Gordon Brown is right to say that the last few days of the election campaign will be crucial, but Labour's tactics laid down by Peter Mandelson risk turning off already alienated working-class voters. Mandelson insisted that Brown would be lauded as tough and up for a fight and that party campaigners would put more emphasis on the tough decisions he has taken. The millions of working people who have edged away from Labour since 1997 are in no doubt that Brown is capable of showing how tough he can be against people like them. That's partly the reason why Labour Party membership has plummeted and why Labour's vote has continually declined in every election since those heady days 13 years ago. Billionaire media leader writers may well be impressed by the government's refusal to abolish anti-trade union legislation, its rejection of the case to jail bosses responsible for safety lapses that kill workers and its siding with employers in industrial disputes. But these people are not the bedrock of Labour's electorate. Its bedrock has always been the workforce in both private and public industry and the government has let the entire working class down. It has allowed 1.5 million jobs in manufacturing to haemorrhage since 1997 and it is now lining up civil servants and local authority staff, among other public-service workers, to bear the brunt of the crisis caused by the greed and adventurism of finance-sector fat cats.
Labour is being described by Tory-Liberal politicians and the City bankers as profligate for increasing public spending and running up a huge deficit, ignoring the fact that these were in direct response to a crisis of the bankers' making. Unfortunately, Labour remains in thrall to the finance industry, allowing it to rebuild its reserves and profit margins on the basis of readily available pump priming from the Treasury. Those parasites who gorge on the banking sector are never satisfied with the levels of their unearned wealth and have caused Barclays shares to dip by 6.4 per cent despite the bank announcing a 47 per cent rise in quarterly pre-tax profits of £1.82 billion. When Alistair Darling stepped in just over a year ago, he didn't simply bail out a number of banks. He rescued the entire finance system. The bankers took it as their due and are still dispensing not so much advice as orders, which the government is following rather than having taken the banking sector under public control. Such decisive action would have enthused much of the electorate and sent a message that bankers' gambling debts would not be met by low-paid workers and pensioners. Even now it is possible for Brown and Darling to mark a sharper distinction between the immediate and savage cuts proposed by the Tories' Bullingdon Club boys and Labour's approach. The resistance to the international bankers' agenda shown by workers in Greece, Portugal and Spain indicates that the current crisis will not be short-lived. If the Tories are returned to office, with or without the Liberal Democrats, they will not delay before laying waste public services and the welfare state. It is essential to prevent this happening and to then mobilise the entire labour movement to learn how Labour and the unions fell for the neoliberal line and how to chart another more progressive direction in future.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.