Socialist Worker

Can Jeremy Corbyn save the Labour Party from its poll quagmire?

Recent policy announcements could help revitalise the party but Corbyn should be bolder, says Nick Clark

Issue No. 2549

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Pic: Neil Terry)


The Labour Party’s left wing leadership has taken steps towards regaining Labour’s lost support with two policies aimed at benefiting workers and poor people.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced on Monday that a Labour government would raise the ­minimum wage to at least £10 an hour. He said the rise would see almost six ­million workers get a pay increase.

It followed another announcement last week, when Corbyn pledged to introduce free school meals for all primary school children.

It comes ahead of council elections on 4 May and after months of disastrous polls for Labour, with most putting Labour at around 25 percent. The Tories are almost 20 percentage points ahead.

Lose

Pollster Robert Hayward said last week that Labour could lose some 125 councillors at the local elections. He said the Tories and Liberal Democrats could gain around 100 councillors each.

Tory peer Hayward said his claims showed Labour was “not appealing to its old core of working class voters across the Midlands and the north, and Scotland”.

He echoed right wing Labour MPs who have said that Labour must move rightwards to regain support among working class people.

But the Labour right is to blame for Labour’s collapse.

Labour is expected to be almost wiped out in the elections in Scotland, and could even come third behind the Tories.

Working class voters in Scotland punished Labour for its rotten record under former leader Tony Blair and for lining up with the Tories against independence.

But the Labour right in Scotland has fought hard to stop Labour moving left.

It wants to make it impossible for Labour to accept a second independence referendum.

Labour councils such as Glasgow have pushed through austerity, including vicious attacks on council workers.

Labour’s share of the vote has also declined in England and Wales.

Years of attacks on wages and living standards—which Labour wedded itself to under right wing leaders—and pushing through cuts locally led to the party’s defeat in the Copeland by-election earlier this year.

Expressing a popular feeling in Scotland before the 2015 general election

Expressing a popular feeling in Scotland before the 2015 general election (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Constant sniping and attacks on Corbyn from the right have stopped him from turning Labour’s decline around. Instead he has made crucial concessions in a bid to keep the right on side.

Yet promising free school meals and a £10 an hour minimum wage can work well for Corbyn.

More left wing policies such as these could help to revitalise Labour. And Corbyn could be much bolder.

Policies such as defending migrants, backing Scottish independence, renationalising the railways and building council houses would help Labour connect to working class people who have suffered from right wing attacks on all of these.

But crucially the left and the trade unions also have to focus on building the kind of struggle that can make such an alternative to the right seem possible.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.