During the next four weeks we can expect to be subjected to the
least inspiring general election campaign for over a century, with
polling day expected to be in early May. The rabid reaction spewing
forth from Tory campaign posters and candidates is a timely reminder of
why none of us wants them back. They propose to create a national
border police to keep out the hordes of illegal immigrants they
spuriously claim are trying to enter the country. They turn their venom
on travellers, and hint at a new attack on abortion legislation. Their
ignominiously dismissed deputy chairman, Howard Flight, spilled the
beans on the devastating programme of cuts they would implement if
Michael Howard got his hands on the keys to Number Ten.
The Tory threat should have been eliminated by eight years of Labour
government introducing measures in the interests of ordinary working
people. Instead Blair and Co.’s slavish support for the City bankers at
home – privatising, cutting jobs and pensions – combined with their
servility before US imperialism and its adventure in Iraq, have
chronically undermined Labour’s support and allowed the Tories room to
Nevertheless, Labour will probably win the election in spite of
Blair, and in spite of the Labour leadership’s worship for the market
economy. On the morning after there will be no street parties. This
election result will be greeted with the least enthusiasm of any Labour
victory in history. Given the experience of the last eight years how
could it be different? The prospect of more of the same is hardly an
edifying one. 100,000 civil service jobs are to be axed. The attack on
public sector pensions has only been postponed. It is little succour to
know that the situation would be even worse if the Tories won.
Is there an alternative to voting Labour? With all due Respect to
George Galloway and friends, their new party will go the same way as
all their many predecessors, quietly into the night. In the recent past
the Scottish Socialist Party has garnered some electoral support,
however their own internal crisis suggests their blend of nationalism
and reformism will not gain further ground. In fact, polls suggest they
will face wipe-out in two years. Meanwhile the nationalists in both
Scotland and Wales may bandy around a few left phrases, but beneath
their national flags lurk pro-capitalist policies.
As for the Liberals their radical side always shines more brightly
the more distant they stand from any serious challenge for office. They
talk about renationalising the railways, yet where they lead councils
they are enthusiastic supporters of PFI privatisation. Their fate is to
be crushed between the two main parties. To win support in working
class areas they must lose support in Tory strongholds and vice versa.
They are not so much a third force in British politics as a fifth
With no real alternative available many workers will go to the
polling booths to put a cross next to Labour whilst holding their
noses. The only real alternative before them is to stay at home. No
doubt that is the way in which many will choose to protest. It is hard
to blame them. However the low turnout should still not be enough to
allow the Tories back in.
They will make a certain recovery (inevitable given the historic low
of their last result, their worst election since 1832), regaining many
of those who supported UKIP in the last European elections, by moving
further to the right themselves. UKIP – split over the ego of Robert
Kilroy-Silk – will not repeat their earlier success. Nevertheless the
growth of such groups is a symptom of an important development which
may be hidden beneath the headline results of an election, the growing
class polarisation of British society.
The media claim low participation in elections is a sign of apathy –
people in general, and young people in particular, are not interested
in politics. Utter nonsense! Look at the millions who have demonstrated
against the war. It is not politics that fails to inspire but careerist
politicians, the stench of corruption seeping from the corridors of
power and the deceit and deception of government ministers. Many people
feel “they are all the same”, like the betrayed farmyard in Orwell’s
Animal Farm one looks from government bench to opposition MPs and
cannot see the difference.
A re-elected Blair will imagine he has a mandate to continue to
privatise and to attack public sector pensions. The Blairites will
claim the low turnout is only a reflection of “voter contentment”. They
will be in for a shock.
A third term for Labour will be very different to the last eight
years. Until now, a boom based on credit and speculation has served to
mask the continued decline of British capitalism. Property prices
continue to defy gravity, but they cannot avoid the laws of physics
forever. They are now like the coyote in the Road Runner cartoon who
runs over the edge of a cliff, but does not realise immediately that
there is nothing beneath his feet. When he looks down, however, he
plummets at great speed.
The British trade unions have begun to change. The massive vote to
fight the attacks on pensions reflects the growing anger of workers
across the country. As a result of the war in Iraq Blair and Co. are
widely seen as a pack of liars who cannot be trusted. This is not the
basis for a renewal of a honeymoon!
Economically, politically and industrially a new Labour government
will face an entirely different situation. Blair may win the election,
but Blairism is already dead. Facing new crises, Blair may finally
decide to retire to his expensive new home, handing over to Brown.
However, this would represent the most minor cosmetic change. The trade
unions and the party rank and file must set their sights much higher
No-one wants the Tories back. But we don’t want them leading the
Labour Party either. The only alternative is to be found in the
organised trade union movement, in a militant defence of jobs, wages
and conditions, and at the same time in a struggle to purge the Tory
interlopers from Labour’s ranks.
– Keep the Tories Out!
– Drive them out of the Labour Party!
– No to capitalism – Fight for real socialist policies!