England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Tories crushed!

But Starmer’s Labour will disappoint – build working-class struggle and a new left party! 

The working class in England, Scotland and Wales have just wiped the floor with the Tories. With votes still being counted, they are headed for an historic defeat, and Labour is headed for one of the biggest majorities in more than a hundred years. No government has ever lost as many seats in a single election!

Revenge has been taken for the misery, starvation, scapegoating and death inflicted on millions by the Sunak, Truss, Johnson, May and Cameron governments.

Working class people are celebrating, and rightly so. Before booting them out at the ballot box, we fought them hard in historic strikes, the BLM movement and in many other protests and campaigns. This is a victory for all these struggles and for the working class as a whole.

Five years ago, few would have believed that today was possible. When Boris Johnson won his big 2019 majority, the ‘wisdom’ was that continued Tory rule was ensured for a generation.

But we live in an age of sharp turns and sudden changes. From Covid, to the cost of living crisis, to imperialist war and bloodshed and beyond, event after event exposed the Tories as a rotten outfit. Their once high-and-mighty party is now fighting for its life.

No stability for Starmer

Now a new government under Keir Starmer, with an even bigger majority, will be hoping for an easier run of things. While it may enjoy a brief honeymoon – based on the relief of millions that ‘the other lot are out’ – it will not escape the chronic instability of our era.

Our collapsing public services and infrastructure, local councils on the edge of bankruptcy, and a gaping hole in public finances all await Starmer, Reeves and co. Their plans to address them? A pledge to stick to the Tories’ “fiscal rules” (in other words, spending limits which mean continued underfunding of services).

The genocidal war in Gaza continues, threatening to explode into an all-out regional bloodbath, and the war in Ukraine continues to escalate. On both counts, Starmer’s position of full-throated support to British imperialism and its criminal role is unlikely to waver.

Starmer has spent an entire election campaign assuring the capitalist elite that Labour was now safe for their interests. He faced down the unions to water down progressive pledges, while Rachel Reeves presented a Labour manifesto with “the fingerprints of big business all over it”. Labour ‘talked tough’ on immigration, and swallowed Tory culture war rhetoric. Instead of inspiring working class people with a vision of real change, they constantly strove to lower expectations.

Ultimately, it is this political agenda that will determine the course of Starmer’s government. While unions and working people generally must press Labour to deliver on the limited but welcome promises they did maintain – such as the scrapping of some of the Tories’ worst anti-union legislation – we can be under no illusion that this government will meet our needs in this historic moment.

Sooner or later, relief that the Tories are out will give way to disappointment and opposition to Starmer. This is what we must prepare for.

Indeed, beneath the surface of Starmer’s victory, the seeds of crisis are already germinating. His support for Israeli state terror in Gaza saw the party’s vote drop by more than 14% in areas with a Muslim population above 15%, according to Sky News analysis. Labour has benefited massively from the British electoral system, winning a huge majority of seats based on a lower share of the popular vote than was won under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in 2017.

Labour’s landslide obscures another important feature of the election results: the beginning of the breakdown of the two-party system. The combined vote for Labour and the Tories is predicted to be the lowest on record! Echoing this crisis of the political establishment, in Scotland, the SNP, which has dominated the political landscape for more than a decade, also lost big.

This follows an international pattern. France, for example, has seen the collapse of the two major capitalist parties, the French Socialist Party and the Republicans over the last 15 years, giving way to a newly polarised political map. A similar fate awaits Britain’s outdated two party system.

Farage is a real danger

In this context, the other main headline result of these elections – the rise of Reform UK – is of grave concern. They have won millions of votes, even if only a handful of MPs.

Farage means it when he says that he wants to build the main opposition to Labour in power, and we should take the threat he represents very seriously. Around the world – most recently in France – we have seen examples of how the discredited political ‘center’ (which Starmer personifies) prepares the ground for the populist and far right.

Farage, the puffed-up banker, and his ilk build their careers on pretending to confront the status quo and establishment. They present poisonous anti-working class ideas of division and oppression as some kind of alternative. And aside from Farage himself, it is clear that his political ideas also increasingly dominate the Tory party.

The threat of the populist right is very real, and cannot be resisted by clinging to the discredited political establishment. Their rise can only be challenged by a real alternative, which channels the anger of working class people in a struggle for policies that actually represent our interests: socialist policies, which make the rich pay for necessary public investment in housing, well paid jobs and services, and nationalising the key industries to plan the economy for people and the planet, not profit.

We need a new left party – struggle starts now

This struggle must begin now. Unions, social movements and community campaigns must remain independent of the new government, while stepping up our organisation and mobilisation.

An integral part of this struggle is the building of a new left party to politically organise working class people in struggle, against the new government’s pro-capitalist policies and the threat of the right.

Millions voted for candidates to the left of Labour in this election. Corbyn won big in Islington North, and antiwar independent candidates took Labour seats in Leicester, Blackburn and Dewsbury & Batley. The Green Party also gained, running on a left platform.

But the work of building an alternative is only beginning, and will not be primarily based on electoral challenges at this stage. Working class political organisation must be rooted in struggle in workplaces and communities, where the real strength of our class lies.

A national conference should be called, bringing together trade unionists, campaigners from the anti-war, climate, feminist, anti-racist and other movements, and left-wing political groups to discuss establishing a new party.

Socialist Alternative will wholeheartedly and actively support any initiatives in this direction, and boldly argue for a revolutionary socialist, anti-imperialist political programme to bring an end to the miseries of capitalist crisis in the 2020s.

If you agree, get in touch to discuss joining Socialist Alternative today!

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