Boris Johnson is fearfully awaiting the verdict from the local elections across Britain next Thursday. Conservative MPs don’t mind his lies, corruption and lockdown law‑breaking. But they will worry if it’s obvious he is an electoral liability. Elections matter, but struggle in the streets and workplaces is more important than voting. That’s particularly true of these contests. They mostly cover local councils where whichever party takes change meekly implements the cuts demanded by central government.
But if the Tories do well, Johnson and his acolytes will proclaim that he has escaped his multiple crises. Our basic position in England and Wales is to vote Labour. This is not because we see Labour as the solution to any of the problems facing the working class. Along with millions of others we see the failures of Labour in general—and Keir Starmer’s Labour in particular. Starmer has spent his time as leader offering support to the core of Tory policy at key moments.
This includes over the pandemic, pushing for wider war in Ukraine, offering only token opposition to the assault on migrants and over protest rights. But a Labour win can give campaigners and trade unionists more confidence. It can boost the fight against the social emergency of rising prices and the fall in the value of wages, benefits and pensions. And Labour retains a residual connection, however withered and weak, with working class organisation through trade union leaders.
There will be some hundreds of candidates to the left of Labour, from organisations such as the People’s Alliance of the Left. This is a grouping that includes the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Tusc), Left Unity, the Breakthrough Party and the Northern Independence Party. Where there are credible candidates from such groups, with a base in struggle and organisation, we hope people will vote for them. In Coventry, where the Labour council is running a scabbing operation against striking workers, it is impossible to call for a Labour vote. We support the Tusc candidates running against them.
But we don’t believe there can be a generalised left electoral challenge at this point. It’s harder when Labour is in opposition and the level of struggle is generally low.
In Scotland the balance of forces requires a different approach. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is dominant and Labour has made itself toxic to many people by its slavish support for the British state. But the SNP offers no serious opposition to the Tories, refusing to use another crisis for Johnson to fight for independence. Here we say, “Vote Left, Fight for Independence.” Whatever the results on 5 May the central task is to raise the level of struggle. We need more strikes, more mass protests, more defiance of disconnections and bailiffs, more anger on the streets and in the workplaces.
Union leaders have been silent