Socialist Worker

Tory election gains are a serious warning to Labour and the left

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2553

The Labour right has rushed to blame the partys losses on left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour right has rushed to blame the party's losses on left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn (Pic: AdamKR/Flickr)


The local election results are an urgent warning of what could happen at the general election. They mean the left has to redouble its campaigns against the Tories and for a win for Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Of course the Tory-backing press will overstate Labour’s losses. And the local elections have a low turnout and don’t cover some of the big cities - including London.

In some of the mayoral races Labour was far ahead of the Tories. Labour won three times the Tory vote in the Liverpool city and Greater Manchester mayoral elections.

Labour did better than expected in the West of England mayor vote and came second - with a pro-Corbyn candidate.

But in Tees Valley (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar and Cleveland ) the Conservatives secured a shock win. And the Tories also very narrowly took the West Midlands (Birmingham. Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton) mayor.

In Scotland the decline of Labour—which long pre-dates Corbyn’s leadership—continued. The Scottish National Party have the most councillors (but not a majority) in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. The Tories also won scores of seats.

In Wales the results were not nearly so bad as had been predicted by some polls, winning in Newport, Torfaen, Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Labour even increased its majority in Swansea.

Some of the independents who beat Labour candidates in Merthyr and Blaenau Gwent are successors of a leftist split from Labour that took over the council in 2008.

However, the Labour results were down on the high point of 2012.

At 4.30pm on Friday, Labour had lost around 350 council seats across Britain and the Tories had gained over 500.

Some of the worst results were in areas where Labour councils have rammed through cuts, such as in Derbyshire.

Overall, results like those from the local elections will mean Theresa May in Downing Street with a secure majority. That will mean greatly accelerated attacks on workers and key services, more racism and a boost for May’s rotten version of Brexit.

Outgoing

It is crucial that the results don’t lead to demoralisation but are used as a spur to a bigger, more outgoing campaign against the Tories and for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

There are less than five weeks to the general election.

Corbyn’s campaign started well. But it has to become bolder and more focused on mass mobilisation.

Corbyn should immediately announce eight or ten mass rallies in big cities which can draw thousands or tens of thousands of people to them. That’s how to mobilise the Labour members and many others who want to back Labour.

It’s the way to win an army of enthusiastic activists.

Leading Labour figures should be at all the demonstrations against the education funding cuts in England and every picket line. The message has to be, “Labour stands with ordinary people against the establishment and the rich. We’re going to make a difference.”

Labour also has to set out a vision of a Brexit for workers so that the election clearly isn’t just about whether you are for or against Brexit.

Simon Jenkins, not part of the radical left, wrote in the Guardian this week that Corbyn should, “Go for broke. Invite a vote for moral outrage, nuclear disarmament and an end to neo-imperial wars.

“Attack chief executive salaries, crazy energy subsidies and vanity infrastructure projects. Promote universal incomes, prison reform and drug legalisation. I would like him to think the unthinkable.

“Corbyn should let rip”.

That’s right.

One of the bright points of the election results was that Ukip has been all but destroyed electorally. In England by Friday afternoon the party of racism and hate had won just one seat. And lost 137.

So much for all that analysis of how Ukip had a secure base and was poised to sweep through Labour-held towns and cities in the north of England.

Labour’s candidate Aram Ahmend Rawf, a former child refugee from Kurdish Iraq, beat the Ukip leader of Thanet Council in the Kent County Council elections.

Many of those, although not all, who broke from Ukip voted for the Tories. But the fact that Ukip has gone under is a big defeat for the forces of racism.

It’s not a time for mourning. It’s a time to step up the fight.

 

 


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.