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The way back from Rochester, Strood and austerity

Moving on from flags and white vansMark Reckless’ UKIP victory over the Tories serves notice on all the parties. The Tories, having sworn to “throw the kitchen sink” at retaining it in Cameron’s words he must now regret, see a near-10,000 Tory majority in 2010 turned into a 3,000 (7.3%) UKIP lead. Labour, which never had a chance of winning, loses nearly half its vote. The LibDems virtually disappear with less than 1% of the vote. Of course by-elections are wholly different from general elections, but the result for UKIP in Rochester, 271st in their list of target seats, hardly suggests that the Farage phenomenon, based largely on sentiment rather than policy, has lost momentum. But there are several important implications.

The likelihood of further defections of Tory MPs has apparently subsided for the moment, though with at least 5 Tory MPs having little or no chance of holding their seats next year unless they switch to UKIP, that could very well change in the next 6 months. For the Tory party as a whole chasing UKIP to the Right is likely to be counter-productive since Farage will always be able to outflank them.

For Labour the odds on countering UKIP are more promising. Research has shown that UKIP supporters believe big business takes advantage of ordinary people and they strongly agree there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. They are largely working class voters, they want to renationalise rail and energy, they demand higher taxes for the rich and an increased minimum wage, and they even want income redistribution. What this says is that though these policies are anathema to New Labour, they fit perfectly with traditional Labour policy. So why has this new insurgency of Labour persuasion joined the hard Right?

Clearly because they don’t believe that Labour will deliver this transformation that they crave for. It’s true that Labour has in fact promoted several proposals which would deliver many of these demands, but there has not been a forceful presentation of a single policy capable of decisively swinging public opinion in Labour’s favour. The one that cries out to be proclaimed is that a Labour government, recognising the sense of abandonment, anger and hopelessness that has driven loss of security and identity, will steadily move away from austerity and endless spending cuts and instead go down the alternative route of public investment, growth, jobs and rising incomes, not only to escape the blind alley of Osborne’s destruction of the welfare state but because that is now the only way to pay down the deficit. When austerity itself is causing the deficit to rise this year, sticking with Osborne’s policies is certifiable. It’s also the only game-changer in town that’s likely to stop the SNP advance that’s threatening wipe-out for Labour in Scotland. So what’s Labour waiting for?

Image credit: photo montage by Left Futures


  1. Robert says:

    Labour the party of the hard working or it is now the working people he never says working class.

    In Scotland they have a left leaning party, in England we have the laughable Labour party which of course moved to the right and as yet is no further to returning to the left it seems stuck next to the Tories.

    Labour has to explain to the people all the people not just those lucky to stay in work after labour melt down, what and how they will give the whole country a better life, not just those who work hard.

    But we will see this is on of those times in which one party may win or end up in a coalition what’s the betting one of those parties will be Tory and the other labour.

  2. when I argue with the local UKIP candidate in the town square on political stalls, there is one issue we agree on- HS2. The High Speed Train project is the Westminster bubble on wheels. There is no reason to build a £50 billion line which does not go further than Leeds and Manchester and does not link to the continent – and the case is so weak the government does not dare publish its own report.

    Ordinary people up in Staffordshire see no benefit for a line that will duplicate the upgraded West Coast main line. The idea it is just nimbys protesting is wrong. We will see ordinary trains through the county decimated, the existing lines turned largely to freight. And so people see they will pay for a line largely used by the rich.

    Yet I have never seen a hint of protest from the left. It is not something Farage neglects – he was up here in the spring campaigning on the route of the line. And he got a very good reception.

    Start with opposing the high speed white elephant and take it from there

    trevor fisher.

  3. Barry Ewart says:

    But we no longer have the mass industrial working class of the 1960’s and I would argue working people is a better modern term for everyone who has to sell their labour to live (think of call centre staff for example and think of how they would think of themselves). It can also potentially unite all occupations which has always been a challenge with a rich and powerful and their cronies the Tories expert at divide and rule.. Was it me but I think Labour went up in the polls recently when it was a bit radical but the middle class professionals at our top are just too timid when as Michael implies people are crying out for radical change. Strreekt in The New Left Review argues the rich and powerful haven’t a clue what to do about the global crisis and quantitative easing has only put things off for a few years. I would also argue Neo-Liberalism with its drive for cheap labour has painted itself into a corner restricting the ability of working people to buy commodities. Ann Pettifor here pointed out how big business is sat on trillions which it will not put into productive investment probably for ideaological reasons and we need to get hold of this capital to do public good as well as revitaling economies as well as working for a global living wage, better health and safety at work, global decent health services and homes etc. As a start as Michael says we need to end austerity – I would argue it is the labour of the working billions which creates the wealth and makes societies work so we shouldn’t be afraid of getting our wealth back. Have windfall taxes on big business (take £1b each of the top 200 corporations, collect £30b uncollected taxes rich, wealth taxes, 5% EC Financial Transaction Tax – would bring in £1.75tr- our share £50b?) then along with more democratic public ownership and some banks work with sister democratic socialist parties in the World for long term productive investment to meet global need which also fits democratic socialist ideals I.e. to address global sanitation and make toilets for the 2.5b in the World who don’t have them. Time for democratic socialists to dream again and of course it would help to have 2 working class (ideally democratic socialists) candidates on every Labour Parliamentary shortlist! Yours in solidarity!

    1. Robert says:

      In Wales labour and the rest of the greedy bastards have accepted a pay award of £10,000 saying they needed to have this rise for all the hard work they have done since the down turn, while the rest of us have all accepted 1% or no rises at all these socialist have made sure they do not suffer.

      I really do think politician no the public perfectly we are so thick and they know it.

      If your daft enough to fall for these creeps greed that’s up to you comrade I’ not.

      1. Dereck Roberts says:

        Wales Labour has NOT accepted a pay award of £10,000

  4. swatantra says:

    The ‘working class’ have deserted Labour in their droves, and gone over to the right or UKIP.
    So Labour are right to talk about being the Party of ‘working people’. Its a slight changre of emphasis to meet with todays reality of social change and aspiration. White Van man is generally a Tory voter and has been since the days of Thatcher. And Labour should not ber in the business of helping Tories and the acquisitive chavs.

    1. Robert says:

      If you want to vote for a right wing party Swat then Progress is the one, so why would they leave to join the right, In Scotland the SNP are to the left and most are going to that one. In Wales we do not have anything other then labour and it’s pretty tired looking after three terms.

      So to be honest the issue is getting people out to vote for any one.

  5. John Problem says:

    I read all the papers, take intellectual reviews (!), watch telly political programs but still I don’t comprehend what Labour’s policy will be were they in government. Sad, huh? As I can’t stand The Dumb Rich Kid and his gang, then who do I vote for? Only UKIP left……

  6. David Ellis says:

    For the working classes the situation is pretty desparate. For the poor, sick and disabled it is intolerable. The middle and petit bourgeois classes are staring at immanent ruination. New Labour’s failure to offer a radical alternative means that they are turning to woolly populism in the case of Scotland and more dangeriously in England to right wing demagoguery. Labour could quite easily be wiped out in England as they have been in Scotland but with much more terrible consequences. Unfortunately those who feign to offer a left alternative to New Labour do no such thing. Whether they are sects, like the SWP or the SP, or a collection of sects like Left Unity or not even left at all like the Greens all they offer is opportunist horse trading when a seriously radical, inwardlly coherent, popular programme is what is needed.

    1. Robert says:

      The Greens, Plaid in Wales, have formed an active coalition with the SNP in Scotland. I’ve no idea what this means but if it can build something I will go along with it.

      sadly Miliband is trying to win an election by giving away the least he can, he’s using a soap box and bandwagons to climb onto without speaking about austerity.

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