Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

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While the media has attempted to spin last week’s elections as a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn, the reality of the situation is far more complex. The 25% increase in the Socialist vote in Coventry reflects a growing radicalisation and dissatisfaction with the right-wing policies of Labour in Coventry. The below article by Hannah Sell reflects on the situation nationally. Hannah is the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and will be speaking at our post-election rally on Thursday 12th May.

Running up to the May elections the Labour Party right wing – with the full backing of the capitalist class – set out to damage their own party’s chances in order to achieve what is, for them, a greater goal: undermining Jeremy Corbyn. The anti-Semitism uproar – initially relating to comments made by Naz Shah when Ed Miliband was leader – was a cynical attempt to try to prepare the ground for a coup against Corbyn, hoping that the local election results would then provide further ammunition.

Widespread predictions were made by Blairite MPs and in the right-wing media – now included in which is the Guardian – that Labour was on course to lose 100 or more council seats because of the supposed unpopularity of opposing austerity. That didn’t happen.

In Scotland Labour suffered a resounding defeat. That was partly inevitable given the hatred of Scottish workers for the role Labour played in the Scottish independence referendum, acting as the voice of big business’s Project Fear campaign. However good Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Scotland, he would not have been able to quickly overcome workers’ view of Labour as ‘red Tories’.

Unfortunately, however, Jeremy Corbyn has not taken a clear position of supporting the right of self-determination for Scotland which would have begun to win some credit back for Labour among the Scottish working class. Of course, had he adopted the pro-austerity ‘red Tory’ approach demanded by the Blairites – who are now blaming Corbyn for the result – Labour would have fared even worse in Scotland than it did.

But in England Labour maintained the same number of councils and only had a net loss of 18 seats, while slightly increasing its share of the vote from the general election. Far from a mass exodus from Labour in the south of England, Labour retained control of key councils including Southampton and Exeter. Significantly, it won the mayors of Bristol and London – the sixth biggest city and the capital – with clear majorities.

The racist campaign by the Tories in London backfired and London is now the first city in Europe with a Muslim mayor, while Bristol – a city built on slavery – now has the first mayor in Europe of African-Caribbean descent.

Labour won the two parliamentary byelections in Sheffield Brightside and Ogmore, with an increased majority in the former. That inconvenient fact may have temporarily stayed the hands of Corbyn’s enemies. Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, openly appealed on Radio 4 to Labour MPs to “have patience” – suggesting not that they should support Jeremy Corbyn, but that they couldn’t move against him yet given the election results and the size of his mandate.

Labour’s right and left

That has not prevented, however, an escalation in the civil war in the Labour Party. Endless successions of Labour MPs are touring the TV studios to explain why – even though their dire predictions did not materialise – this was still a truly terrible election result for Labour. Leading the charge has been the newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan who, as we predicted, is setting out his new position as a platform against Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, the leadership of Momentum, which purports to organise Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, has spent recent weeks uncritically mobilising in support of Sadiq Khan, without even warning its membership about the role that he – a man who has said he wants more billionaires in London – was clearly set to play.

The pro-Corbyn wing of the party has not as yet fought back like it should against the blows being rained down on it, but has vainly attempted to paper over the gaping chasm. Left MP Clive Lewis has appealed to Corbyn to “compromise, reach out”, including on policy questions. As if events of the last weeks don’t prove conclusively that there is no compromise that could successfully pacify the Blairites.

For the right of the Labour Party – and behind them the 1%, the capitalist class – are desperate to once again make their party safe for big business. That means routing the nascent anti-austerity movement that thrust Jeremy Corbyn into power. The only way to defeat the right is not to retreat but to continue to build that movement around a clear pro-working class programme.

Expressions of the anger

And last Thursday’s elections in no way demonstrated that anti-austerity ideas are unpopular. On the contrary, anger at the misery this government is inflicting on the majority is growing. It was not by any means, however, channelled exclusively in the direction of Labour. Instead it was fragmented.

While many voted Labour, others’ view of that party – which has implemented pro-big business policies in power and at local level for decades – had not changed. Some refused to vote Labour because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right-wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats are trying to lay the blame at Corbyn’s door. But they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme. That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for Ukip.

Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood succeeded in defeating Labour in the Rhondda, a traditional Labour stronghold. Her party also increased its share of the vote, making it the second party in the Welsh Assembly. Charlotte Church will not have been alone in voting for Plaid Cymru while continuing to support Jeremy Corbyn, because she recognised that the leadership of Labour in Wales is not anti-austerity.

In Scotland the SNP won 46.5% of the vote for the Scottish parliament, an increase of 1% from four years ago. It had a small fall in its number of seats only because of the vagaries of the electoral system.

The Greens had a net loss of four councillors in England but increased their vote in many areas, overtaking the Liberal Democrats to become the fourth party in terms of vote share. In Scotland they increased their MSPs from two to six and in the London Mayoral contest they scored their highest ever share of the vote.

Similarly they doubled their vote for the Liverpool Mayor to 10,609. Combined with the creditable 4,950 votes for TUSC’s candidate Roger Bannister, this meant that 15% of voters in Liverpool consciously chose to vote for candidates that they perceived as being to the left of Labour and more anti-austerity. Even the votes for Ukip, who won 10% of the votes across council elections in England and came second in both parliamentary byelections, primarily reflect anger and disillusionment with establishment politicians.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Unfortunately, all of those parties, with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level. TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services, which are destroying local government. That is why the Birmingham Post called TUSC “arguably the fiercest defenders of local government itself”.

Despite limited resources and a boycott by the national media, it was vital that TUSC stood candidates, in order to offer a socialist and working class alternative to austerity (see www.tusc.org.uk for more detail on TUSC results).

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners – including the transport workers’ union, the RMT – which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box. We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledge not to stand against those that did so. However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves. Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year. They could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tory divisions and retreats

In the coming weeks the EU referendum campaign will dominate the political agenda. Historically Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed the EU as an undemocratic club acting in the interests of the bankers and big business. If he had stood by that position it would have transformed the EU referendum campaign – which is currently dominated by right-wing big business politicians on both sides. Unfortunately, under huge pressure from the Labour right and the capitalist class, Jeremy Corbyn retreated on this issue.

Nonetheless, the Tories remain split down the middle over Europe. Already they have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues, including now on the forced academisation of schools. In the aftermath of the referendum Cameron, and potentially the Tory Party, could be ejected from power. A powerful, united movement could bring a halt to austerity and force the Tories to call a general election. Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24-hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity. Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement. This will not succeed if it remains trapped within the current undemocratic structure of the Labour Party, vainly trying to compromise with ‘the 4.5%’ – the Blairite representatives of big business in the Labour Party. Instead it means building an open, democratic movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party.

Tories weak and divided – step up the fight against austerity!

Tories weak and divided – step up the fight against austerity!

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Young people protesting against Tory cuts to their future

We are pleased to carry the below article by Hannah Sell, the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party. Hannah will be speaking at our post-election rally.

The right-wing media had been claiming that this year’s elections would prove it was unpopular to oppose austerity.

The Blairites in the Labour Party have sung from the same hymn sheet – predicting that Labour would lose a huge number of seats, resulting in Corbyn being forced out.

One right-wing Labour MP even told Kevin Maguire of the Mirror that, “a defeat for Labour’s London Mayor hopeful Sadiq Khan was a price worth paying if it triggered Corbyn’s downfall”.

But to the disappointment of the Tories and pro-austerity Labour MPs the elections showed not the popularity of austerity, cuts and privatisation but the growing anger against them.

At the time of writing not all elections have been counted but it is clear that the Tories have been decisively defeated in the London Mayoral contest and that Labour’s vote has held up in the English council elections.

In the year since the general election this government for the super-rich has escalated its attacks on the rest of us.

Austerity Myth

The myth that austerity was temporary and misery today would lead to plenty for all in the future has also been severely undermined. As a result increasing numbers of voters set out to express their anger at the polls.

However, there was no one party which voters used to protest against austerity. Instead anti-austerity anger was fragmented.

While many voted Labour others refused to do so because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats will try and lay the blame at Corbyn’s door, but they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme.

That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the SNP in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for UKIP.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

Unfortunately, all of those parties with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level.

TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services.

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners, including the transport workers’ union, the RMT, which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box.

We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledging not to stand against those that did so.

However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves.

Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year and could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tories Split

Split down the middle over Europe, the Tories have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues; including now on the academisation of schools.

A powerful united movement could bring a halt of austerity and force the Tories to call a general election.

Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24 hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party.

Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity.

Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party. Events of recent weeks show that no compromise is possible with the pro-capitalist wing – which is determined to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as soon as possible.

The election results do not give them the excuse they hoped for to move quickly, but they will act as soon as they can.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood in a mass, democratic movement.

To succeed this cannot be led by those who see the way forward within the narrow and undemocratic constraints of the existing Labour Party and whose approach is for endless compromise with the pro-austerity warmongers that dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Instead it means building a movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those workers, young people and community activists who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party. The Socialist Party will do all we can to assist in the building of such a movement.

EU referendum – new section of website launched!

EU referendum – new section on website launched!

Access the EU resources section

Access the EU resources section

Coventry Socialists are pleased to announce the launching of a new section on our website. The section will be added to over the coming weeks and months and will contain vital resources for those looking for which way to vote in the referendum due to take place on Thursday 23rd June, 2016. It provides some important background  and arguments on the Socialist case for a Leave vote.

The section can be accessed by navigating to the Menu bar at the top of the website.

 

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

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Coventry NUT (National Union of Teachers) has organised a protest this week against Tory plans to turn every school in the country into an academy. The protest is outside Coventry DFE (Department for Education) offices in the Butts on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm.

We have already seen the negative effects of “academisation” in Coventry, with a number of schools such as Blue Coat, Grace Academy and Woodlands facing financial difficulty – Woodlands Academy is currently under threat of closure.

Forcing all schools to become academies is indicative of the Tories’ desire to privatise public services, by removing schools from local authority control and handing them over to big businesses. Teachers, parents and students need to fight these plans – save our schools!

Protest outside Coventry DFE on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm! 

Determined Junior Doctors begin 48 hour strike in Coventry

Determined Junior Doctors begin 48 hour strike in Coventry

Junior Doctors took to the picket line at the entrance to Walsgrave Hospital once again this morning despite the relentless rain.

It marked the beginning of the first of three 48 hour strikes planned by the BMA for 9-10 March, 6-7 and 26-27 April, in response to Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s declaration of war on the doctors by imposing a contract which will remove safeguards to them working more unsocial hours, and for less pay.

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It’s clear that this dispute is over so much more than pay and hours. Junior doctors know the NHS is under threat. This contract is part of the Tories’ plan to destabilise the NHS, run it down, claim it is failing, and then pass it over to the eagerly waiting hands of the private sector.

Doctors didn’t pick this fight but make no mistake, they are determined to win it! They know what’s at stake. It is essential for all health workers and all of us who use the NHS to support them in their fight. Other health unions need to show the determination of their BMA colleagues and come together to organise coordinated action to save the NHS.

Emergency protest

A national demonstration in March should be called as an emergency to galvanise support behind health workers and build for an intensive campaign to defeat the government.

Coventry Tory councillor attacks benefit claimants

Coventry Tory councillor attacks benefit claimants

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Cllr Julia Lepoidevin (Woodlands)

A Tory councillor in Coventry has attacked benefit claimants during a full council meeting – after previously calling food bank users “selfish”.

Cllr Julia Lepoidevin, who represents Woodlands ward and is shadow cabinet member for children’s services, claimed that “What drives families into poverty is more than just income measures. It is addiction, family breakdown, domestic abuse, debt, leaving school with no qualifications. Give an addict an increase in benefit and it will be spent on the addiction, create further debt, cause mental health issues and break up families.”

While no-one would deny that the causes of poverty can be complex, Cllr Lepoidevin deliberately chose to attack a tiny minority of vulnerable people rather than accepting that many ordinary people will be forced into poverty by her party’s benefit cuts. Labour councillors rightly attacked her for these disgraceful comments – unfortunately, they are passing on these cuts at a local level and they are hurting Coventry people with council tax rises.

This is not Cllr Lepoidevin’s first attack on working class people – in 2014, she called food bank users “selfish” and claimed they spend money on drugs and alcohol rather than food and rent.

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Sarah Smith (left) protesting against the eviction of a bedroom tax victim

Sarah Smith, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in Woodlands ward, said the comments were “appalling”. “Not content with just making these cuts, Cllr Lepoidevin wants to rub salt in the wound. I will continue to campaign against her and any other councillors who want to attack ordinary people.”

Protesters lobby Coventry council against cuts

Protesters lobby Coventry council against cuts

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Photo from Cov Telegraph

Protesters from trade unions, community groups and anti-cuts campaigners held a lobby of Coventry Council to protest against the budget passed yesterday.

UNISON Branch Secretary Sarah Feeney spoke and called on the council to use the £84million they have in reserves – a sum which they have increased by £3.5million in the last 12 months – to fund services and build a campaign against the cuts.

Dave Nellist spoke representing Coventry Against the Cuts and called on council workers to take action to defend their jobs – and their terms and conditions, which are also being threatened by the council – and echoed the call for the council to fight the cuts. “By the end of this Parliament 80p in every £1 of this city’s budget will have been robbed by the Tories in London, so that bankers can have the same Christmas bonuses this year as they did in the year they caused the financial crash.”

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Local Labour Cllr Pervez Akhtar then spoke and said that Labour councillors are “at pains” because of the cuts, but said they had no choice and they would not set an illegal budget. While it is welcome that Cllr Akhtar came and spoke – other councillors have not done so – he unfortunately misrepresented the position advocated by the groups assembled. We are not calling for an illegal budget to be set, we are calling for the council to pass a legal no-cuts budget by using the money they have in reserves. Of course Labour councillors do not want to make cuts – and we want to work with them to fight the Tories, rather than fighting them while they pass on Tory cuts.

These cuts will mean more job losses, play centres being closed, libraries opening hours reduced and council workers terms and conditions being threatened. We need to fight back.