The main parties standing in this year’s general election are offering very little to ordinary people in Britain. All of them support cuts and have whipped up racism.
Many Labour Party supporters will rightly be sickened by Labour leader Ed Miliband’s failure to offer a real alternative. And some are concluding that the only way to offer one is to leave.
Wayne Naylor is a councillor in Leicester. He ran into a dispute with the Labour machine after demanding the party take action to help local people with council tax and rent arrears.
“We were told—just focus on winning the next election,” he explained to Socialist Worker.
“But when you start to put people second, you have to question what the point of it is.”
Wayne joined Labour in the early 2000s and went on to become a Labour councillor. He had hoped Labour would stand up for ordinary people—but refused to stay when he realised it would not.
“It makes me feel sad,” he said. “It wasn’t me that changed—it was the party. People would ask me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ when Labour was making cuts.
“I couldn’t answer them. And that eats away at you. You’ve got to be able to sleep at night.”
Wayne and another councillor, Barbara Potter, formed the Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts.
The group is now working with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Kevin Bennett, a councillor in Warrington, Cheshire, left Labour last week to back TUSC. Like Wayne, he had argued that Labour should oppose cuts.
In particular he questioned the Labour council’s decision to outsource adult and social care.
The party’s response was to suspend him. “I wasn’t prepared to go along with it anymore,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I had had enough. I’d been bullied since 2010 for opposing cuts and I felt like I had done my time.”
Kevin resigned from the party last week. “I feel much better after leaving,” he said. “It’s like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
“You think you’re going into a party of working people when you join Labour.
“But when I walked into the Labour group room I felt like I’d walked into a room of Independents.”
Kevin said not everyone welcomed the news. “The Unite union isn’t happy,” he said. “They’d supported me and kept me in the Labour Party.
“They keep saying they want change, but what kind of change is it if you support people who do the same as the Tories?”
Many more Labour supporters will wish the party would change tack, but also fear leaving the party.
But Wayne and Kevin argue that it isn’t as daunting as it might seem. “When you step out of the Labour Party it feels like you’re falling off a cliff,” said Wayne.
“But you very quickly find out that there’s a very big pillow waiting at the bottom. Lots of people will support you because they are crying out for a change.
“Joining one of the socialist groups is not such a big step—and there’s never been a better time.”
Kevin added, “I’ve already had people contact me saying, ‘We’ll help you’.
“People are saying that I’ve stuck by my principles. My family and friends have all said, ‘Good on you’.
“It’s liberating. There is life outside the Labour Party.”
'Greece has given us some hope - there can be an alternative'
Pete Smith, mayor of Walsall in the West Midlands, is just the latest in a line of ex-Labour Party members backing TUSC in the general election.
Pete was a member of the Labour Party but formed the Democratic Labour Party during the 1990s.
He told Socialist Worker, “The Labour Party has betrayed working class people.
“It’s now like a Tory party mark two. It’s a myth to think there’s a real choice between Labour and the Tories in the election.
“Labour wants to put a sticking plaster on capitalism. But as socialists we want to change the system, not save it.”
Pete said it isn’t easy to mount a challenge to the mainstream parties—but that many people definitely want to see one.
That’s why he is now considering standing as a TUSC candidate.
“We need candidates who are committed to opposing austerity,” he said.
“It is going to be difficult. It’s like David versus Goliath—the main parties are established, and they’ve got money and infrastructure.
“But the phrase that resonates on the doorstep is ‘they’re all the same’.
“We’ve got to get across the message that there is an alternative.”
Pete added that it is possible for left groups to win support, despite the odds being stacked against them.
“Greece has given us some hope,” he said. “An anti-austerity message there built up from nothing to where it is today.
“Obviously Britain isn’t the same as Greece.
“But if we can get a momentum going people will increasingly feel more confident that there can be an alternative.”