Monday, May 9, 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.

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