Local council elections: little cheer for Labour

The council elections at the beginning of May were a test of the continued appeal of the Corbyn-led Labour Party. However, media predictions that it might make significant gains were not borne out: both Labour and Tory tied with 35% of the vote, and Labour’s gains were very limited outside London.


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Enough is enough

dont vote

It has been a surprising ‘snap’ election campaign ever since Prime Minister May broke yet another pledge – in this case not to call an early election – when she saw the chance to settle Tory divisions with an easy victory against both Labour and UKIP before economic and political chaos (the Brexit negotiations) besets Britain.

The overwhelmingly-Tory press performed as required, desperately trying to deflect voters’ attention from May’s U-turns and miscalculations on social care and police numbers, filling their pages with calls for more immigration controls and fewer human rights. George Osborne, former Chancellor deposed by May, now press baron (editor) at the London Evening Standard, spent the entire campaign lobbing criticisms at May, but came up with resounding support just before polling day to maintain his Conservative credentials. He needn’t have bothered: May’s tottering campaign meant he could resume the lobbing even before the count was complete.


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Burnham elected Manchester mayor on low turnout

Andy Burnham MP

On 4 May 2017, to little surprise, Andy Burnham took his seat as the first Mayor of Greater Manchester, a position undemocratically forced upon the people of the city and its surrounding areas. Their adamant rejection of the role, decided in a local referendum in 2012, has been ignored. This is a compromise designed to solidify the power base of local leaders in return for complicity on a cruel austerity agenda. Burnham's election on a turnout of 29% highlights general disillusion with the state of local politics in the region.


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Green Party: Rebels or reformists?

In March, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett came under attack in Britain’s right-wing media after a stuttering LBC radio performance where she struggled to explain how the party would pay for half a million new social homes. What followed was a grim character assassination in a demonstration of how bourgeois politics focuses on individual personality, with a predictable dose of Daily Mail sexism. This charade led to a nose-dive in Bennett’s approval levels, but The Independent’s Favourability Index still shows the Green Party neck and neck with UKIP and above Cameron’s LibDem coalition partners. The Green Party are clearly a rising force in British ‘democracy’, but as communists we have to analyse whether they can offer a real alternative to capitalist austerity and imperialism.


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Margaret Thatcher: a carnival of reaction

Writing on the eve of Mrs Thatcher’s resignation as Prime Minister in 1990 we said: ‘Political success and survival ultimately depend on economics. The deep, apparently insoluble crisis of British capitalism lay behind Thatcher coming to power and her failure to resolve that crisis, in the end, will see her off’ (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 98, December 1990/January 1991). Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet colleagues turned against her and drove her out of office. Now Thatcher is to be given a ceremonial funeral service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on 17 April at vast expense, with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in attendance. Parliament has been recalled to pay homage and the Union flag is being flown at half mast over the Palace of Westminster.


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Polling chaos: Thousands denied the vote

Amid the chaos, incompetence and sheer stupidity that marked the polling arrangements, what emerged most starkly was the total contempt in which the so-called ‘democratic’ system in Britain holds its electorate.

Across the country, thousands of voters in Britain’s inner cities were denied a vote. The Electoral Commission gives an initial figure of 1,129 but concedes that this estimate is incomplete, with many Acting Returning Officers unable to provide accurate information and no accounting of the hundreds who simply left when told they were unlikely to get to vote.


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So farewell then… (and good riddance)

Many MPs stood down at the election, realising that their corrupt activities would lead to defeat at the ballot box. There were, however, a few ‘Portillo’ moments, when MPs who richly deserved to be defeated received their just deserts:

Jacqui Smith, Oxford graduate. A ‘Blair babe’ who remained loyal, she wept when Blair departed. As Home Secretary she tried to extend detention without charge to 42 days and declared war on immigrants. She introduced the ID cards system and stated that most people were in favour of it – a lie. Designating her sister’s spare bedroom in London as her main residence, she claimed more than £110,000 for her ‘second home’ in her constituency where her husband and family lived. Her husband claimed expenses for pornographic films and wrote letters to the press praising his wife’s activities without revealing their relationship. Smith said that she would not feel safe on the streets of London at night and that walking the streets at night was not ‘a thing that people do’.


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General election: ruling class remains in power

david cameron and nick cleggAfter five days’ negotiations, the Liberal Democrats have finally agreed to form a neo-liberal coalition with the Tories. The ruling class was never bothered about the political complexion of any incoming government so long as it was committed to axe public spending and make the working class pay for the crisis. The Liberal Democrats had always stated that such cuts should not start this year, but then conceded this to its Tory partners. Socialists however should have no regrets about the defeat of the Labour Party, sealed by the resignation of Gordon Brown as party leader. Its warmongering, its attacks on civil liberties, on asylum seekers and on immigrants made it no better than the Tories (see FRFI 214: General Election – General fraud). Had it been elected, it would have attacked public sector workers as viciously as the incoming coalition.


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How the left failed in Birmingham

During and after the events of 8 August in Birmingham, it was apparent that certain groups on the left and so-called Muslim leaders had no appetite to build a counter-demonstration against the English Defence League (EDL), as ASSED BAIG of Birmingham UAF reports. They let down the Muslim community. When the EDL demonstrated in Birmingham with a police escort, what was our response? The only group to call for a counter demo was the SWP and some independent, non-affiliated Muslims.


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British democracy the stench of corruption

It is a truth acknowledged by working class people all over the world that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Three weeks of daily exposure of the corruption of the British Parliament by the Daily Telegraph newspaper has driven home the point. So far the Telegraph has examined the expense accounts of fewer than half of the current 646 Members of Parliament. As we go to press, ten of the worst offenders have announced that they will not stand at the next election. Many more will face the wrath of their constituents and are trembling in their (hand-made) boots at what is to come. The European elections are imminent and a general election is looming.


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Failure for Respect – the European elections

The outcome of the 10 June European and Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections was a major setback for the political strategy of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Its Respect coalition failed to get any candidate elected to either the GLA or European parliament. Out of the ten European constituencies Respect stood in, it only broke the 1.5% barrier in three, and only in London did Respect poll more than the British National Party (BNP). Bob Shepherd reports.


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Pitching for the top job

Chancellor Brown’s tenth budget is designed to be his last one. ‘The British economy is strong and strengthening’, he declares at the beginning of the budget speech, rattling off reams of statistics to drive his point home. This ‘new economic stability’, the result of his stewardship, makes Britain ‘better placed than ever to be one of the global economy’s success stories’. Surely he now must move on to replace an increasingly discredited prime minister Tony Blair before any further damage can be done. That is what he wanted us to believe as he delivered what the Financial Times called ‘not so much a budget, more a lengthy application for the job of prime minister.’


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The race to be Prime Minister has started...

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

Lewis Carroll, Alice Through the Looking Glass

There are still some in Britain who believe that the Labour Party will be born again through the appointment of a new Prime Minister when Tony Blair finally shuffles off. There are even some on the left who think that Gordon Brown is closer to ‘Old Labour’ than Blair’s New Labour – by which they mean that with Brown in the driving seat, the Labour Party will restore its allegiance to the working class, trade unions and ‘socialism’. ‘Give them another chance’, they will cry. Think again. Gordon Brown is every inch an imperialist, just like Blair and the Labour Party they both belong to. This is Brown’s record on some of the main issues.


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Editorial: London Mayor Election

'If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it' 

In May, Londoners will be asked to vote for a new kind of political animal - a London Mayor. There have been many mayors of course - most of them ceremonial like their chains. Even the Lord Mayor to the super-rich corporations in the City of London does not have power to do anything except promote the rich and patronise the poor through charity. But the 'new' political animal, the Mayor of London (Year 2K), will, they say, have the power to run London along the lines of the Mayor of New York City, USA. He or she (let's face it, he) will be a 'mover and shaker'.


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Editorial: London Mayor Election 'All that's solid melts...'

On 4 May, Ken Livingstone was elected London's first independent metropolitan mayor, gaining 667,877 first preference votes (38.9%). His nearest rival, Conservative Steven Norris, took 464,434 votes (27%) and the official Labour candidate Frank Dobson came a poor third with 223,884 votes (13%). Across the country, in local council elections the Labour Party suffered a consistent drubbing: Labour lost 573 seats compared to Conservative gains of 593. What was also consistent was the appallingly low turn-out for both mayoral and local elections. In London 1.7 million votes were cast out of a possible 5 million (32%); in some areas of the country the turnout was less than 25%.


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Editorial: Terrorised by the Tories

Suddenly, there is panic on the left: with a general election likely in spring next year, Labour is trailing in the opinion polls, for the first time since shortly after the 1992 election. And the margin is not small: a poll just before the Labour Party conference gave the Tories an 8% lead. Hague's brutal, racist and populist policies seem to be an attractive option for the middle class and their allies in the upper sections of the working class, whose votes determine the outcome of general elections in this country.

These opinion poll results were a political thunderbolt for the left. Writing in The Guardian (21 September), John O'Farrell stated that `a Tory government is once again a genuine prospect that we have an urgent duty to prevent. So now is the time for everyone on the left to focus on returning a Labour government next year. To all the people who supported Ken Livingstone, all the people who backed Labour in opposition but would rather snipe from the sidelines than be tainted by support; all the people who vote Liberal, Green or Socialist Labour; the time for such luxuries is over now.' The chips are down for O'Farrell: forget the brutalities of the current Labour government, the same brutalities committed by a Tory government are too awful to contemplate.


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Budget: no choice for the working class

Every Labour budget since 1997 has been driven by one real consideration – to ensure that the coalition of forces that elected Labour into office remains on board. Labour has to be able to govern in the interests of banking and multinational capital yet keep the support of the professional, middle and upper working classes (middle classes).

Labour's first two budgets assured banking and corporate capital that British capitalism was safe in its hands. Monetary policy was handed over to the Bank of England and a ruthless fiscal policy put in place to slash the public sector deficit and reduce the level of public debt to national income. 'Enterprise' was to be promoted through tax cuts and privatisation. Policies were put in place to discipline the poor working class, and inequality continued to grow as Labour steadfastly stood by its promise not to raise direct taxes on the middle classes. This neo-liberal dogma was called 'prudence'.


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Editorial: Don’t vote – Organise!

This issue of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is produced in the midst of a general election campaign. People in Britain are being bombarded with nonsense and harassed by politicians and the press into believing that this circus performance is a political highlight, representing ‘democracy’, which we are lucky to take part in once every four or five years.

In 1997, 44% of 18 to 24-year-olds did not bother to visit a polling booth. The overall turnout of registered voters at the last general election was just 71.3% across the country. This year even more people will decide not to vote on 7 June, because they know that the general election is a general fraud. Official statistics already show that 26% of black people in Britain are not even registered to vote, and of those who are, only 50% will vote. 50% of the unemployed will not vote either, whilst those in prison and the homeless don’t have the right to vote anyway.


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Torpor grips Convention of the Left

The Convention of the Left met in Manchester at the same time as the Labour Party conference; attracting fewer than 200 at its main sessions, it said more about the weakness of the left than anything else.

The Convention’s list of sponsors, those tired hacks who have been responsible for reducing the influence of socialism in Britain to its lowest point for over a century, belied its aim – ‘to ask ourselves the essential questions’. There was no chance that an event supported by Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, or by Tony Benn, or by leading members of Respect or the SWP, would ask the one essential question facing socialists today: how can we organise a total break from the Labour Party and finally bury its stinking corpse? Rather than hold Labour Party members to account for their affiliation to this rotten imperialist, racist and anti-working class party, audiences gave extra applause to those who announced their continued membership, whilst the charlatan Tony Benn received the loudest applause of all at the session he attended.


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