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How should socialists vote in the local elections?

Struggle is how we can really change politics
Issue 2902
Rishi Sunak before the local elections

Rishi Sunak is begging for votes in the local elections (Flickr/ Number 10)

The political establishment must pay the price for their crimes in Gaza and the attacks on working class people. Local elections across England on Thursday next week are a chance to do that. Elections are not the most important arena of struggle, but they can reflect deeper and more important developments in society.

It’s very positive that people in some areas are already trying to put Palestine on the ballot paper. A movement of millions on the streets should shake up politics at every level. But it’s not enough just for candidates to say they’re for a ceasefire or oppose Israel’s assaults. Some are doing it just because they know it’s popular in their area. 

Others mix it with divisive policies. We don’t back the Workers Party of Britain, for example, because of its rancid policies against migrants, environmental action and trans people. It has also shown its readiness to do deals with the pro-boss Lib Dems.

We hope there will be good votes for socialist and independent candidates who stand with Palestine and support all the oppressed and exploited. In most seats there will be nobody on the ballot paper who puts forward such ideas. There could have been many more if, instead of shrinking from an open confrontation with Keir Starmer, Jeremy Corbyn had headed up a challenge. 

So should we just not vote? After all, it won’t make any difference over the devastating council cuts whether Labour or the Tories are elected. Both are implementing attacks, driven by the government, that wreck lives, services, wages and jobs. The united Labour-Tory approach is one key reason why lots of people don’t connect with official politics.

A poll last week showed nearly half of young people believe their vote will not make a difference and fewer than one in five 18 to 24-year-olds trust politicians. But the votes will have an effect. If the Tories are able to claim any sort of success it would encourage the rich, racists and reactionaries. 

We want the Tories out, and in most places there will be no real choice except to vote Labour. Another shattering defeat for Rishi Sunak can deepen the Tory crisis and encourage a fightback. And by throwing out conservative ideas, we can prepare for the struggles to come against Starmer and his pro-corporate government if he reaches Downing Street.

But whether it is accelerating solidarity with the Palestinian resistance or fighting the cuts, the most important struggles are on the streets and in the workplaces. The key issue remains not so much the votes on 2 May but the struggle every day. That’s how we can really change politics.

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