Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/391/4428
Labour gets a bloody nose
Time for a new workers’ party
THE ELECTION result clearly shows that growing numbers have had enough of Tony Blair and this New Labour government.
Big swings have seen prominent government ministers lose their seats and Labour’s overall majority dropping by around 100 seats – to between 60 and 70 as the socialist went to press.
This clearly reveals the smouldering anger against Blair, which threatens to further ignite at any time.
Had there been a more coherent, viable alternative for working-class people to vote for in many areas this government would have been finished.
Although there was a bigger than predicted swing against Labour, Blair was fortunate to face the Tories led by Howard. Time and again Labour desperately resorted to the only trick left up their sleeve – the fear of ‘Hatchet Howard’ and the Tories coming back to power.
But, even then masses of voters weren’t falling for that.
The big swings to the Liberal Democrats in formerly solid Labour areas – posing as an anti-war party that would abolish tuition fees – shows how desperate some former Labour voters were to give Blair a bloody nose.
The many credible votes for anti-establishment and anti-war candidates who gained a higher media profile – particularly Reg Keys, whose son was killed in Iraq and who stood against Blair, and others like Rose Gentle and George Galloway - shows how the Iraq factor and hatred of Blair came into play.
Labour was given a bloody nose even in its strongest heartlands. Its loss in Blaenau Gwent to an Independent Labour candidate, who stood against New Labour control freakery, showed how a century of loyalty to Labour could be rapidly overturned.
Although turnout was slightly higher than last time, it was mainly higher in areas where contests were closely fought.
As well as suffering an 8% swing against him, David Blunkett – one of Blair’s most despised henchmen – saw turnout plummet to only 38% in his Sheffield constituency.
In other formerly solid Labour areas a similar story unfolded, showing that the class loyalty that existed towards Labour has snapped.
But the potential for a working-class alternative is only partially shown by the votes in this election result, though many anti-establishment and socialist candidates achieved creditable votes.
But, as well as the loosening of Labour’s support, the election of George Galloway and other results show the potential for a viable and serious Left challenge to Labour at the next election.
Inevitably, this will be a government that comes into collision with the working class – particularly those organised in trade unions – and through those class battles, significant sections of workers will conclude that their unions must defend them and to do that more effectively requires building a new mass party of the working class.
In The Socialist 6 May 2005: