Socialist Worker

Build left out of Blair's crisis

Issue No. 1688

What we think

Build left out of Blair's crisis

REMEMBER WHAT the Tories said as they slithered to defeat from 1992 onwards? "Our policies are fine. It's the press which is against us," was their unconvincing message. Now New Labour's leaders have taken up the same song. Education secretary David Blunkett says the task is to make supporters "understand the change" Labour has brought. Blair's press supremo, Alastair Campbell, tears into papers for making people cynical.

Don't these people realise that nobody would give a damn about the press or the party's media strategy if the policies were right? Instead New Labour seems more determined than ever to be "the party of business". Socialist Worker went to press before the Ayr Scottish Parliament by - election. But all the polls showed that thousands of people who had previously voted Labour in the constituency were very reluctant to turn out this time-because the government is so right wing.

Surveys in every part of Britain show massive disaffection among Labour's core voters. Mainstream trade union leaders are worried they will not be able to persuade their members to pay extra funds for New Labour. Previous Labour governments have followed a very similar pattern-a "honeymoon" as everyone celebrates the end of the Tories, then growing bitterness. Labour was in office from 1964 to 1970. From 1966 it began to lose workers' support.

During the next four years it lost 15 seats in parliamentary by - elections, and won none. Labour was in office from 1974 - 9. From 1976 it lost by - elections in places such as Walsall, Ilford, Birmingham Stechford and Workington. Labour's electoral crisis has been less marked so far because most people still hate the Tories-or find them laughable. That is not guaranteed to last for ever, particularly if Labour keeps giving ground to right wing ideas on issues like refugees and "dole cheats". Labour does face an enemy from the right, the sort of people who put up posters in Ayr this week saying, "A vote for Labour is a vote for sodomy." They are the people who viciously witch - hunt asylum seekers. But there is a developing mood to the left. It is stronger than it was in 1966 or 1976.

We saw it at the Scottish and Welsh elections last year. We see it in the support for Ken Livingstone and the London Socialist Alliance. You can feel it in the increasing outrage against Third World debt and the multinationals. The task is to shape that mood, to focus it and organise. The way to stop right wing ideas growing is to argue confidently for socialist ideas which put the interests of ordinary people before those of business.

SOME 300 people joined an angry lobby of the Scottish Labour Party conference in Edinburgh last Saturday. There were tenants, pensioners, students and trade unionists. Ray Kennedy from the Glacier engineering factory in Glasgow told the rally, "It's time for the trade union movement to get back on the streets."

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Sat 18 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1688
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