Socialist Worker

Election volatility reflects a thirst for change

Issue No. 2198

Nobody can now be sure who will win the general election on 6 May. As this week started the three main parties were within a few percent of each other in the polls.

Support for the Liberal Democrats surged after the success of their leader Nick Clegg in the first televised leaders’ debate.

The main reason for this is that millions are disillusioned with Gordon Brown and Labour—but they don’t like David Cameron and the Tories either.

The Lib Dems profit from a sense of novelty, of a change from the main parties that are associated with corruption, cuts and war.

Clegg has won backing from a segment of younger voters and people who had previously said they were not going to vote.

He has made a very limited pledge to slightly reduce the spending on the replacement for Trident nuclear missiles. This looks attractive when compared to the determination of both the Tories and Labour to spend nearly £100 billion on the project.

But Clegg can’t be simply viewed as someone who is putting up a left opposition to Labour.

The Lib Dems are an establishment party with a leader who went to a £28,000 a year Westminster School and Cambridge university.

And most polls show much of his rise in support is coming from those who previously said they would vote Conservative.

Labour’s support is fragile because it has betrayed its supporters and diluted its class roots. A party that no longer wants to be seen as “standing up for workers” shouldn’t be surprised when workers stand it up.

Nobody should think the Lib Dems are a radical alternative to Labour.

They are perfectly happy to contemplate a deal with the Tories if they are the biggest party after 6 May.

They stand for harsher anti-union laws against strikes in “essential public services” and those deemed to be “against the national interest”.

They have dropped policies such as immediately abolishing tuition fees, and continue to support the war in Afghanistan.

Above all they are at least as ready as Labour to savage public services in order to cut the deficit.

Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable has already said he would cut 120,000 public sector jobs. Whenever the party get control of a local council, they readily implement cuts and attack workers.

Socialists must fight to cut through the main parties’ consensus and give a real focus for the thirst for change.

In the next two weeks the tasks are to continue building the biggest possible left vote, to combat the BNP and to build the Right to Work conference on 22 May.

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What We Think
Tue 20 Apr 2010, 18:02 BST
Issue No. 2198
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