THE RESULT of the Norwich North by- election last week was entirely predictable and totally disastrous for Labour. The Tories overturned the Labour majority with a swing of over 16 per cent in a low 45 per tum-out. Labour’s vote collapsed but the Tory vote also dipped compared to the 2005 election. There was no mass desertion to the Tories, Liberal Democrats or the fringe protest parties. They simply stayed at home.
This sort of swing would easily give David Cameron a clear majority if the Tories lead holds until the general election next year. Labour retuned to office in 1997 with the biggest swing in its entire history. Since then it has lost over four million voters and over half of its individual membership. But Brown could still be Prime Minister if Labour could mobilise the millions who put Labour in power three times on the bounce since 1997.
Blair and Brown relied on fear of the Tories for much of their support and no worker has any doubt about what a new Conservative government would do to tackle the economic crisis. The Cameron leader’s represents the most aggressive section of the British ruling class and a Tory victory would herald massive cuts in public spending and a renewed offensive against the unions and the working class as a whole.
Some of the measures the Labour Government has taken to counter the slump have been positive. Some of the burden has been put on the rich by raising the higher rate of income tax. While the nationalisation of some of the banks was largely driven by the urgent need to head of financial meltdown, Labour has restored public ownership over part of the rail network with the establishment of the East Coast Main Line Company. The Government has retreated, at least for the time being, from its plans to part- privatise the Post Office. But the Government is incapable of making a virtue out of a necessity and even these modest reforms are announced in a comer by shame-faced ministers who stress the “temporary” nature of state intervention.
If Labour ditched the anti-working class policies it’s pursued over the past decade and restored internal party democracy it could recover. There no shortage of advice from inside the Labour Party. Some on the right still cling to the illusion that it’s still only a matter of spin and argue that replacing Brown with another clone of Tony Blair will restore their flagging fortunes. Others are trying to project themselves as a new “left” with the launch of the “Open Left” and a platform of modest social-democratic reform. But the Labour Representation Committee remains the only focus for demands for a return to traditional Labour policies in defence of union rights, the public sector and the social services. But there’s still no sign that Brown & Co have the will and determination to heed the mounting demands from the unions to change track.
The consistent failure of a whole string of futile efforts to build left-social democratic platforms in opposition to Labour over the years, including the revisionist communists, the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Labour Party and Respect, prove the point. They are no alternative and they are a total waste of time and effort.
We, as communists, have to step up our efforts to strengthen the fight-back within the labour movement and within the Labour Party itself to build a working class agenda that could rally mass support for Labour and defeat the Tory challenge in 2010. There is no other choice.