To their credit, Labour are clearly seeking to exploit the Government’s evident discomfort over their inability to get ahead of the news agenda and restore their credibility with voters. The latest examples of Government incompetence and dishonesty – the news that Britain is now officially in its first double-dip recession since the 1970s and the latest revelations from the Leveson enquiry about the indefensibly close relationship between Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, and the Murdoch empire – are simply another sign that the wheels are starting to come of the bus.
But the real question is whether Labour are prepared to move beyond Prime Minister’s Questions knockabout and articulate a progressive alternative to the seemingly endless regime of cuts and austerity. It’s all too evident that Labour lack anything approaching a convincing strategy to convince voters that they offer a genuine alternative to the deficit reduction narrative. And while recent polls indicate a significant Labour lead overall, voters remain unconvinced about their competence on the economic front. This means going beyond opportunistic responses to the latest events and articulating the case for socialism.
After all, as Erskine May, the Parliamentary ‘bible’, sets out, the role of the Opposition is to challenge the Government and call it to account for its actions. Before the damage caused by the Con-Dems becomes irreversible, and with significant further cuts already planned in this and the next spending round, the shadow cabinet need to do some serious soul-searching and ask themselves why they are in Parliament in the first place. Frankly, if they don’t, it will become all too clear that Ed Miliband is taking his official salary of over £73,000 as Leader of the Opposition under false pretences and the Party will face the consequences at the next election.
The collapse of the Dutch Government as far-right politician Geert Wilders withdrew his support and the strength of the vote for extreme right-wing Marine Le Pen’s National Front in the French presidential election are indicative of some interesting developments in the European political landscape. Both parties have been making anti-capitalist and anti-EU noises in an attempt to secure disaffected working class votes.
There’s now an opening in the forthcoming Dutch elections for the eurosceptic and anti-cuts Socialist party to increase its vote; while Francois Hollande is in with a chance of winning the second presidential voting round in France. Of course, it’s well understood on the left that, for all his rhetoric, Hollande is no radical and his conversion to a more progressive politics has been driven by pressure from Jean-Luc Melenchon’s Left Front.
But these developments beg some interesting questions. Not least, is Germany going to find itself increasingly isolated in its blind support for the new EU fiscal pact, which will inevitably force Europe into an economic death spiral if allowed to continue unchecked; and how are parties of the left across Europe going to face up to the challenge presented by the far-right as it seeks to exploit the economic crisis for its own ends?
At a local level, this underlines the need to continue to tackle ignorance about the causes of the current economic crisis; challenge politics based on hate, racism and fear; and promote the socialist alternative to the Con-Dems.
Ken Livingstone’s in Croydon today and will announce his commitment to a project to extend the Croydon Tramlink, if elected Mayor of London on 3 May. The extension will run from Harrington through to Penge and then Anerley Roads and then link to either the Crystal Palace bus or rail stations. This would be a significant investment in the local transport network and, of course, is in addition to his Fare Deal pledge to slash transport fares by 7%.
Another reason to set aside minor quibbles about historical differences, ignore the negative stories confected by the Tory media and vote for Livingstone!
A great turnout at yesterday’s Morning Star conference at The Bishopsgate Institute, London EC2. The event saw activists from across the campaigning spectrum deliver practical workshops alongside an impressive range of speakers from politics and trade unionism.
Delegates looked really energised by the conference, which offered people the opportunity to think about how to build resistance to the Government, challenge the whole cuts and austerity narrative and develop action at a local level. Speakers included:
- Owen Jones, author of ‘Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class’, who said he thought the Tories are only as strong as we allow them to be
- Bill Greenshields, Chairperson of the Communist Party who said, “I have had enough of protests. I have been doing that for decades. What I want is a strategy for real change, which makes a real impact, based on maximum unity in the labour movement behind a programme of an alternative to capitalism.”, and
- Kelvin Hopkins, MP for Luton North, who called the EU ‘a disaster’ and spelled out the need to re-nationalise the utilities and launch a massive council housebuilding programme.
Bob Crow, RMT, finished off the day with a rousing call for the development of a genuine socialist alternative to the supine defeatism offered by Labour.
The message, comrades and friends, is keep up the pressure on this cynical, dysfunctional and greedy Government; develop coordinated action at a local level around the People’s Charter and other progressive initiatives; and keep buying the Morning Star to support Britain’s only socialist daily!