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7 April 2010

New Labour meltdown in Stoke

MP MARK Fisher's decision not to stand for re-election intensified the already well developed process of meltdown of New Labour in Stoke Central.

Andy Bentley

This process is of course a national development and is fundamentally a result of New Labour's transformation into a party that fully embraces the neoliberal agenda of big business. But the process of disintegration has gone further across Stoke-on-Trent and in Stoke Central in particular than in many other parts of the country.

There is, however, a candidate who will be standing in Stoke Central who is backed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Matt Wright, a Socialist Party member and active trade unionist, is proud to stand under the banner of TUSC and has pledged to only take the average wage of workers in the area if elected.

Like New Labour nationally, the party in Stoke-on-Trent is now just a shell of what it once was and no longer represents the interests of ordinary working class people.

By slavishly implementing Blair and now Brown's anti-working class policies, New Labour in Stoke-on-Trent has gone from holding all 60 council seats in 1997 to just 14 today. There are now ten different groups and grouplets on the city council none of which put forward a clear programme to represent the interests of working class people in the city.

The vast majority of Labour voters in the city feel betrayed by the New Labour government and councillors who have cut jobs, closed or privatised much needed services and massively increased council tax. This has allowed the racist BNP to pose as 'defenders' of the white working class and win, at its height, nine council seats.

Further disarray

THREE STALWARTS of Labour in the Central constituency are suing the party national leadership because of their undemocratic removal from a candidates' shortlist for council seats. One was previously a Labour councillor for many years, another was the Labour leader of the city council and the third is the current secretary of the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency Labour Party. All three have been barred from speaking to the press.

The Labour Party national executive committee (NEC) has stopped the constituency from holding meetings until after the general election, but allowed a parliamentary candidate selection meeting after imposing its own shortlist of three people.

This process of diktat from above served to make worse what had already become an unprincipled scramble for a very attractive job opportunity in their eyes - Mark Fisher's safe seat with a 10,000 majority at the last general election and a basic annual salary of 65,000.


The selection meeting chose historian Tristram Hunt, from the limited choice on the imposed list. Since then, constituency party secretary Gary Elsby has announced that he will stand as an independent candidate against Hunt.

There has been no serious debate about policies or programme and at times the process has had elements of a Monty Python sketch. Some New Labour party members locally protested that the contenders for the seat from 'outside' included people who would not be trusted by working class people in Stoke-on-Trent because of having names like Tristram and Byron!

It's true that having been born, raised and lived all my life in the city I've never met anyone named Tristram or Byron but if they had policies which benefited the working class of the city then many would willingly name their children after them!

New Labour's main strategic aim is to retain power at the general election and continue their pro-big business policies. They've long since ditched the idea of carrying out any socialist change which would benefit ordinary working class people.

Tristam Hunt is a friend of New Labour policy-driver Peter Mandelson, who is said to have intervened to make sure Hunt can stand as a Labour candidate. Hunt, like most Labour candidates, will be promoting a party that plans to unload the economic crisis created by big business and the capitalist system onto the backs of ordinary working and middle class people.

There is, however, a candidate who will be standing in Stoke Central who is backed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

TUSC has been set up to provide a serious trade union and working-class based opposition to the orgy of job cuts, attacks on pay, conditions and pensions, privatisation, etc, planned by the next government whether New Labour, Tory or Lib Dem.

Matt Wright, a Socialist Party member and active trade unionist, is proud to stand under the banner of TUSC and has pledged to only take the average wage of workers in the area if elected.

But many will ask, what's the point of voting for TUSC if it is too new to win?

The answer is simple. When all those who have voted for Labour in the past vote for TUSC candidate Matt Wright then he will win and so will ordinary working class people across Stoke-on-Trent.

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