other disreputable politicians could now present themselves as more honorable in comparison. Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister, is a prime example. Sunak’s rise to power was not based on talent or political ability, but rather on circumstances. He was given the position of Chancellor because his predecessor, Sajid Javid, refused to comply with Johnson’s demands and was seen as less compliant. Sunak’s popularity soared during the pandemic due to the furlough scheme, which left the public associating him with free money, although it was undeserved. However, his incompetence became apparent when he lost to Liz Truss, who led the Conservative Party to an economic and electoral downfall.

Sunak’s true character and desperation are revealed in a recent briefing to The Times, titled “Rishi Sunak aims to divide and rule after poll setback.” His ally emphasized Sunak’s intention to exploit migration, trans rights, and crime in order to revive the Tories’ electoral fortunes. This strategy is not surprising when considering the long-standing tactics used by the Conservative party.

The Tories have always represented the interests of the wealthy elite, but they understand that they cannot win elections by openly appearing to do so. In the 19th century, future Conservative prime minister Lord Salisbury expressed his disdain for appealing to the masses, stating that “first-rate men will not canvass mobs, and mobs will not elect first-class men.” Hence, the Tories have long employed the politics of divide and rule to secure their power. Immigrants have been a frequent target of their tactics, as evidenced by the aliens bill introduced in 1904 that specifically targeted Jews fleeing persecution. Winston Churchill correctly recognized this bill as appealing to insular prejudice against foreigners, racial prejudice against Jews, and labor prejudice against competition.

Margaret Thatcher also stoked prejudice against immigrants in the late 1970s and presented herself as an opponent of immigration. David Cameron’s administration used migrants as scapegoats for austerity-induced strains on public services, with his home secretary, Theresa May, resorting to deception by claiming she couldn’t deport an illegal migrant because he had a cat.

Today, the Tories continue to demonize refugees and migrants, describing them as invading armies. Sunak himself tweeted that Labour was in league with criminal gangs to flood Britain with illegal migrants. LGBTQ+ individuals have also been subjected to the Tories’ divide and rule tactics. The party waged a culture war against the LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s, portraying them as sexual predators and promoters of moral corruption.

Meanwhile, the Tories have sought to pit private sector workers against public sector workers and to target low-income individuals, such as those on benefits or tax credits. Unfortunately, Keir Starmer, the current opposition leader, lacks a strong principled core and is unlikely to mount an effective defense against the Conservatives’ divisive tactics.

Sunak’s desperate attempt to divide and rule is unlikely to succeed, given the low standing of his party. However, this offers little comfort to marginalized communities who will bear the brunt of these tactics. Our democracy becomes further corrupted by this toxic mire.

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