Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2913

No honeymoon for new Labour government

The workers and the left have to organise to fight against Labour
Issue 2913
Keir Starmer holds first cabinet under new Labour government

Keir Starmer holds the first cabinet of the new Labour government (Picture: Number 10)

Labour’s first acts in government were to reassure bosses and generals. It underlined that workers and the left have to organise to fight now against a government that will serve big business and imperialism.

Addressing hundreds of supporters gathered at the Tate Modern in central London last Friday morning, Keir Starmer said, “We ran a changed Labour party and we will govern as a changed Labour party.” His words were a deliberate echo of Tony Blair’s promise in his 1997 election victory speech that said, “We ran for office as New Labour, we will govern as New Labour.”

On Monday chancellor Rachel Reeves cheered up construction firm executives by underlining that private builders will be at the centre of housing targets. Such moves are why Labour’s win was greeted by a big vote of confidence—from bankers and financial speculators.

Normally the kings of finance watch nervously for the results of elections where the left is set to win. But Starmer produces no such anxiety.

There was never any danger of the “run on the pound” that generally greets a setback for the Tories. There is a long list of what urgently needs to change.

The new government has to be fought over breaking with Israel, opposing war, fighting deportations, repealing racist laws and pushing for above inflation increases in pay and benefits. There has to be agitation over defending jobs, demanding environmental action, fully funding the NHS, mass council housing, winning trans and women’s rights—and more.

The threadbare ranks of the Labour left and many union leaders will call for cooperation with Starmer. Instead there has to be a struggle against it.

Labour’s very limited plans for more money for public services will be linked to attempts to hold down pay—unless workers fight. TUC union federation president and FBU union leader Matt Wrack said, “If there is a honeymoon for Labour, it could be short-lived unless the government responds to the pent-up anger after 14 years of pay restraint.”

But that needs to be turned into action. An early test will come over teachers’ pay where the government must soon react to the review body.

There’s also an early test over anti-union laws, some of which Labour pledged to dump. Dangerously Wrack added that Labour could buy itself some time on pay provided it moved quickly to deliver on workers’ rights.

There can be no delay in demanding restoration after 14 years of real terms pay cuts for millions of workers. We say no “honeymoon” with Labour.

The government has a very narrow base. The energy and scale of the Palestinian movement—which produced the votes for Independents—has to be a central part of an offensive on every front for working class people to win real gains.


Repeal union laws

Labour’s manifesto said, “Labour will stop the chaos and turn the page to create a partnership between business and trade unions, by implementing ‘Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay—Delivering a New Deal for Working People’ in full—introducing legislation within 100 days.”

Labour’s Plan to Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People said, “Over the past 14 years, the Conservatives have consistently attacked rights at work, including through the Trade Union Act 2016, the Minimum Service Levels (Strikes) Bill and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2022—all of which Labour will repeal.”

The 2016 act brought in the 50 percent turnout requirement for strike ballots. It will take a battle to have that, and the rest of the 2016 act, wiped out.

Labour says it will consult with bosses before it comes up with its plans. One leading trade union expert told Socialist Worker, “I think it intends to repeal the act but keep some threshold that will be ‘sweetened’ by allowing e-balloting rather than postal balloting.”

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