Any dip in the fortunes of the Conservative Party is welcome, making more likely its failure to win the general election or, at least, to get an overall majority of seats. But the Labour Party has failed to draw the obvious conclusion that the Tories' opinion poll ratings have dropped as David Cameron and George Osborne have been more open about their party's plans to attack the public sector and working people's pay and conditions. The Brown government is still obsessed with handing over as much of the public sector to privateers as possible and is committed to hacking away at the compensation payable to civil servants who are made redundant. Far from taking a principled stand that would emphasise a sharp political difference with the Tories, the government remains guided by the too-clever-by-half Peter Mandelson tactic of triangulation.
Essentially, Labour takes up most of the Tories' policy territory to persuade former Tory voters who flocked to the new Labour banner that their wealth is safe with Brown while leaving a slight difference to persuade the labour movement that Labour still articulates its interests.
In reality, this unprincipled approach has disarmed the trade unions, emptied the Labour Party of its active membership and pushed Britain's political agenda to the right. Once again, as the City has perceived the Tories as electable and put its money where its perceptions are, the unions have emerged as the main financial contributors to Labour. This is not in itself unusual, given that it was the unions that founded the Labour Party, transferring their support from the Liberals. In switching from the Liberals, the unions insisted that they wanted a party that would voice their concerns and fight for their members in Parliament. But the current reality is that the Labour leadership takes the unions' money, pats trade unionists on the head when asked to address union conferences and then systematically puts the interests of the bankers, the privateers, the arms traffickers, pharmaceutical combines and other parasites first, second and last. Yes, the Tories are going to impose damaging cuts on the NHS, but it was new Labour that allowed Hinchingbrooke hospital to be handed over to a private operator.
It was new Labour that reneged on its pre-election promise of a publicly owned and operated national rail network, putting safety in jeopardy and making fares an expensive lottery, subject to market forces rather than mileage. It was new Labour that agreed to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of young working-class British soldiers in unjustifiable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to say nothing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. And it is new Labour that has trimmed democratic rights in the name of security, that has scapegoated ethnic and religious minorities, that has lied about its conduct and that has made people feel less secure in their daily lives. No wonder that the fascist BNP has been able to pick up on the despair and inability to see a way out to penetrate some working-class communities. The situation is far too serious for trade unionists to ignore each criticism that they have made of the new Labour project over the past 13 years and to act as shameless cheerleaders for it. The movement must increase pressure on Brown to change his dead-end, pro-capitalist policies.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.