by Drew Povey
Socialists in Britain were shocked when the Tories, the party of the bosses, managed to get re-elected. They have now formed a majority government – rather than the coalition they had before. But people are also angry and have shown that they will not accept the austerity and retrenchments that the Tories have promised.
During the first weekend after the election, 2,000 people protested outside the Tory Party Head Quarters and the following Wednesday 4,000 people joined a local demonstration in Bristol that had been called by secondary school students.
The People’s Assembly then caught the mood of anger and resistance. They organised big meetings in many cities – 500 in Manchester and 650 in Nottingham. They also called big demonstrations of thousands of workers in many cities.
On Saturday 20th June a massive End Austerity Now demonstration of up to 250,000 was held in London – organised by the People’s Assembly. Thousands of people joined a similar demonstration in Glasgow, Scotland, organised by the Scottish labour centre, the TUC, and the People’s Assembly Scotland.
The National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower said, “This is what resistance looks like – and we’re going to see a lot more of it.” The civil servants union general secretary Mark Serwotka said to rapturous applause, “Why don’t all the unions strike to together and stop austerity in its tracks.”
Other speakers included National Union of Students vice-president Shakira Martin, Green Party Member of Parliament, Caroline Lucas, and singer Charlotte Church.
One of the good things about the election was that the UK Independence Party only won nearly four million votes and only got one member of parliament. This was a much lower vote than had been expected – in the Euro-elections last year they were the leading party – ahead of both the Tories and the Labour Party.
But UKIP still came in second place in 120 constituencies so the campaign against this nasty racist party has to continue. Unfortunately both the Labour Party and the Tories supported strengthening immigration controls and so gave legitimacy to the UKIP anti-immigration policies. It has been left to socialists to organise the Stand Up to UKIP campaign.
SNP and Greens
Socialists of the Socialist Workers Party (our sister organisation) and the Socialist Party (sister party of the DSM) supported some candidates of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. But disappointingly they only got relatively low votes in every seat where they stood.
In contrast the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Green Party that both called for an end to austerity and were clearly to the left of the Labour Party did very well.
In Scotland, the SNP won 55 of the 58 seats. Their vote was largely working class and it was a demand for an end to the neoliberal free market economic polices of the Tories and called for a scrapping of Britain’s nuclear weapons.
Across Britain the Green Party is also beginning to build a left electoral alternative to the Labour Party. Over a million people voted for them, they kept their member of parliament and in 100 constituencies the Greens saved their deposit (gaining more than 5% of the vote) – unfortunately TUSC did not achieve that once and usually had a low vote. Over the last year tens of thousand of people have joined the Green Party. In many towns and cities the Green Party is now the third biggest party after the Tories and the Labour Party.
The Green Party manifesto was well to the left of Labour. According to the BBC their main pledges for the election were:
- End austerity and restore public sector services
- Create jobs that pay at least a living wage
- End privatisation of the National Health Service
- £85bn programme of home insulation, renewable electricity generation & flood defences
- Provide 500,000 social homes for rent by 2020 and control rent levels
- Return the railways to public ownership.
They also regularly support strikes (their one member of parliament is a deputy president of the civil servants union) and they are against immigration controls. Not bad for starters!
British socialists need a continued campaign against the austerity and retrenchments promised by the Tory Government. Where possible, trade unionists and socialists need to unite with the Green Party (and perhaps the SNP in Scotland) to create a massive campaign that can stop the Tories in their tracks.