Gordon Brown has reaped what New Labour sowed. This week’s elections saw the crisis-ridden government battered – losing the London mayor to Tory Boris Johnson and polling Labour’s worst results in 40 years in council elections across England and Wales.
Labour won just 24 percent of the vote in the council elections, coming in third and losing 331 councillors.
Brown blamed the results on “difficult economic circumstances”. But the reality is that the government’s policies mean many traditional Labour supporters can no longer face voting for the party of war, privatisation and pay cuts.
Many Labour supporters hoped that Gordon Brown would turn around the party’s fortunes. But it is clear that rather than rescuing New Labour, Brown is overseeing its demise.
Thousands in London will be rightly horrified to now have a Tory for mayor, but Labour’s Ken Livingstone brought defeat upon himself.
Eight years ago Livingstone won by a landslide when he ran against New Labour as an independent. Four years ago, running as an official Labour candidate, his vote fell. Now, as someone who has embraced many New Labour policies in London, he has lost the election.
Livingstone’s strategy was to tack right to try to neutralise Johnson. Livingstone’s final election leaflet concentrated on attacking the Tories for being soft on crime.
This strategy just had the effect of making the Tories look more sensible.
It is a damning indictment of New Labour that it has helped rehabilitate the Tories as a force in British politics.
The attacks from New Labour are so right wing that David Cameron’s Tories can even pose as the party more likely to defend the poor.
This can be seen in the way the Tories said they opposed the abolition of the 10p tax band, and called for hospital ward and post office closures to be put on hold.
And while Boris Johnson is most certainly a nasty right wing neoliberal racist, the Tories ran a campaign that was designed to make him look moderate.
Worse still, the climate of racism generated by the mainstream parties has allowed the fascist British National Party (BNP) to gain 10 council seats and a seat on the London assembly.
The whole of the left has paid for New Labour’s failure to defend its core working class voters. In London the left vote was badly squeezed.
But despite the resurgence of the Tories, ordinary people have not suddenly lurched to the right. Rather a decade of betrayal by Labour has led to disillusionment and bitterness, but also to a growing determination to fight back – as shown by last week’s public sector strikes.
On questions of the war, defending public services and the need to address
the growing gap between rich and poor, most people are to the left of the mainstream parties.
The rise of the Tories poses a stark choice to Labour – will it continue down its current path of pandering to the right, or will it change direction to address the concerns and anger of working class people?
The shock of the Tory resurgence will cause thousands to fear for the future and to question how change can be won for working class people.
The election results also show that the need to create a radical alternative to New Labour is more urgent that ever.
When we fight back – on many fronts such as industrial action and united campaigns against war and racism – we can help create a focus for the anger of millions and the basis for that alternative.
» Download as a leaflet [285kb PDF]