Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 7 May 2008

Meltdown for Brown - but he won't change course

The barbarians are at the gate. After the London mayoral victory of the Tory Neanderthal Boris Johnson and the New Labour meltdown in the rest of the country, that will be the opinion of many, if not the majority, of politically aware working-class people.

Moreover, it comes after the victory of Berlusconi in Italy, who claims that his government is the new 'Falange', the fascists who supported Spanish dictator Franco.

The nightmare of a Cameron-led Tory government is posed, given the 44% of the vote for them in these elections, which if repeated in a general election would result in a 100 seat majority for the Tories. The scale of the New Labour meltdown is unprecedented: "Opinions differ as to whether this should be called Labour's worst defeat since 1973 or 1968 or 1066" (Andrew Rawnsley, Observer, 4/5/08). Over 330 council seats were lost, the worst for Labour for 40 years. Labour had 11,000 councillors in 1997 but this has now been reduced to 5,000.

This electoral massacre is worse even than that suffered by Tony Blair after the catastrophe of the Iraq war. Nowhere was spared, it seems, from this debacle, with northern councils like Bury and North Tyneside falling to the Tories. Even in Wales - historically a bedrock for Labour - New Labour suffered a catastrophe, with Torfaen, where it lost 18 out of its 34 seats, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent "abandoning Labour". The party now controls only two Welsh councils, down from nine in 1999.

Moreover those associated with the New Labour shipwreck went down, like Plaid Cymru and, most spectacularly, Ken Livingstone. Undoubtedly, Livingstone suffered the most vitriolic campaign, not just from Johnson and the Tories but also from the capitalist media, led by the Tory house journal the London Evening Standard: "It was the Standard wot won it". Not least in the poison spewed out against Livingstone - particularly by its chief hatchet man Andrew Gilligan - was the fear that if Livingstone won, the lucrative contract for their free journal Metro would be ended.

Johnson undoubtedly benefited enormously from this as well as the 1.5 million that poured into his coffer. This allowed an 'army' of helpers to be employed, particularly in the London suburbs, organised by Lynton Crosby, the political consultant behind John Howard's three successive election victories in Australia. Despite this, however, Johnson could have been defeated by the independent mobilisation of working-class people and youth on clear socialist policies. Indeed, there was a late surge of workers in inner London of those terrified of a Johnson victory.

But, as New Labour MPs queue up to admit, they had no 'foot soldiers' in the election. Guardian writer Polly Toynbee states bluntly: "Labour has no firm territory of its own to stand on". The organised working class has been enormously alienated, as has the middle class, by the attack on the poor symbolised by the withdrawal of the 10% tax rate, the rise in the cost of living through price rises. Added to this is the general dissatisfaction with the deterioration of services and living conditions, graphically felt in London where the huge divide between rich and poor is at its starkest. This offended not just the poor but sections of the progressive middle class who had swung over to an anti-Tory position in the past. Even Jackie Ashley in the Guardian - a flag waver for New Labour - admitted that on the doorstep workers said: "You have lost my vote for good".

Incredibly, Boris Johnson was allowed to appear as a 'rebel', as something 'fresh', appealing to the general discontent and the inchoate idea that he might change things. Livingstone contributed to this by appearing arrogant, surrounding himself with a coterie of highly-paid apparatchiks and alienating workers like the tube drivers by his attacks.

But Johnson is not at all fluffy, as his image makers project. In fact, he represents retread Thatcherism. He is on record as wanting to smash the tube and rail unions in London, and as a minimum wants a 'no strike' agreement, which is completely dictatorial. He wants to maintain and, if possible, extend the disastrous Public Private Partnership (PPP), thereby opening the door to his rich backers. Whether he gets away with this depends upon the resistance of the labour movement and the fear of Cameron that if he is 'let off the leash' this will prove disastrous for Cameron's own ambitions for national governmental power.

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that despite the spurious appeal "to the ethnics", the minorities in London, Johnson came to power partly helped, at least, by the second preference votes of the British National Party (BNP), which now has a toehold of one seat in the Greater London Assembly. What an indictment of New Labour that these creatures have been given a platform!

In general, however, the BNP fell short of their council seats target; why vote BNP when you can achieve the same objective by voting Johnson and the Tories? The BNP assembly seat will, however, provoke a backlash amongst workers and young people especially.

Socialist victory

More significant for the future was the tremendous victory of Dave Nellist in Coventry, which got no national publicity and only a line in the Coventry Evening Telegraph. Nevertheless, this was a shaft of light in the midst of the New Labour national debacle and is, moreover, a portent of what is possible on the basis of a clear, fighting, socialist lead and the mobilisation of committed socialists and trade unionists for a programme that can really change the lives of working-class people.

Livingstone based himself on campaigns like 'Muslims for Ken', a completely non-class, false appeal that could play into the hands of those wishing to whip up prejudices against Muslims. Dave Nellist was confronted by a similar shameful ethnic campaign from New Labour but successfully confronted this by appealing to Muslim workers on a class and socialist basis.

This Labour defeat is not down, in the main, to the less 'attractive' personality of Gordon Brown. It is the product, as with Blair, of carrying through pro-capitalist policies, which represent a brutal offensive against the rights and conditions of working-class people. The Financial Times declared that Livingstone - who on balance they preferred - was the candidate of big business in the London mayoral election and Boris Johnson of small business.

If Livingstone had been elected, like the Brown government he would have still been in hock to those who, in turn, operate the levers of economic power and who really control the destiny of Britain and the world. Will Hutton stated in the Observer: "The directors of the world's top five companies sit on the boards of another 147 leading companies" and Gordon Brown's government has bent the knee to this power. When the economy was doing well, Brown claimed the credit, but now, in the aftermath of this defeat, he says that his government's woes are down to the world economic crisis.

If so, take the power away from undemocratic big business autocrats! When they threaten to take their business abroad, like the chemical company Shire moving to Ireland, stop them by nationalising all the banks and introducing a state monopoly of trade. Brown will not do this, or switch to some radical, reformist policies, as writers like Polly Toynbee argue. Instead he will attempt to undermine the Tories by shifting towards the right, like the defeated Socialist Party in France, trapped as he is within the neo-liberal concept.

Demand for change

Trade union leaders and left Labour MPs like John McDonnell are calling for a 'change in course'. Labour MP Ian Gibson demanded the removal of ID cards, Trident missiles and "futile wars with astronomical costs". He also called for "affordable housing and a national council house building programme, support for agency workers' rights, the need for a publicly-owned railway system", etc. As laudable as this is, there is not a cat in hell's chance of these being realised under this government and with this prime minister.

It is possible that a challenge will be made to Brown, not now but some time in the future before the next general election, as the plight of the government worsens, as it will because it will be hemmed in by the world and British economic crisis. But a change of face with the same policy will be as ineffective as the switch from Blair to Brown has been. The drivers of the train are hell-bent on heading for a crash.

If the trade union leaders - particularly those on the left - are to be effective in defending their members, they must break with this discredited New Labour party now. It is time to step up the campaign for a new mass workers' party as the only hope for workers caught between the hammer and the anvil of parties basically the same - the Tories, Liberal Democrats and New Labour - who all subscribe to the poisonous medicine of neo-liberalism. This means a further erosion of workers' rights and conditions to the benefit of a "superclass", with their 150 Gulfstream private jets and opulence, while millions struggle in poverty and deprivation.

The new capitalist barbarians can be stopped and turned back by a mass campaign for socialist ideas and policies. A new era has opened up in Britain by the seismic shock provided by Johnson's and the Tories' successes.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - 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.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • 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 special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 7 May 2008:

Coventry: Socialist election success shows the way forward

Meltdown for Brown - but he won't change course

Elections round-up and results

Election victories for class fighters

Racist BNP have no solutions!

Socialist Party news and analysis

Grangemouth refinery: Oil strike wins concessions

May Day marches

Defend abortion rights

TUC attacks Labour on working poverty

Bangor Socialist Students fight tuition fees

Obituary: Ray Apps

Album review: The Bright Lights of America

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

France 1968: Capitalism brought to its knees

How workers and youth are building a Left alternative in France

Sri Lanka: 25 years of war and conflict

May Day Greetings

May Day Greetings 2008 in The Socialist (p4)

May Day Greetings 2008, The Socialist (p6)

May Day Greetings 2008, The Socialist (p7)

May Day Greetings 2008, The Socialist (p9)

May Day Greetings 2008, The Socialist (p10)

May Day Greetings 2008, The Socialist (p11)

May Day Greetings 2008, The Socialist (p15)

Socialist Party workplace news

Unison witch-hunt: Defend the four, come to the lobby!

Mark Thomas condemns witch-hunt

'Raising the roof' at Usdaw conference

Support Shelter workers

National Shop Stewards Network second conference

Come to the 2008 Campaign for a New Workers' Party conference


Home   |   The Socialist 7 May 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleCrisis in council services: Labour must fight or stand aside

triangleTrades council debates workers' political representation

triangleStarmer in full retreat over C-19 rents crisis

triangleSocial partnership is an attempt to shackle trade unions and prevent industrial action

triangleNo return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'


triangleEast London Socialist Party: Why are coronavirus deaths higher in working-class areas?

triangleHackney, Waltham Forest & East London Socialist Party branches: Johnson's 'back to school' plan is not safe

triangleTransport workers and passengers mustn't pay the price

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Lessons of the 1973 military coup in Chile


triangleUnited action can defeat Tories' dangerous school plan

triangleContract tracer speaks out: Tories' plan is outsourced chaos


triangleMick Cotter 21-9-57 to 20-5-20


triangleSabotage - the inner workings of Labour's political machine exposed


triangle25 years since 50,000 marched against the far-right threat


triangleLenin at 150: A revolutionary life - and the relevance of his ideas for today

Boris Johnson:

triangleJohnson's plan terrifies me - readers react to lifting lockdown

Dave Nellist:

triangleWakefield Socialist Party: After Starmer's victory - how to continue the struggle for socialism

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Mick Cotter 21-9-57 to 20-5-20


Rolls Royce

Strong union response needed against job cuts



Postal workers' action results in double victory for union



Organising to fight for workplace safety



Posties walk out in Peterborough after manager tests positive



Johnson claims workplaces safe but HSE cancels inspections



Safe protests against Tory corona chaos continue



Trades council debates workers' political representation



Communities condemn Tory handling of crisis - with safe protests



Contract tracer speaks out: Tories' plan is outsourced chaos



Parents - Organise against 'back to school' plans that threaten everyone's safety


West Midlands

West Midlands trade union activists discuss the battle for safety on the front line



Transport union RMT tells members: refuse to work in unsafe conditions


Boris Johnson

Johnson's plan terrifies me - readers react to lifting lockdown



Starmer in full retreat over C-19 rents crisis

triangleMore Reports and campaigns 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



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


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: 07748 534 891

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: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020