Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/535/4154
Crewe and Nantwich 'no-win' by-election: Why New Labour lost
New Labour sunk to a new low in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election last week. Crewe, or Railtown as it is affectionately known by locals, has a proud labour movement history, built as it was as part of the locomotive and car industry. During the 1926 general strike, Crewe trades union council effectively had democratic control of the town.
Jim Cessford, former Crewe socialist activist
Later, during the 1980s, supporters of the Militant newspaper played a leading role in a struggle involving rail, car, health and postal workers against the decimation of rail engineering jobs and hospital closures, which came within a whisker of leading to a Cheshire-wide general strike but for the role of the union leaders and most notably Gwynneth Dunwoody.
Today, Gwynneth Dunwoody, the previous MP for the area, is better known for challenging the government over public transport and social security issues, and due to the rightward transformation of Labour was seen as a 'left' when she passed away.
However, we should not forget, this is the same person who, alongside her allies like Roy Hattersley, began the calls for the witch-hunt of socialists (including myself) in the Labour Party, which ultimately led to the complete rejection of any socialist ideology within the party by its leaders, in favour of a diet of privatisation, job cuts, and pay restraint for us, with massive booty for the millionaires.
Now, in this by-election, many previously diehard Labour voters chose to protest against the Gordon Brown government by voting Tory. During the Dunwoody decades, Crewe saw a massive shift from high-skilled, highly paid jobs into being a massive retail outlet, with low-paid, insecure jobs.
It has witnessed the greed of big business who, not satisfied with driving down living standards to new lows in the town, have sent agencies out to Eastern Europe to bring to Crewe the biggest influx of 'cheap labour' migrant workers per head in the north west.
This, as in many other areas, has led to tensions which unless challenged effectively through working- class unity, solidarity and struggle, can lead some workers into the hands of the Tories and far right.
It is necessary for socialists, workers, young people, community campaigners, environmentalists and all those who want to fight back, to begin to re-awaken the spirit of solidarity, struggle and socialism by joining together to begin to build a new workers' party.
Support for socialist ideas
"This so called Labour government have betrayed working class people. I will never vote for them again and that makes two because I'll never vote for the Tories either".
Now the by-election is over, the army of media analysts and political commentators have packed up and swept out of Crewe as quickly as they arrived. They have left behind thousands of working class people in the town who feel betrayed by New Labour but fearful of the threat of a Tory government within the next two years.
Andy Bentley, Stoke Socialist Party
This Tory by-election victory in Crewe and Nantwich, an area dominated by the Labour Party since the second world war, has come on top of New Labour's recent meltdown in the local elections.
But there is now no fundamental difference between the policies of New Labour, the Tories or the Lib Dems - privatisation, cuts, closures and job losses are the name of the game for all three. Whoever had won the by-election, there were to be no winners among ordinary working people.
Stoke Socialist Party members went to Crewe on the Saturday after the by-election to build support for the campaign to keep the post office mail centre open, which is threatened with closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs. Over 250 people signed our petition, we gave out about 350 leaflets and 73 people also bought a copy of The Socialist.
An ex-railway worker, incensed at New Labour's attacks on the postal service, donated a fiver to our campaign, to help pay for more leaflets. Expressing in his voice the anger felt by millions across Britain, he told us: "This so called Labour government have betrayed working class people. I will never vote for them again and that makes two because I'll never vote for the Tories either".
After signing our petition some people also went to our Campaign for a New Workers Party stall to sign up to support that campaign. A Royal College of Nursing steward said: "I'm getting impatient with the lack of a real fight back from the leadership of my union but I also think a new workers' party is a great idea", and donated a fiver to help the campaign.
The media razzamatazz surrounding the 'no win' Crewe by-election has now gone but all the problems faced by working class people in the area remain. The need to build a new workers' party and the fight for genuine socialism will not go away and people in Crewe will play an important role in the struggles of the future.
In The Socialist 28 May 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party women
Youth and crime
Socialist Party feature
International socialist analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news