“You won't get a Labour government unless you vote Labour.” That was the common refrain among pro-Labour politicians and commentators last week.
Those who refuse to vote Labour because of the war, they argue, are running the risk of letting the Tories back into government.
The Labour Party is even pushing this line in the seats in east London where the main challenge it faces is from Respect candidates such as George Galloway.
But the figures from constituencies such as these show how false Labour’s arguments are. The Tories came a miserable fourth in Bethnal Green & Bow in the European elections on 10 June last year.
Respect topped that poll with 30 percent of the vote, beating Labour, which got 25 percent.
In neighbouring Newham, Labour won with 30 percent, followed by Respect on 22 percent. The Tories took a mere 13 percent of the vote.
A similar pattern can be seen in Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath, where Respect’s Salma Yaqoob is challenging Labour’s Roger Godsiff.
Across three key wards of the constituency — Bordesley Green, Sparkbrook and Springfield — Respect won 32 percent of the vote at the European elections, with Labour second on 28 percent. The Tory vote was just 8 percent.
The Tories stand little chance of winning the seats in east London and Birmingham that Respect is contesting. Labour is raising the spectre of the Tories to scare their traditional supporters back into voting for them.
These scare tactics include talking up a recent Mori opinion poll that put the Tories ahead by 5 points. But this poll only covered those “absolutely certain to vote”.
Some 41 percent of respondents in the same poll said they were currently not sure who they would vote for.
Many subsequent opinion polls have shown that Labour is comfortably ahead of the Tories.
Election experts say that the Tories would need a massive swing from Labour in order to form a government after 5 May — a swing larger than the one that swept Tony Blair to power in 1997.
Respect is targeting its challenge to Labour on its core working class voters, who are disillusioned with seven years of lies over Iraq and right wing economic policies.
This challenge is building a new political voice that can pull British politics back to the left. It is New Labour’s strategy of capitulation to the right that runs the risk of boosting the Tories’ chances.