Right wing members of the Labour Party will use by-elections on Thursday of this week to attack Labour’s left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.
By-elections in Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland in Cumbria were still to take place as Socialist Worker went to press.
But whether Labour wins or loses in either seat, Corbyn’s opponents will argue the party has lost touch with many voters in its working class “heartlands”.
And they will claim that Corbyn has to win back support by moving to the right on issues such as nuclear power—and by attacking migrants.
An anonymous Labour MP already claimed last Saturday that if Labour won it would be “because of the hard work of activists on the ground despite the leadership”.
It came after ex-Labour leader Tony Blair made a speech last Friday attacking the “debilitation of the Labour Party”.
Yet Labour lost five million votes under the right wing leaderships of Blair and Gordon Brown.
Former Stoke MP Tristram Hunt and previous Copeland MP Jamie Reed are both firmly on the right of the Labour Party.
Yet neither of them stopped the fall of Labour’s vote share in their constituencies—which began long before Corbyn’s leadership.
Socialist Worker called for a Labour vote in both by-elections.
Anti-racists from North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism campaigned against Ukip in the run-up to the election.
Anti-racist activist Blythe Taylor said, “Most people we’ve spoken to have said that they didn’t like Ukip. And the majority of election posters we’ve seen in people’s windows have been Labour.”
She added, “But Ukip have been all out. They’ve got that big shop in the town centre, and we also saw a British National Party member leafleting in town on Saturday.”
Ukip could still pick up on apathy towards Labour—and their strategy of linking that with anti-migrant racism is toxic.
But Labour’s campaign has shied away from taking on Ukip’s racism. Instead Labour candidates in Copeland and Stoke have focused on defending the NHS.
It’s right that Labour speaks out in defence of the NHS. But the fight to defend the NHS has to include a stand against racism.
People can be lulled into accepting the lie that “health tourism” or “too many migrants” are to blame for the NHS crisis.
Labour has lost the support of many working class people—not because it was too soft on migrants but because it has gone along with Tory austerity.
It can win them back by fighting against austerity and attacks on the NHS, for a £10 an hour living wage—and crucially, defending migrants.