Starmer’s Labour convinces few, but a meeting last week shows the party left are still in denial, says Nick Clark
The Labour Party responded to the Tories’ crisis with a carefully stage managed round of canvassing events on Saturday.
Members of Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet went door to door with activists, with leaflets on Labour’s “fully costed and fully funded” plans to remove VAT tax from energy bills.
It came as energy companies prepare to hit millions of people across Britain with huge price rises (see page 3). But Labour responded with just half a million leaflets for just nine seats where it hopes to do well in a general election that could still be two years away.
Labour’s “action Saturday” was supposed to show how it is challenging the Tories. But all it did was illustrate how far short Labour’s response to the Tories’ crisis falls.
Speaking to a rally of left wing Labour activists on Saturday, FBU union leader Matt Wrack criticised Labour’s weakness.
“The party that most working people vote for that our unions built is not responding as it should be in parliament.” He contrasted it with the Labour leadership’s “war against its own members.”
Wrack was one of several speakers at an online rally organised by the Labour left organisation Arise Festival.
Union leaders and left wing Labour MPs pointed to examples of localised disputes, and campaigns against the police and nationality bills, as examples of resistance to the Tories.
They called on activists to build community campaigns and solidarity with strikes.
Sarah Wooley, general secretary of the Bfawu food workers’ union, said, “We need to organise our workplaces, our industries as a whole and our communities. Let’s push back together in solidarity to make things better for our class.”
PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “On a broad basis we have to support each other in struggle.” While Wrack said, “We need to respond to a class organised as never before.”
Meanwhile, left wing Labour MPs John McDonnell and Richard Burgon hailed protest movements over climate change, racism and women’s oppression. And they pointed to recent strikes by workers mostly in the Unite union.
McDonnell said, “With the loss of the election in 2019 and the election of a new Labour leadership many people have lost confidence in a political route towards improving their lives.
“So instead what we’re seeing is trade unions creatively and effectively recruiting and mobilising for action.”
He’s right to cheer examples of workers fighting back—and to say they should inspire more. But they don’t yet match up to the scale of the Tories’ crisis.
Union leaders and Labour MPs can do more than call on their supporters to build local strikes and campaigns. They could also—at the very least—call for demonstrations and coordinate national campaigns linking anger at Johnson’s lies to the cost of living crisis.
None of the speakers at the rally suggested anything they could do themselves. But if they want an alternative to the weakness of Starmer’s Labour, that’s what we need to demand.
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