Written by Martin Ralph – ISL
Monday, 25 May 2015 14:21
In the “United” Kingdom general election results, the scale of the Tory victory was a surprise for everyone after five years of austerity. All the polls and commentators thought that the result would be a very close. However, the polls did say just before the election that forty percent of voters were undecided.
The Tories have 331 seats (a gain of 29), Labour have 232 (a loss of 24), the SNP have 56 (a gain of 50) and the Lib Dems have 8 seats (a loss of 48). The Tory share of the vote went up by 0.8 percent nationally and Labour went up by 1.5 percent. There were some local swings to Tory MPs from Lib Dems and the collapse of the Lib Dems benefited the Tories.
Out of the total electorate, only 24.4 percent voted for the Tories. This puts into question the legitimacy of the new government even before it was officially formed, as the Italian Limes magazine put it.
The so-called colonially named “mother of parliaments” first-past-the-post system is one of the most anti-democratic electoral systems in the world; it certainly favours the big main parties and is against the smaller parties. And the electoral system was decisive for the result of the election.
Tories won 23 seats as a result of a 0.8 percent increase because of the dispersion of other contending parties. According to El Pais (Spanish daily newspaper) with a proportional electoral system, the Conservatives would have 75 fewer seats, liberals would be around 50, the Scottish nationalists would have 25, UKIP would have 83 and the Greens 24.
Cameron used the predicted vote surge in Scotland for the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) to install fear in sections of the electorate; he said that the SNP would end up ruling Britain because they would form a coalition with the Labour Party. This had an effect on the middle class in England, especially in the midlands and South, excluding London and the big cities.
Cameron used scare tactics by accusing Labour that it would form a government with the SNP. They could only reply “no we will not”. Their television manner on this question showed that many were thinking they would form a coalition with the SNP. So, like puppets they turned their guns, at times, more on the SNP than on the Tories, which is what they did in the referendum campaign.
The elections are a disastrous result for the Labour Party; some say the worst crisis in their history. However, the prime reason for Labour’s loss is the shameful electoral campaign they made against the working class and in particular against the immigrants and the poor. They promised more austerity just like the Tories.
Symbolically, Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor in the last government, lost his seat (in Parliament). He was so confident of winning in the last two days of the election that he campaigned in other areas. It was the biggest individual “shock” of the election night. The middle class thought the economy was safer in the hands of Cameron than the Labour Party. And neither Balls nor Miliband was seen as competent in relation to the economy – by large sections of the middle class.
In Scotland, the Labour party was destroyed. They, the Lib Dems and Tory Party have one seat each while before the referendum Scotland used to be a stronghold of Labour. Labour’s election campaign chief Douglas Alexander lost to the SNP candidate, a 20-year old woman, Mhairi Black, and the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was also defeated.
In the north, London and other cities, Labour slightly increased their vote and there was a surge in some areas for the Green Party. As with the SNP, the Greens pose as an alternative to austerity. But both support cuts and have a capitalist programme.
No austerity parties
Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an umbrella organisation of the RMT union, Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party who stood 135 candidates in the General elections and 613 candidates in the local elections.
They had some good results in some constituencies in the general elections, two candidates achieved over 3 percent. In the local elections one ex-Labour councillor was re-elected and “the best average percentage share of the vote score across a council in which TUSC stood in at least a third of the seats was achieved in Barnsley, with an average of 6.3%. In Doncaster TUSC candidates averaged a 4.6% share of the vote”, according to TUSC website.
The problem is that the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party just after the elections are calling for a united front of all left organisations to strengthen their electoral alliance (see SWP: https://www.swp.org.uk/resource/1268)! They are not calling to unite the struggles, or to unite the left in support of these struggles.
If TUSC really wants to be a party to lead the working class, to bring the left together on a programme of action to support all workers struggle and the fight against austerity they should be a real party, not an umbrella, and should fight every day against the government and the capitalists, not just in electoral campaigns. In many cases, TUSC appears only during the elections in the areas where they stand.
The working class will not succeed in their struggles against austerity by voting, by believing in changes through Parliament, by building another electoral party. It has to fight for class unity on the streets against austerity. The question is to unite in support of all the struggles in the unions and communities and to bring them together as one fight against austerity.
We say: support every movement of the working class that fights austerity, support the strikes, occupations and actions by the working class.
Left Unity stood 10 candidates in the General Election and the best result was 1.8 percent while 23 candidates were presented in the local elections, seven of them stood as Left Unity/TUSC candidates. The highest percent was 5.5 and the highest vote was 412.
Old Swan Against the Cuts (OSAC) achieved 6.08 percent with 437 votes, which compares favourably with the results obtained nationally by TUSC and Left Unity.
Wanna be leader goes right
After Miliband resigned, the main contender for the Labour leadership, Andy Burnham, continues the lurch to the right, he demands that the Tories introduce a two year ban on citizens from other EU countries claiming benefits after they arrive. Burnham says he is not into factional politics and wants to include the Blairites in his discussions, in other words he is trying to build something more to the right than Blair did.
How can those who formulated the policies of a criminal war be welcome back?
However, all the unions will enter the discussion about the link between the unions and the Labour Party and the leaders are under pressure from the rank and file in the unions. After all being told to support the Labour Party as a way to end austerity, they have failed spectacularly. Not only this, it is the end of the Labour Party and now it will turn into something worse. Miliband and the party grandees say the problem was the “left” experience, so now it has to turn more to the right. Welcome back Blairism!
Union leadership in crisis
It is not only the Labour Party that is in crisis. The biggest trade unions are tied to the Labour Party and have paralysed mobilisations against austerity, from 2010, onwards. They promised to fight, but stopped strikes from continuing, such as the strike in November 2011 against the pensions and did nothing to organise a general strike in 2012 or 2013.
At best, union leaderships only made a mild criticism of the Labour election campaign against the working class. Many union buildings were ablaze with Labour Party posters.
In April 2014, Unite’s union leader, Len McCluskey, warned that Unite could break its links with Labour if the party lost the next election.
But this year he said, “So let there be no doubt – Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband in the increasingly radical agenda he has outlined”. He also said, indicating the tensions against Labour inside the union, that now is not the time “to have heated arguments” against Labour about policy or the party’s future.
On the 18 May he now says, “The leader of Britain’s biggest trade union has warned that its link withLabour could be put at risk if the party’s next leader fails to act as the voice of ordinary working people.” That means, delaying a decisive problem for the working class; getting rid of the Labour.
McCluskey is under pressure because Unite branches in Scotland have submitted motions to the Unite’s special conference in July calling for a formal break with the Labour Party.
To head off a complete break with Labour, noises are being made that call for a new Scottish Labour Party! No doubt to be comprised with all the discredited old Scottish Labour leaders.
Leaders in Unite and Unison may want to “re-build” the Labour Party, even though the Labour Party is lurching more to the right. But intense internal union struggles are likely to emerge, as the leadership contest will last until September.
These positions show that the rank and file have to fight the bureaucracy.
Union bureaucracy wants to control anti-austerity movements
We have entered a new political situation. The government will unleash an even greater attack on sections of the working class although the Tories very tight majority makes them very vulnerable to movements from social and union movements.
The onslaught is set to continue and resistance from below will increase.
The People’s Assembly have called a demonstration for 20 June in London. They call it a march “to end austerity”, but the organisation is controlled by the Unite leadership and the Labour left.
So, two tendencies are emerging: one that calls for an end to austerity under the control of the bureaucracy; the other is seeking a path to fight against austerity based on the independence of working class struggle that is controlled from below and based in workers democracy.
After five years of an austerity government and the failed project of the Labour Party, many are sympathetic to the idea that we need to build a grass-roots movement, organising on the streets and fighting for a programme that brings in the community struggles and the union rank and file.
This is the struggle between those who want to reform austerity or fight to smash it, between controlling workers or building the movement on the streets through mass meetings, letting workers decide what actions should be taken and when. In the final analysis it is the old struggle between reform and revolution.
The ground is shifting under all political parties and movements. The new government is going to unleash more brutal attacks, but as Scotland shows, the working class is beginning to stir while south of the border it is no longer possible to wait for a Labour government.
The working class will have to build much more combative organisations and replace the old leaderships or building new ones and at the same time building class independent anti-austerity groups.
The independent struggle of the working class can and must defeat austerity, although that will have to be done on a European and international basis and “over the heads” of the union bureaucracies. These links have begun but must be strengthened much more. Let us talk to workers in struggle throughout Europe, just like we talk to friendly neighbours.
While the new government prepares its brutal attacks, a change in class consciousness is beginning.