The two byelections on 9 October were a disaster for the main parties. The results reflect anger at and a rejection of austerity today and austerity tomorrow – all that is on offer from both Labour and the Con-Dems.
Oxford Socialist Students Public Meeting
Thursday 13th November, 7.30pm
Speaker: Claire Laker-Mansfield
Oxford Town Hall,
St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1BX
Ukip has succeeded in getting support in this election because it has partially occupied the same ground which a new mass party of the working class would take. The trade union leaders who have held back from acting to build a new party have actually furthered this process.
The need for a new mass working class party is overwhelming – a party that could offer a no-cuts message to the angry millions in Britain and a vehicle for resistance. In the absence of such a party of united struggle that vacuum in politics is being filled by those who offer the working class nothing but division and a dead end in terms of challenging the misery of cuts and capitalist crisis.
Tories and Labour in crisis
Ukip won an MP. Douglas Carswell, MP in the youth unemployment capital of Britain, Clacton, resigned from the Tories to join Ukip. Ukip is a right-wing populist party that poses as anti-establishment but is in reality another party of the 1%. Ukip now has one ex-Tory MP in Westminster.
Carswell won with almost 60% of the vote. This is a disaster for the Tories whose second defector to Ukip will stand in the Rochester and Strood byelection whenever it is called.
The Lib Dems lost their tenth deposit for a byelection since they joined the Coalition.
But in Greater Manchester it was Labour who would have been having cold sweats as the votes were counted. In a so-called safe seat Ukip came within 617 votes of toppling Labour, polling 39% against Labour’s 41% in the Heywood and Middleton byelection.
These results reflect the desire for an alternative to the politics of ‘business as usual’. Ukip is not that. Party leader Farage crows that Ukip is now “the most national of all political parties”, that it can win support from both Tories and Labour and cut across “those old divides of left and right and the divides of class”. But it cannot and, behind the anti-establishment-bloke-down-the-pub rhetoric, does not attempt to.
The BBC and the big business-owned press give Ukip a platform to be presented and promoted as the best baseball bat with which to beat the establishment parties. And there is a yearning for something different. Surveys show that many Ukip voters support left policies. YouGov found that 74% of Ukip voters support nationalising the energy companies. 72% of Ukip supporters are pro-nationalisation of the rail companies. But these are not the policies of the party. Its leaders and funders are members of the super-rich 1% who promote the 1%’s interests.
Farage himself is a privately educated millionaire former stockbroker. Ukip is funded by fellow millionaires, land-owners, tycoons and even the landed gentry. These people don’t spend their money to assist the working class in fighting back. They do it because Ukip is currently an effective vessel for diverting the anger at the 1% away into nationalist and divisive channels.
Ukip for the 1%
Carswell has been a Tory MP since 2005, with a record that includes voting to cut central government funding of local government, voting against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices and for raising tuition fees. This shows that Ukip does not put the needs of working class people and youth first. Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates must first sign up to vote against all cuts.
As the late Bob Crow, former general secretary of the RMT rail union and a real working class representative, put it: “Ukip is neither in favour of workers’ rights, public services or welfare. If people are looking for an alternative, Ukip isn’t it.” It is to be welcomed that the theme of building a workers’ political alternative has been taken up by the new RMT general secretary Mick Cash.
Mick told the Independent that the unions “have the organisation and the financial clout to start developing a political party that could have its roots back in the working class”. The participation of the RMT union and other leading trade unionists in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is a major step in the direction of the new party that is needed.
TUSC standing in Oxford on November 27
In May 2015 TUSC has agreed to aim for 100 parliamentary candidates and to stand in 1,000 council seats – involving hundreds of workers, young people, socialists, anti-cuts fighters and other activists in a powerful political challenge to the four parties of cuts, capitalism and crisis.
On the doorstep, in hustings and elsewhere trade unionists and socialists can point to their record – we defend workers in work against the bosses and we will defend workers in the council chamber against the bosses’ representatives in the form of pro-cuts councillors be they wearing a red, blue, green, yellow or purple rosette.
The only way to end the politics of business as usual is to build a new vibrant, democratic, mass party based on struggle and the organisations of the working class. The Ukip bandwagon can be stopped by the labour movement stepping up now to call for the building of a workers’ political voice.