Labour must turn left!

by Daphne Liddle

LABOUR did reasonably well in last Thursday’s local elections, gaining six councils and 338 councillors, bringing their total around the country to 2,101.

Meanwhile the Tories lost 11 councils and 231 councillors leaving them with a total of 1359.

The United Kingdom Independence Party gained control of no councils and 163 councillors, bringing their overall total to 166.

Yet the right-wing media reported these facts as though Ukip had won a great victory and all politicians should amend their policies to ape those of Ukip in order to stay in the running for next year’s general election.

We are met with demands that the leading politicians “must now assuage voters’ rage” from the Telegraph, which, in the same issue, forecast that last Thursday’s voter trends indicate that Labour would win the next election with 345 seats; the Tories would get 256, the Liberal democrats 19 and Ukip none at all.

The pressure coming from the media on all parties to move towards Ukip policies i immense and flies in the face of all the statistics.

Ukip won just 17 per cent of the votes cast — that means fewer that one in six voted for the extreme right-wing racists and more than five in six voted against them.

The results also show that in Scotland, London, and all the major towns and cities where ethnically mixed populations are thriving Ukip did very badly. Its greatest support comes from people who rarely encounter an immigrant of any shade and have to rely on the Daily Mail or Daily Express for their opinions on immigrants and immigration.

Labour could and should have done better, given the relentless and brutal attacks on working class living standards, especially on the most vulnerable, the disabled, the unemployed and the young.

The reduction of hundreds of thousands of families to reliance on food banks, which include a high proportion of those in employment, is a national disgrace.

Wages need to be much higher and benefits should be higher and reliable. They should be based on need and not on the Department of Work and Pensions playing crazy mind-games to trip claimants up on a technicality to deny them the right to eat.

Yes, the voters should be angry and many of them are — with an election turn-out of about 36 per cent it shows that 64 per cent could not find a party with an attractive enough policy to vote for.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband should be addressing the causes of their anger, which are not enough to live on and the gradual destruction of our health, welfare and education systems.

He should not be chasing racist Ukip votes or he will lose the inner city working class votes he has got.

Some of his recent policies have been a small step in the right direction: abolishing the bedroom tax, capping domestic fuel prices, controlling rents. But the steps he proposes are inadequate to deal with the huge problems people are facing.

He must give those hundreds of thousands who are being oppressed and abused by the Con-Dem Coalition a reason to go out and vote and not get side-tracked into trying to appease an extreme rightwing racist party just because the media are promoting it.

He cannot deliver the real socialism we need through an election but he can make life more bearable for millions of desperate workers and their families. And he can stave off the growing arrogance of the racists.

There are many racists in Britain but they are a long way from being the majority. The vast majority of people in Britain are not racist and have not voted for racism.

Attacking immigrants might win a few votes but it will drive more away. That would be a sure way to lose the coming general election.

This country needs a massive council house building programme to provide jobs and affordable housing. We need private sector rents capped; we need higher wages. This is what will bring down the need for housing benefits and other in-work benefits.

We need a reversal of the “marketisation” of the NHS and its full restoration to democratic control — and the same with education.

We must defend pensions and the pensioners’ free bus passes from Tory threats to cut them.

And we need peace, an end to involvement in Nato aggressive wars that cause misery throughout the world and cost more than we can afford.