Monday, 9 May 2011

The Left and the elections

Socialist Resistance has published a preliminary assessment of the elections.  It does not make very comfortable reading, but there's no point in beating around the bush!  It is clear that in England the big winners were really the Tories, who did not get the hiding that Brendan Barber and Ed Miliband were promising us on 26th March.  Labour made some inroads in their old northern heartlands but precious little anywhere else.  The Lib Dems were severely and justly punished by the progressive end of their vote for their sellouts to the Tories and were of course the big losers. 

In Scotland, Labour were annihilated by the SNP, who now have a working majority in the Scottish Parliament under an electoral system whose supposed main design feature was.....the impossibility of an SNP working majority!  It will be fascinating to see how the issue of independence pans out.  The smart money is on the SNP not rushing into an independence referendum, but waiting for Scottish public opinion to be softened up by a couple of years of being clobbered by Tory cuts emanating from London.

Labour's big problem is that they criticise Tory cuts but their own cuts are only a bit slower and only a bit smaller, while they talk about going for growth - pie in the sky in the current capitalist crisis we are facing.  This, coupled with a leader whose charisma appears to have been surgically removed, do not make Labour a very appealing prospect.

As far as the far left is concerned, this was a dire election.  Good socialist councillors were desperately thin on the ground to begin with, but Michael Lavalette lost his seat in Preston, as did one of the Respect councillors in Birmingham.  The main left challenge came from Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) standing on an anti-cuts platform.  TUSC stood in four wards in Brighton and ran only 140 candidates across the country. This, along with some Respect candidates and the Socialist Labour Party in a few areas, amounted to the smallest left electoral challenge I can remember in years.

Alot of hard work was put in by TUSC activists but the results were disappointing.  In Brighton and Hove, it was always going to be difficult with the Greens looking to take a large chunk of the left vote.  But across the four wards TUSC totalled barely 700 votes.

It is clear to me that the "loose coalition" model of working just is not sufficient. We need a unified party to the left of New Labour - a party with proper democratic structures, and a real existence on the ground, something which SR has consistently argued for.  But as long as the main left groups put building themselves above building that alternative, we will continue to fail in elections, however good our message is.

Some further comments....below from Sussex Socialist Resistance and above, a Green Party perspective.

Well done to the Greens with their electoral success. However entering into discussions with whom? Certainly not the Tories and Lib Dems. The employees, trade unions, service users, local community groups one assumes should be the people the new administration will be talking to, listening to and consulting with, involving them in the decisions that have to be made.

As far as the first challenge they will face is what to do with the budget and council cuts? If they reverse the present cuts and refuse to implement the Con Dem cuts being passed down by this failed coalition gov't then they will have all our support. If they refuse to carry out redundancies and protect workers' pensions then fine with us. There can be no compromises when it comes to workers living standards. Make the bankers pay, not council staff.

However if the Greens merely introduce a few cycle paths and carry on with " business as normal" type approach, based on pragmatism and short term gains then the honeymoon will be short lived. We do not expect this to happen, hopefully. The Green Party conference opposed cuts, with many of the new councillors taking that position and supporting the Coalition of Resistance anti-cuts campaign. Let us see Brighton and Hove now lead that fightback. They promise us new politics and we welcome eco-socialist policies.

The Greens can not do this on their own though and it will require a united front with those in the Labour Party, trade union movement and the Left to ensure the success of such a campaign. Those in the Labour Party who pinned their hopes on a New Labour victory based on cuts but over a slightly longer time period, will have to review where they stand. Milliband has left them high and dry.

The attacks on the democratic right to demonstrate in Brighton will no longer get an easy ride by the new councillors and this may make the Sussex police think twice about how they abuse their powers. It may also mean the EDL and their fascist friends will not in future find Brighton such an easy place to march through. Perhaps the police may not rush to use the Public Order Act . The Green Council should insist all charges are dropped against anti-fascists and anarchists who have recently been arrested.

TUSC candidates promoted Socialist policies in this election campaign and the struggle for Eco - Socialism continues. The anti-cuts campaign groups will expect the Greens to show a new approach in this.

As for the rest of the results of the council elections:

Lewes went Tory and Lib Dems lost seats.

BNP came last where ever they stood in Arun.

Labour candidates, Mike Faddon and Sue Marsh improved their vote in Worthing and opposed cuts.
The election may be over but the campaign against cuts and defending public services continues. The Con Dem coalition now has a huge crack in it, with Lib Dem's defeats all over the place. So much for betraying policies. Let this be a lesson to others and get on with the fightback. Public sector workers plan industrial action and we need to build support for these struggles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Labour seems to be a spent force in Brighton. Socialists in the Labour Party have increasingly moved to the more progressive Green Party. Labour in power has been a consistent history of supporting the world elite at the expense of ordinary people. Even MPs perceived to be left such as Clare Short and Robin Cook have, in reality, complicit in horrendous acts of Imperialist agression. The Labour Party is the biggest barrier to socialist politics in Britain. We should support the Greens to prevent them going the same way.