Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/32764

Posted on 5 July 2021 at 15:56 GMT

Editorial of the Socialist
Posters during the Batley & Spen by-election campaign

Posters during the Batley & Spen by-election campaign   (Click to enlarge)

Batley & Spen by-election

Another condemnation of Starmer's New Labour

Labour managed to narrowly hold on to Batley and Spen in the parliamentary by-election on 1 July, scraping in by 323 votes. The Labour leadership are sighing with relief. In reality, however, this result is a further condemnation of Starmer's New Labour.

An opposition worthy of the name should have been able to romp home following Matt Hancock's resignation, which has fuelled anger at the Tories' 'one rule for us, and another for the rest of you' approach to Covid measures. This has compounded the existing simmering fury at the underfunding of the NHS and underpaying of its workforce.

Elected Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater is a local woman, sister of the former MP for the seat, Jo Cox, who was brutally murdered by a supporter of the far right five years ago. Yet Labour's vote fell by more than 9,000 from the last general election and by a thumping 16,500 from 2017.

This by-election was yet more evidence that Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity programme was a far better vote winner than Starmer's pro-capitalist policies.

George Galloway's 21%

George Galloway, standing for the Workers' Party, won 8,264 votes (21%). Labour MPs have been to the fore in attacking him for running a 'divisive campaign'. Most of them ignore the fact that Labour put out a leaflet in the predominantly Muslim parts of the constituency featuring a picture of Boris Johnson shaking hands with Modi, the right-wing Hindu nationalist prime minister of India. This was not Labour objecting to Modi's policies, but a blatant attempt to win the votes of Muslim constituents on communal grounds.

The Labour right's frenzied attacks on Galloway are an attempt to avoid the primary reasons why a sizeable section of Batley and Spen's voters, mainly but not only from a Muslim background, cast a vote for Galloway. Galloway campaigned for "a new working-class politics", saying that "we fight Labour because we seek to replace it as the party of the working-class. It's really not rocket science. We consider Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson to be two cheeks of the same arse."

His history of opposing the imperialist wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly the memory of the way in which he fiercely stood up to US senators in 2005 over the Iraq war, has left a long-lasting impression of a man who is prepared to fight for his principles. Galloway's record of opposing the Iraq war is in stark contrast to Starmer's Labour, where Peter Mandelson is back as an advisor - a man who was a key figure in Blair's warmongering governments.

These are not only historical issues. The nightmarish consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue today. At the same time, the brutal Israeli state terror meted out against the Palestinians has, in recent months, mobilised hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets of Britain. Starmer's total failure to support the movement, limiting himself to mealy-mouthed calls for 'restraint on all sides' is combined with presiding over a major drive to remove Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters from the Labour Party.

In reality his motivation is to make Labour 'Blairite' - that is, a party big business can rely on to represent its interests - but overwhelmingly spurious accusations of antisemitism have been used as the excuse.

Socialists must, of course, oppose all antisemitism, but the Labour right are cynically using false accusations of it to suspend or expel Corbyn supporters, often justifying it by the accused having criticised the brutality of the Israeli state.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that Galloway was able to win a section of voters around these issues. However, these were not the only or even the main questions which motivated Galloway's voters. Decades of cuts to services implemented by Labour Kirklees council, and the last year of devastating economic crisis, will all have fuelled support for him. Galloway's vote is an indication of the potential for a mass party of the working class.

Under Corbyn's leadership there was a possibility of transforming Labour into such a party, but following his defeat it is necessary to start building something new, a party capable of bringing together all the different struggles of the working class around a common socialist programme.

The Socialist Party fights for steps towards such a party by participating in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) which enables trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists from different parties and none, to stand against pro-austerity establishment politicians under a common banner and an agreed platform of core policies.

It was an important first step for the post-Corbyn era that, in the May 2021 elections, TUSC was able to stand over 300 candidates. At the same time we argue for the trade union movement to take steps towards founding a new mass party.

What role for Galloway?

Will George Galloway be able to play a role in the development of such a party? The Socialist Party has in the past criticised Galloway for creating a too narrowly-based appeal aimed specifically at Muslims, rather than the working class as a whole. While this has allowed him to make electoral breakthroughs, winning elections first in Bethnal Green and Bow, and later in Bradford West, he has not consolidated a base or, eighteen years after his expulsion from Labour, built a stable organisation. The lack of a consistent class-based approach, or roots in the trade unions, or a democratic structure, have all been major obstacles to him doing so.

In Batley and Spen his official election propaganda seems to have attempted to appeal to all working-class voters rather than Muslims alone. However, some of his personal statements appear to have been trying to win votes on a reactionary and divisive basis: such as, for example, tweeting that he is a "straight white man with six children", particularly when he was standing against an LGBTQ+ woman. Or tweeting that he would not stand "for the BBC trying to teach our young children that there are 99 genders".

Galloway has a history of these kind of divisive comments, which should be opposed. But the biggest obstacle to him playing a positive role in the formation of a mass workers' party in Britain is his record on crossing class lines and backing pro-capitalist candidates.

He rightly lambasts the Labour right wing for turning Labour into a pro-capitalist party, yet just two months ago, in the Scottish parliamentary elections, the Workers' Party and Galloway stood as part of the "Alliance4Unity" which recommended tactical votes for various pro-austerity politicians, including ten Tory constituency candidates. One of them, Jackson Carlaw, was leader of the Scottish Conservatives from February to July 2020. Plus, in the 2019 European elections, Galloway publicly backed Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

One of the most burning issues for the workers' movement is the need for the working class to have its own independent voice rather than being politically disenfranchised as it is now. All kinds of debates will take place on how to achieve that, in which the role of fighting trade unionists will be critical. But what is clear is that no public figure can take that process forward by backing candidates of the capitalist Tory party, or Farage and other right-wing populists of his ilk. For George Galloway to play a positive role in the formation of a new party - which his own vote shows the potential for - he would need to adopt a different approach.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 






Related links:

Labour:

triangleSupport Sharon Graham for Unite general secretary

triangleSupport Gary Clark for CWU executive

triangleUrgent need to build alternative to pro-capitalist politicians

triangleUnite general secretary contest: Vote for Sharon Graham

Elections:

triangleTUSC calls for local 'People's Budget' campaigns

triangleCWU elections: Vote for a fighting, campaigning, socialist EC member

trianglePCS elections - incumbents win, but solid vote for Broad Left Network

triangleSocialist Party national meeting: Perspectives for socialism after the elections

Candidates:

triangleLeft candidate needed for Unite general secretary election

triangleUnite general secretary campaign: Left candidates speak to the Socialist

triangleUnite general secretary campaign: Statement from Sharon Graham

Capitalist:

triangleGerman Greens: The image and reality

triangleReaders' comments

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

5/7/21

Labour

Batley & Spen byelection: Another condemnation of Starmer's New Labour

5/7/21

NHS

Tories deliver second slap in the face to NHS workers

30/6/21

Northern Ireland

Socialist candidate wins NIPSA general secretary election

30/6/21

NHS

NHS after 3 July protests: Trade unions must organise serious action

30/6/21

Police

Dalian Atkinson - police found guilty of killing ex-footballer

30/6/21

Rail

Post-pandemic railway battles loom

30/6/21

Wealth

Millionaires multiply during pandemic

30/6/21

NHS

Fight to save our NHS

30/6/21

NHS

Keep private hands off NHS patient data

30/6/21

Media

Stop the Channel 4 sell-off!

30/6/21

Covid

Hopeless Hancock replaced

30/6/21

NHS

Fight the health and care bill

23/6/21

Unison

Interview with newly elected Unison NEC member

23/6/21

Election

Urgent need to build alternative to pro-capitalist politicians

23/6/21

NHS

NHS in crisis - 'It's time for action'

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999