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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 May 2001

An alternative to the lesser of two evils

BOOKMAKERS PUT Labour as high as 40-1 on to win the forthcoming general election. Polls estimate Labour could get a majority of over 200 on the current projections of how people will vote.

New Labour, it seems, can sit back till 7 June waiting for victory to fall into their laps.

The current joke in Labour's inner circles is that their anticipated victory is all down to the efforts of one man - Billy 'Bandwagon' Hague.

If Labour is so assured of victory, why then does it also seem so defensive and panic stricken? Labour's talk about needing to mobilise apathetic voters, ending cynicism and complacency etc and fighting the election "as if it were on a knife edge" does not reflect a party at ease with itself.

When you go beyond the headline figures of recent opinion polls, a disturbing picture emerges for both Blair and New Labour.

A recent Mori poll warned that this election could see a turnout of 60%-65% - lower than even in the previous lowest turnout, the post-war 1918 election. The same poll also said that Blair has a lower personal rating than the disastrous Neil Kinnock had in 1992 and has the same negative rating as Major in 1997.

Mori comments: "For the first time in four elections both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition are viewed negatively by the British public."

Yet, despite all this Labour are likely to win because they will be seen as the "lesser of two evils" over the Tories.

But, as Ralph Nader said in the US presidential election the choice of the lesser of two evils means you still end up with evil. Though many workers still fear a return of the Tories, seeing them as worse than Labour.

Although both parties are now capitalist parties, there is a difference between Labour and the Tories in the same way as there is a difference between a liberal and right-wing capitalist party.

But such issues are subordinate to the need for the working class to take a step towards creating a genuine new mass working-class party to represent their interests.

Cosmetic plans

PEOPLE INCREASINGLY see through Labour's plans on education, health, rail etc as cosmetic ones which don't bring any improvement.

Who can trust a government where officials knew of the failings that led to the Hatfield rail disaster two years in advance but did nothing? Voters' perception is that Britain is rapidly going down the pan.

They feel the economic outlook is now gloomier than at any previous time in the last four years. In a move that is not out of synch with Labour's authoritarian streak, Blair talks of ten-year plans to reform and invest in the public sector.

But the experience of many public-sector workers of the first four years of New Labour will be enough is enough.

Former Labour deputy leader Hattersley bemoans the fact that Labour may have an even larger majority and believes they need a 'small' majority of only 50 to make then become a radical government.

But it is not the size of Labour's majority or the ineffectiveness of the disastrous, flatlining Tories that decides Labour's agenda. It has been its pursuit and continuation of Thatcherite, policies to undermine working-class living standards for the benefit of the capitalist class that means Labour will not be 'radical'. For working-class people this election will be a chance to look at what needs to be built to challenge New Labour beyond 7 June.

There will be hundreds of socialist candidates challenging Labour at this election, of which Socialist Party candidates will advance the clearest programme.

Building a creditable vote for those candidates could show that a longer term new mass working-class opposition can be built to put forward a socialist alternative for the benefit of working-class people.

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In The Socialist 11 May 2001:

Vote Socialist

Get Tough On The Nazis

An alternative to the lesser of two evils

Son of Star Wars: Stepping up the nuclear arms race

May Day 2001: Detained but defiant

YSA: Challenging capitalism, challenging the state

A merging of forces beneficial to the working class?

Philippines - People Power III?

Tory pre-election blues


 

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