Labour and Tories Enter Grand Cuts Coalition

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Since the General Election, Labour have been increasingly inward looking as they come to terms with falling horrendously short of shutting the Tories out. Drawing all of the wrong conclusions, the leadership are moving rightwards as they view their defeat in the polls as a sign that they were too left-wing. In reality, the lack of an alternative on offer is really the issue which has seen them falling short of forming the next Government. Labour promised to continue on with the austerity onslaught started by the Conservatives and their now collapsed Liberal Democrat partners and in doing so have been snubbed at the polls.

Despite the similarities in their economic strategy, Labour had nevertheless been posing themselves as an alternative to the Conservatives in their rhetoric. This will have undoubtedly swayed many voters who have seen Labour move further and further rightwards but would hold their nose and remain faithful to Labour to “stop the Tories getting in”. It will therefore come as a shock to many of these people to see Labour reveal how far they have degenerated as they have now formally agreed to share power with the Conservatives in Plymouth’s hung council.

http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Labour-strikes-power-sharing-deal-Conservatives/story-26553401-detail/story.html

Labour will no doubt justify this arrangement as a means of shutting the 3 UKIP Councillors out from becoming kingmakers with the Tories now that Labour have lost their majority on the council. If that is the case then Labour will quickly fall to pieces as it is simply siding with what it considers to be the least worst of two bad options. If Labour were willing to take more of a lead and not implement the eye-watering cuts passed down from national level they would probably never have lost their majority on the council but this latest move will only alienate those who will have voted Labour to keep the Tories out.

In light of this move, Plymouth’s 3 UKIP Councillors will most likely portray themselves as the rebellious anti-establishment underdogs but only a cursory glance at their voting patterns shows that they are just as much a part of the problem. Having offered no resistance to the cuts by not tabling an alternative budget and even voting against implementing a living wage for all Council staff, it is clear that UKIP in Plymouth are just another brand of establishment offering another brand of austerity.

With no illusions in Labour as the reality of this grand cuts coalition will start going about its business of butchering public services, people will very quickly start looking for alternatives. The trade union leaders will now have a very difficult time arguing that Labour are an alternative when the evidence is clearly showing otherwise. The attacks on jobs, conditions and public services will now come thick and fast and people will be looking for a means of organising to fight back and resist the compounding of an already desperate situation.

People will not need to look far as the Socialist Party and TUSC continue to campaign for an end to the cuts and the immediate implementation of a £10 an hour minimum wage, standing shoulder to shoulder with workers as they take to strike action. Labour’s collaboration with the Tories shows that they are not in any way an alternative. We can either mourn at the loss of a Party that is no longer ours or we can be part of the building of an alternative that effectively counters what the Tories have in store for us. Now is the time to get involved with TUSC, join the Socialist Party and build a movement to end austerity.

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Reflections On The TUSC Campaign Trail…

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With just over 3 weeks to go until the General and Local Elections take place I have found it useful to take 5 minutes between putting letters and statements together, preparing for hustings and leaflet drops as well as canvassing, to reflect on the changed mood from last year.

One of the first things that I have noticed this year is the diminished support for UKIP when speaking to people on doorsteps. It was to be expected that UKIP would be prominent in last year’s elections as the local elections ran concurrently with the European Elections but one thing that has been striking this year has been the lack of vocal support this year compared to last year for UKIP. I have had conversations with a number of people who have expressed support for UKIP, more as a protest vote than anything else, but there has been a marked drop in self-proclaimed UKIP supporters or voters.

This seems at odds with the giant billboards, masses of leaflets going out as well as the seemingly full-time commenting on local news websites of some UKIP supporters. However, this will all have been paid for by millions which have been provided by rich donors that were once loyal to the Conservatives.

Something else I have noticed is a lack of canvassing and grass roots campaigning by the other parties. I have spoken to plenty of people who almost seem surprised that a rosette wielding Socialist is knocking at their door of an evening until I point out that there’s only 3 weeks to go until polling day. Again, there are plenty of billboards from all of the Capitalist parties being erected across the city in an almost clandestine turf war but this seems to be the extent of it. The battle for hearts, minds and political ideas seems to have been reduced to an almost clinical advertising campaign.

One other very encouraging difference I have noticed in this election compared to last year is that these elections are much more political than in previous years. It is clear now more than ever before, at least in the course of my political experience, that people are searching much more deeply for a political outlet which best represents their increasingly irked voice. There is a clear rejection of the tired swing from Labour to Conservative and back again as more and more people are looking to parties that can offer a way out of the protracted crisis caused by the current rut Capitalism finds itself in.

Some have been pulled in by the simplistic and mistaken view that immigration is the cause of every societal woe, whether it’s overcrowded schools, the stagnant wages or the alleged influx of health tourists “burdening our NHS” offered by a rightwards lurching UKIP. Others are turning to the seemingly refreshing views of the Greens, who have lurched leftwards in their rhetoric with promises to end austerity and promise of a minimum wage of ₤10 an hour by 2020. Yet when the Greens have been in a position to end austerity, such as in Brighton and Hove or Bristol, they have capitulated and joined an increasing rainbow coalition of austerity wielding parties. Not to mention that ₤10 an hour is needed now, not some time in the distant future.

There is a dwindling rump of support for the Conservatives and Labour, mainly made up of stalwarts and party faithfuls that have not yet come to terms with the fast changing political landscape. Things cannot go back to the way they used to be. Labour seem to be desperately trying to shed its working-class base as it has spent more and more of its time marketing itself to big business with continued austerity whilst opportunistically also offering rhetoric about communities and helping the most vulnerable. This flies in the face of the reality of Labour councils which have dutifully implemented austerity passed down to them by the Con-Dems.

Likewise, the Conservatives have not managed to attract voters beyond its core support as most people are under no illusions about us all being in this together after 5 years of wages, terms, conditions and public services being hammered.

It’s hugely encouraging to be out canvassing on the streets and being greeted, on the whole, with a barrage of questions as it is clear that the working-class are really starting to explore the potential avenues for them to venture down on the political plain. Fed up with more of the same or petty compromises working-class people are looking for a way out of the sustained poverty and misery being unnecessarily inflicted upon them.

As a Socialist Party member and TUSC candidate in the local elections this May I am glad to be there offering a genuine alternative to austerity through the striving for a socialist transformation of society. The ground is fertile for our ideas, having spent just an hour canvassing we were able to pick up 6 contacts as well as a much larger number of people who said they would seriously consider casting a vote for us this May.

Even more inspiring was the presence of a Norwegian student in attendance at our latest branch meeting, directly as a result of our sustained campaigning efforts. Keen to learn more about what the Socialist Party, and indeed the Committee for a Workers’ International, has to offer, I am confident that this can be replicated many times. We are turning more and more heads in this election and more importantly gaining new members and organisers. This will really accelerate the process of building a strong workers’ movement hungry from poverty, hungry for change… hungry for socialism.

I would like to dedicate this post to Declan Clune, a faithful reader of my blog since its inception.

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Voters Can Reject Austerity: TUSC To Contest All Local Seats In Plymouth

Nationally, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is standing over 100 parliamentary candidates and over 600 candidates in local elections this May. In Plymouth, TUSC managed to stand in all 19 seats last year, securing over 1,150 votes the first time we stood across the city. This year, TUSC is standing another 19 candidates in the local elections. This means that every voter in Plymouth will have the chance to vote for an electoral alternative that will protect public services and will not implement austerity.

Across Europe there is a growing rejection of austerity and TUSC is standing as widely as possible to give expression to the same mood which exists here in Britain. This is a very ambitious task as it means standing the biggest left of Labour electoral challenge since the end of the Second World War.

This is made more challenging as it is not free to stand in the General Election. Each candidate has to put forward a deposit of £500. This means that nationally, TUSC is having to put forward nearly £70,000 just so that we can stand our parliamentary candidates this May. This is before we even begin to take into account the costs of mounting our election campaign.

It is for this reason that TUSC have to think seriously about where we can have the biggest impact to ensure that we are able to reach the widest number of people as we simply do not have the resources to contest all 650 seats this May. As we will be standing in every seat in the local elections in Plymouth we will already be making in-roads from last year’s successful campaign.

By focussing our efforts in the Plymouth Moor View constituency, we can strengthen the gains that we have already made and develop the profile and grass roots support of TUSC. At the same time, by not standing a candidate in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport we can ensure that the resources are freed up to be put to use in another constituency where TUSC has not built such firm foundations. This will ensure that the banner of TUSC is raised higher than ever as the need for a new workers’ party could not be more stark.

All the main parties are committed to implementing austerity. The Con-Dems have ruthlessly cut funding to local authorities and Labour have committed to Tory austerity measures if elected. Moreover, the Greens have implemented austerity where ever they have been in a position to effectively oppose austerity such as in Brighton and Bristol and UKIP in Plymouth voted against the implementation of a living wage for Council workers. It is clear that there is a need to build a new workers’ party which will oppose austerity in word but also in deed.

Plymouth voters are invited to cast their votes for the only electoral alternative which will protect jobs, public services and will invest in the people who have had to bear the burden of a financial crisis that was not caused by them. Plymouth TUSC remains committed to campaigning for a £10 an hour minimum wage, building social housing to stop the spiralling housing crisis and will set a budget which protects jobs and frontline services, without shifting the cost onto Plymothians through raising council tax.

If you would like to get more involved in TUSC why not contact us at tuscplymouth@yahoo.co.uk or indicate your support by contacting us nationally at http://www.tusc.org.uk/support.php

Greeks Reject Austerity: Prospects For The European Working Class

Many Greeks will no doubt be inspired by the election of Syriza in the last few days. With a full quarter of Greeks unemployed and a staggering 60% of Greek youths without work it is no wonder that the Greek working-class is looking to a political alternative rather than sticking with the eye-watering austerity consensus offered by the main parties of Capitalism. The election of Syriza poses some interesting questions for the working-class across Europe over the next period but the road ahead is by no means staightforward.

The very fact that Syriza stood on an anti-austerity platform throughout the elections will no doubt sprout hope amongst Greeks that have faced huge falls in living standards since the global economic crisis which unfolded in 2008. Moreover, this could bolster support for Podemos in Spain, as well as opening up prospects for anti-austerity alternatives in Portugal and Italy.

With General and Local Elections taking place in Britain in May, the publicity which these results have received could also encourage a layer of the British working-class to question the necessity of austerity. However, with the first past the post system as well as a media blackout on the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), it is unlikely at this stage that TUSC will see results of this magnitude yet.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that it was only in 2009 that Syriza was polling less than 5% of the vote with Pasok (Greek equivalent of the British Labour Party) being the main contender for power. Pasok has now seen a massive collapse in its support which serves as an example to the Labour Party which has remained committed to continuing with Con-Dem austerity if elected later this year. The importance of raising the TUSC banner high and offering a no cuts alternative cannot be stated enough as the rank and file of trade unions are increasingly questioning the point of supporting a Labour Party which has continued to ignore the needs of ordinary working class-people in favour of big business.

As highlighted above, the election of Syriza could potentially cause a leftwards shift to occur across much of Europe, although this depends largely on the movement that can be built against austerity in the next period. The European bourgeois are no doubt wary of this new development with stern warnings being passed onto Greece since the results of the election were announced on Sunday. In a bid to foster divisions among different sections of European workers, Sigmar Gabriel of the German SPD stated “Things that Greece itself won’t do cannot be shunted on to the taxpayers and employers in neighbouring states”.

Yet, there have been some worrying signals which clearly indicate that Greece is by no means on a clear path to recovery just yet. First of all is Tsipras’s backpedalling on the strong anti-austerity rhetoric being used throughout the elections, toning down his position to one of compromise rather than confrontation of the troika (European Union, European Central Bank and IMF). Furthermore, is the unlikely choice of the Independent Greeks as a coalition partner to prop up a Syrizan Government. Though also being against austerity, the Independent Greeks are a right-wing party with a reputation for racism and homophobia.

With this in mind, it is not yet clear how things will shape up in the next period. However, the working-class of Greece need to keep the pressure on Tsipras to deliver on the promises that have been made as the current prospects for Greek, and indeed all, European working-class people remains unacceptable. If Tsipras is not to go the way of the “Socialist” Hollande in France, then a firm stance against austerity needs to be upheld as the working-class of Greece will not acquiesce with so much at stake. In addition, with the elections already causing a stir in the rest of Europe, the Greek working-class will very quickly find that they have allies in the working-class across Europe and indeed the world if they take the route of struggle.

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