The Socialist inbox
Do you have something to say?
Send your news, views and criticism in not more than 150 words to Socialist Postbox, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD, phone 020 8988 8771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We reserve the right to shorten and edit letters. Don't forget to give your name, address and phone number. Confidentiality will be respected if requested.
Views of letter writers do not necessarily match those of the Socialist Party.
Peterborough wake-up call
The public's growing disenchantment with the two main parties has meant by-elections have often resulted in a 'wake-up call' expressed by a protest vote for a one-issue party coming from 'nowhere'. The recent EU parliament elections certainly punished the two main parties and nothing had happened since to indicate a change in the public mood.
Although Peterborough was a (marginal) Labour seat, it was previously held by the Tories (2005-17); seen as 'middle England'; voted 60% Leave in 2016; and its local MP had been publicly removed by a recall election following her criminal conviction. For these reasons at the time the by-election was announced the Tories were the bookies' favourite to regain the seat.
There was little to no press coverage during the election campaign, which usually suggests Labour is expected to hold on. However, on election day, 6 June, the national press woke up, with reports under headlines such as "Brexit Party set to win by-election" (the Times).
Not surprising, perhaps, because in the EU election the Brexit Party had received 16,000 votes, twice as large as its nearest rival, Labour, with the Tories woefully in fourth.
The press also reported the Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, a local Unite union activist, had been accused of antisemitism because she had 'liked' a Facebook video "about showing solidarity with the terrorist victims in Christchurch without reading the accompanying text" (a "Labour source" reported by the Times).
This apparently claimed Theresa May had a "Zionist slave masters' agenda." Forbes apologised for her mistake, but Jewish groups demanded Labour disown her. Labour did not.
At the election count, Nigel Farage suddenly appeared, a sure sign the Brexit Party were expecting to win - and then before the announcement of the result, Farage just as suddenly disappeared!
Labour won by 683 votes, slightly more than in 2017 on a reduced turnout. But Labour's share of the vote was 31% - the lowest winning share in a by-election since 1918.
Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity message will have won some votes, especially in the context of the local council being Tory-controlled. Throughout the campaign, Labour had by far the most troops on the ground, culminating in 500 activists on election day. Impressive though that may be, it is the message that matters more.
Labour's 31% share was 17 percentage points lower than in 2017 when Jeremy Corbin's game-changer manifesto appeared promising an end to austerity.
So Peterborough was a welcome Labour victory, but nevertheless another 'wake-up call': a socialist programme is needed to guarantee an anti-austerity Corbyn victory at the next general election.
John Merrell, Leicester
7 Oct Tony Mulhearn 1939-2019
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: 0798 202 1969
East Mids: 0773 797 8057
London: 020 8988 8786
North East: 0784 114 4890
North West 07954 376 096
South East: 020 8988 8777
South West: 07759 796 478
Southern: 07833 681910
Wales: 07935 391 947
West Mids: 02476 555 620
Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551