Socialist Worker

It is time to unite

The call to build a new left wing coalition as an alternative to New Labour is winning wide support

Issue No. 1"

MILLIONS OF people in Britain feel unrepresented by the traditional parties.

A series of rallies in many places over recent weeks have enthusiastically backed moves to create a new organisation to give these people a political home.

Many of those who opposed the war feel excluded from official politics. All the main parties, New Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat, supported the war on Iraq when it began in March.

That feeling goes far wider than the war.

Students facing a mountain of debt, pensioners struggling to cope, trade unionists facing low pay and bullying bosses, those sickened by the treatment of refugees and many more have no one they can rely on to represent them.

That’s why the call for a new united left wing coalition to mount an electoral challenge to New Labour, and the other main parties, has struck such a chord.

The call was launched at a packed meeting in London at the end of October. George Galloway MP, just expelled from the Labour Party for his anti-war stance, addressed the meeting.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, campaigning journalist George Monbiot, John Rees of the Socialist Alliance, Salma Yaqoob of Birmingham’s Stop the War Coalition and Linda Smith from the London Region of the firefighters’ FBU union joined Galloway on the platform.

Similar rallies have been taking place over recent weeks.

The message has been clear. The time has come to unite and give people a real alternative in elections.

The immediate focus is to create a coalition for the European, Greater London Assembly and, in many areas, local council elections set for next 10 June.

“There has been a step change in politics in this country since the war on Iraq, and the movement against it. None of the main political parties reflect this or speak for the people who protested against the war,” says Mukhtar Master, chair of Preston Stop the War Coalition.

“That’s why I think this new party or coalition will have a broad appeal. There are so many people out there who are in a vacuum as far as political affiliation is concerned.

“Of course there will be disagreements, but there is so much that unites us.

“In Preston we have shown what is possible with the election of Michael Lavalette as councillor for the Socialist Alliance. But this new party can engage even more people.

“The other thing for me is that it can engage the Muslim community. We have done that in Preston, but this new coalition can win a very large response in the Muslim community nationally.”

Brenda Downes is a teacher and member of the NUT union in Manchester.

“We had a brilliant rally in Manchester,” she explained.

“There were over 300 people there. A postal worker and a firefighter also spoke which was really good, linking it to workers’ struggles.

“We have to build a real alternative for people to vote for. There were two million people on the streets on 15 February. The potential is huge if we seize the opportunity.

“Galloway’s proposal for a new coalition is really exciting. When you left the rally you felt that the mood was there—people were inspired.

“The challenge is to keep that going, to build a structure which makes that possible.”

Richard Isdell is a postal worker and member of the CWU union in Sheffield.

Message

“I was at the British Politics at the Crossroads meeting in Sheffield recently. There were over 200 people there,” he told Socialist Worker.

“All the people I have spoken to thought the message put by George Galloway and other speakers was excellent.

“The call for a united coalition needs to be taken up and go further. The mood for it is definitely there. It will take work. And it will mean many of the existing left parties putting the need for unity ahead of their own agendas.

“The key is looking for unity and action around opposing what New Labour is doing, over issues such as privatisation, pensions and much more. Every policy New Labour pushes is anti-working class.

“The trade unions will have a big role to play in shaping the new coalition or new party, whichever it turns out to be.

“It’s also important that the new coalition is not just about elections. It has to be about supporting struggles, like ours as postal workers, about encouraging direct action, which is the real way to change things and win improvements.

“We need to send a clear message out to people that we won’t stand for what is happening any more and that we are going to get something together.”

Andy Newman is to stand for the Socialist Alliance in a council by-election in Swindon in January. He explained, “The call put out by George Galloway and others for a united left challenge to New Labour will find a real echo.

“Here in Swindon we have been working with a broad range of people in the anti-war movement, people involved in left organisations, the mosque, new people. There is a tremendous thirst for political representation.

“There is a breadth of support for this idea of challenging the pro-business agenda of all the three main parties.

“I am standing for the Socialist Alliance on 22 January.

“The people who are willing to back my campaign are going way beyond those who have been associated with the Socialist Alliance, and include some Labour supporters. The call from Galloway is strengthening the feeling around the by-election.

“There is something new in the air. Now we need some successes to create a real impetus behind it.”

Robin Best is the joint convenor of the large Stop the War group in Muswell Hill in north London.

He told Socialist Worker, “We have the broadest movement we’ve ever seen in the Stop the War Coalition yet most people in it feel disenfranchised by the present political situation.

“That’s why the call for a new coalition is so welcome.

“The potential for such a coalition is almost limitless. There is a vacuum in politics in this country and if the left doesn’t fill it others will benefit.

“With many of the elections next year being in a form of proportional representation we can make a real breakthrough if we can get it together.

“We can win people who up to now have still been committed to the argument that you can reclaim Labour. I know people from this area who hold that position and who would be ready to join a new coalition when it organised. We have to move quickly and make sure that happens.”


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 22 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1"
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