LABOUR’S fortunes revived with the win in the Glasgow North East by-election last week. Labour increased its share of the vote to 60 per cent while the rival Scottish National Party came a poor second with 20 per cent of the poll.
In Scotland at least Labour may have at last turned the tide. Gordon Brown was certainly bullish, hailing the victory as a “tremendous result” which showed that “when we fight hard, we win”. As usual in by-elections the voters were spoilt for choice with 13 candidates to choose from, ranging from the mainstream Scottish parties to the fringe on both sides of the political spectrum. But the political debate was largely dominated by Labour defending its national record from attack by the Scottish nationalists, who lead the Scottish government.
The Tories just about saved their deposit and the fascist BNP, who campaigned on their usual racist and anti-asylum seeker platform, lost theirs. Glasgow North East was another salutory lesson for those still dreaming of a left social-democratic alternative to Labour. Three pseudo-revolutionary parties ran hopefuls and all three got derisory votes, ranging from a mere 794 for Solidarity to a pitiful 47 for Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party.
The by-election result was the second best for any serving government since the Second World War. But it was, afterall, in an overwhelmingly working class area which Labour has held since 1935, so anything other than a win would have clearly been an absolute disaster. But the low turn-out of around 30 per cent reflects increasing apathy and dissillusion with the mainstream parties, and yet another warning to Labour that unless it can rally its core vote at the next general election a Tory victory is still on the cards next year.
Building the resistance
How to mobilise workers to keep the Tories out while at the same time rallying to defeat the neo-Blarite leadership that has brought the Labour government to the brink of disaster? This is the question that is now top of the agenda. Last weekend’s Labour Representation Committee (LRC) conference charted the way forward.
The LRC has become the largest left rank-and-file organisation of socialists within the Labour Party and, with 1000-plus membership and affiliates that include the New Communist Party, it has created an alliance on the left well beyond the party.
Last Saturday veteran Labour politician Tony Benn and LRC chair John McDonnell MP called for a “platform for change” to rally the labour movement behind socialist policies and core Labour values in the run-up to the next general election. They called on activists to campaign to secure the return of LRC-supported MPs and to build a rank-and-file movement to restore democracy and breath new life into moribund Labour Party structures, to make it once again the voice of organised labour throughout the country.
McDonnell stressed that “we’ve got to keep the Tories out” but if Labour lose and Gordon Brown steps down after the general election he’ll stand again for the Labour leadership.
Brown & Co can be defeated and Labour can win the next election but that can only happen by mobilising millions to fight for progressive change throughout the labour movement. This fight is part and parcel of the struggle to make the case for socialism and rebuild the communist movement throughout Britain.