Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/607/8678
Labour's leadership crisis: it's time for a new workers' party
Last week's crisis in the Labour leadership reveals how scared Labour MPs are of losing their positions in the general election. Two ex-cabinet ministers - Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, called for a leadership contest to challenge Gordon Brown, only a few weeks from a possible election date.
This did not reflect any political differences - merely the desperate hope that a different face at the helm would help reduce the deficit Labour has in the polls. Hewitt and Hoon remain New Labour loyalists, but were apparently egged on by unnamed existing cabinet ministers. This was not in any way a 'left wing' challenge!
It came to nothing, but the delayed and lukewarm statements by Cabinet ministers in support of Brown revealed their lack of confidence in him. Would-be Labour leaders in the cabinet like David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, decided their time might come after Brown loses the general election.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has been accused by other ministers of wanting to fight a "class war" against the Tories. His crime apparently is that, in a very mild way, he wants to point out the Tories' 'pro-rich' position.
This is a bit difficult when New Labour's record is no different! The likes of Peter Mandelson, First Secretary of State, oppose such a 'core voter' strategy. This would recognise that New Labour has lost much of its 'core vote', ie big sections of working class people.
But this strategy would not mean any real difference in policy, just language largely. Labour's tax on bankers' bonuses could be seen as one example - a sop that did not stop the bankers paying themselves billions.
This jockeying for position at the top involves no real division in policies, and is not reflecting any serious left wing mood in the ranks of the Labour Party.
In reality Labour's lack of support is a result of the sense of betrayal felt by millions of working class people who previously voted for them. Their anti-working class policies of cuts and privatisation, the results of the wars they began and the devastation of jobs and living standards caused by the economic crisis, have all resulted in a collapse in support.
Their programme for the next few years is even more of the same, with horrific cuts planned to public services and other attacks on living standards in order to pay for the capitalist crisis. We will pay for the bailout of the bankers for years to come.
The Tories could win the election, not because they stand for anything better than New Labour, but simply because they are the main party not in power! There are no fundamental policy differences, only that the Tories say they would make even bigger and earlier cuts.
There will be some who remember the Tory governments of the past, who will vote for Labour as the 'lesser evil'. This argument will be pushed by many of the trade union leaders. But why should union members vote for Labour? Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling has made it clear that the cuts after the election will be "the toughest we have had for 20 years" and that cutting the record public borrowing was "never negotiable".
While most of the trade union leaders continue to advocate voting for Labour to 'stop the Tory threat', then breaking the stranglehold of these pro-big business policies is so much harder. The party in power might change, but the attacks on working class people will not.
A new political party needs to be built that represents the interests of working class people. The new 'Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition', standing in the general election (see Launch of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), is an important step in the right direction away from the 'Tweedledum and Tweedledee' politics we have at the moment.
In The Socialist 12 January 2010:
Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party international feature
International socialist news and analysis