TAWDRY, CORRUPT, opportunist and right wing. That’s the way all the major parties look this week. Tony Blair, as part of the much bigger lies about the Iraq war, denied that he had any hand in ‘outing’ Dr David Kelly’s name to the press. Yet on Monday Sir Kevin Tebbit, Britain’s top civil servant, said, ‘The decision was taken at the meeting in Number Ten at a meeting chaired by the prime minister.’
As for the Tories, Iain Duncan Smith doesn’t know if his own party will knife him. He survives only because there is no one better to lead an increasingly rabid and vicious party. He is scrambling to explain how his wife received £15,000 from taxpayers for such onerous official duties as putting together a Christmas card list.
The Liberal Democrat leadership has rammed through a right wing reshuffle. As the party’s environment spokesperson Lord Greaves commented, ‘The people who have been promoted represent a small group of right wing so called economic liberals. This is part and parcel of the party strategy to go after Tory seats rather than going hard after the Labour Party.’
This is the ‘choice’ which the media concentrates on at election time. No wonder there is a growing clamour for a left wing alternative. It is a debate that goes deep into the labour movement. Many of those who have marched against the war and who are on strike this week in London wish there was a principled and credible force that they could vote for with enthusiasm.
It is not easy to set up such an organisation. It is made much harder by the decision of most left trade union leaders to chant the mantra of ‘reclaiming Labour’. But the yawning gap between what many workers believe, and what political parties say, demands it is done.
Such an alternative must be in place well before next year’s election ‘super-day’. On 10 June there will be European Parliament elections across Britain, elections for the London mayor and the Greater London Assembly and council elections for Wales and important English areas.
There is a ferment of discussion about building a new left. The Socialist Alliance began this process four years ago when it was set up to campaign for a socialist alternative to New Labour. The sheer scale of the anti-war movement has meant that the possibilities are now much wider.
On Wednesday 29 October in London there is a key meeting in the continuing debate. The speakers come from a variety of viewpoints. They include George Galloway MP, George Monbiot, Bob Crow, Ken Loach, Salma Yaqoob, John Rees and Linda Smith. Other meetings on the same theme will take place in Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham.
On 7 February next year, the Socialist Alliance has initiated a Convention of the Trade Union Left to discuss who individual workers should vote for and what political forces trade unions should support. Already the London Region of the FBU firefighters’ union, Essex FBU and the London Region of the public sector workers’ Unison union have decided to sponsor it. Further support has come from the rail workers’ RMT Stratford No 1 branch, Waltham Forest Trades Council, Yorkshire and Humberside Natfhe and Plymouth Unison.
Not all of those backing the meeting agree with everything that the Socialist Alliance says. But they are anxious to have a proper debate about these issues. All these discussions take place as the broader and united anti-war movement continues to develop. As we build together to confront Bush’s visit we can also carry on the debates about what politics we need to defeat Blair.