Britain: Local elections - Labour trounced but ultra-left fail to cash in

New Labour suffered a humiliating defeat in the recent local elections, but those left groupings who were hoping to capitalise on Labour's difficulties also found themselves in a mess. As Ted Grant explained, the working class always ignore these sectarian grouplets on the fringes of the labour movement and in times of struggle always turn towards their traditional organisations.

“The development of socialist sectarianism and that of the real working class movement always stand in inverse ratio to each other. Sects are justified (historically) so long as the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historical movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary.” (Engels, November 1871)

May 1st was certainly ‘Black Thursday’ for the Brown New Labour government. It was the worse result for Labour in 40 years! In the local elections, Labour received only 24% of the national vote (compared to the Tory’s 44%). The party was even driven into third place behind the Liberal Democrats. The party had not experienced such a set-back on this scale since the time of the Wilson government of 1968.

In London, Boris the Barbarian beat Ken Livingstone for Mayor, a position created by New Labour. In Wales, the strong-hold Labour constituencies of Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent (once held by Nye Bevan) were lost. The Tories even gained seats and councils in the North.

On the basis of these results, there is now the real prospect of a Tory government at the next election. On the present basis, the Tories would have a 150 seat majority.

This disastrous situation is the consequence of New Labour, whose pro-capitalist policies has demoralized its traditional working class supporters. The argument that only right-wing “moderate” policies could guarantee victory has gone up in smoke. Right-wing policies are only serving to prepare another Tory government.

Another consequence of these elections has been the complete disarray of the sects, fussing and fiddling on the fringes, who are now licking their wounds after a disastrous performance. They were all singing from the same hymn sheet that the Labour Party was finished and the working class would soon turn to them. They all poised themselves as parties to the left of the Labour Party. However, the working class simply ignored them.

Despite the colossal discontent with New Labour, the workers to not see these groups as an alternative. They had no time for the 57 Heinz varieties of sects. They simply stayed at home and ABSTAINED from voting.

As we explained repeatedly, despite Blairism and New Labour, which are nothing more than capitalist infiltrators, the Labour Party has deep roots in the British working class. The Labour Party was built by the trade unions. They finance and sustain it. This gives the Labour Party its class character, despite its pro-capitalist leaders.

The reason which the party moved dramatically to the right and Blairism dominated was the low ebb in the class struggle. With the lack of participation of the masses, the pressures of capitalism bear down a hundred-fold on the upper layers of the movement. This explained the domination of the right-wing in the Labour Party AND the trade unions during the 1990s and beyond. In fact, it was the trade union leaders who supported Blair and his right-wing agenda.

However, despite all his efforts, Blair failed to change the Labour Party into a capitalist party. He failed to break the trade union link, which is the conduit through which the Labour Party will be transformed in the future.

This is a closed book for the sects. They are blinded by their sectarian approach to the mass organizations. They have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the working class to change their organizations. They therefore attempt to create their own artificial parties as “alternatives” to the Labour Party. But they have all failed in this endeavor. And this election proves yet again their false perspectives. All their efforts to replace Labour have simply collapsed. They receive derisory votes every time and lose their deposits with monotonous regularity. They never learn. “What these gentlemen all lack is dialectics”, wrote Engels.

They even tried to encourage the RMT to stand candidates in London against Labour, but fortunately the RMT decided not to go down that road. This is just as well as they would have gone the same way as the sects, which would have served to discredit the union. It shows the danger of sectarian views if they succeed in getting an echo.

“This squeeze hit the Left List. It polled just 0.92 percent (22,583 votes) in the London-wide assembly list and 0.68 percent (16,796 votes) in the mayoral election.” According to the Respect/SWP, their poor results show a political turn to the right. They simply blame the working class for this state of affairs. “The whole political spectrum moved right in the local and London elections”, explained the SWP/Respect. As always, the sects typically draw all the wrong conclusions.

The Galloway group also wallowed in their doom and gloom. “The local and London elections have been bad for the left and for progressive voters everywhere”, explained Galloway’s Respect Renewal. “For parties to the left of Labour, results were also generally poor with some notable exceptions, particularly but not only in Birmingham. In London the best results were posted by Respect with almost 60,000 list votes, 2.43%, but this was still below the deposit saving level and less than half what was needed to get a seat on the Assembly. The combined left vote, excluding the Greens, was only 3.61% on the list.” Despite all their efforts, Renewal only managed to pick up a single council seat in Birmingham. It concluded, “There is little for the left to be celebrating after these results.” So much for their attempt to replace Labour!

Another sect, the so-called Socialist Party, fielded about 15 candidates nationally in the local elections. They all sank without trace - except one. And this was the exception to the rule. This was Dave Nellist, the ex-Labour MP of Coventry SE, who retained his seat in St Michael’s ward with 1,643 votes. This was clearly a personal vote as the other two SP candidates managed to scrape a measly 142 votes (to come bottom of the poll of seven candidates) and 135 votes (to come bottom of the poll out of six). Other results included Alec Thraves in Castle ward, Swansea, who scored 172 votes, Pete Bradley in Nuneaton who polled 88, while in Stoke on Trent the SP candidate got 130 votes. In London, they fared no better, where they stood Chris Flood for the London Authority. He managed to come bottom of the poll (10th out of 10 candidates), with 1,587 votes (out of 146,841 votes caste) in Greenwich and Lewisham. This was even less than the votes cast for the fossilised sect of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which polled 1,588 votes in Lambeth and Southwark!

Totally ashamed, the SP website never mentioned any of these results, except the Nellist victory. The article entitled “Melt down for Brown” failed to mention the SP meltdown. While the Nellist victory was described as a “shaft of light”, they failed to mention they were shafted. But the SP has always been incapable of admitting their failings. They were too ashamed to broadcast the truth. Their whole perspective of making gains at the expense of Labour has ended in tears.

The working class has passed them by. But this is not the end of the story. These election results indicate not a shift to the right, but a mark of the profound disillusionment in the working class with the Brown government. Unless the government changes course, they will face defeat at the next election. They are sleep-walking to electoral disaster.

Under these circumstances, the working class will turn to the industrial front to defend itself. However, a defeat for Brown will also produce a groundswell of anger inside the Labour movement including within the ranks of the Labour Party. Such a development will produce a shift to the left as took place in 1970 and 1979 and will reopen the struggle for socialist policies. The Marxist tendency around Socialist Appeal will participate in these developments to defeat the right-wing and work to rearm the Labour movement on socialist lines. As for the sects, let the dead bury the dead.

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