Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Devastating Election Blow for New Labour

Taken from Socialist Party Wales website

Report by Dave Reid

This year’s local election results in Wales have delivered a devastating blow to Labour. Together with the results in England they represent a comprehensive rejection by working class people of everything that new Labour and the Brown government stands for.
Labour has been thrashed in its old heartlands. It has lost Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr and Torfaen councils and suffered serious losses in Caerphilly, areas in which Labour used to regularly win crushing majorities in good times and bad. Labour also lost Newport so now controls only Rhondda Cynon Taff, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend.

Mortal blow to Brown and New Labour

But this is not the old Labour Party. A growing layer of working class people has realised that this is not their party anymore and have abandoned Labour as decisively as Blair and Brown abandoned their interests. Others cannot bring themselves to vote for the crew who has just put income tax up for the lowest paid workers in the country. They may return to vote Labour to keep the Tories out in the future but not with great conviction.
Labour’s projected share of the vote across Britain stands at just 24% the lowest for over 40 years and puts Labour 3rd behind the Liberal Democrats. Brown’s premiership has been dealt a mortal blow. He will attempt to cling onto power or face being dumped before the General Election, an even more ignominious fate than James Callaghan, who was one of the few Prime Ministers not to win a General Election.

Support for whoever could beat Labour - No enthusiasm for Tories

David Cameron has tried to ride the crest of the wave of his party’s gains. But there is no enthusiasm or illusions in any of the other parties in Wales and certainly not the Tories. This was a vote against Labour, not a vote for any of the other parties. In fact this election represented a further rejection of the Tory policies that New Labour has promoted. The Tories re-gained some seats in their old Welsh strongholds of Monmouth and Vale of Glamorgan, but have not broken through in most of Wales. They only gained control of Vale of Glamorgan council.
Voters supported whoever could beat Labour and in most areas that was not the Tories. Most old Labour voters stayed at home. In the valleys it was People’s Voice and Independent candidates as well as Plaid Cymru who broke Labour control. In Cardiff the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Tories gained as Labour was pushed back to the 3rd party in the capital.
The Liberal Democrats benefited from the anti-Labour mood and held onto to their control of Cardiff and Swansea but there is no enthusiasm for their councils and they made few gains.
Plaid Cymru suffered serious losses as well as gains, losing control of Gwynedd, their only council. Significantly Plaid lost seats to Llais Gwynedd (Gwynedd’s Voice) which was formed primarily to stop school closures in the countyOverwhelmingly working people are sick of all the parties. All the opposition parties talk of change but they all implement similar policies when in power.Working people are craving a real change and the situation is crying out for genuine alternative to the stale diet of all the parties. People’s Voice’s and Llais Gwynedd gains show the potential for a new mass workers party.

A warning and an opportunity for socialists

The increased vote for the BNP is also a warning to the labour movement if it fails to provide an alternative to the pro-capitalist parties. However, despite a big press campaign against immigrants before the election, the BNP failed to make a major breakthrough in Wales. Only in Swansea did this racist party succeed in making gains in the number of votes.

The Socialist Party standing as Socialist Alternative achieved the best results of the left with creditable results in Cardiff and Swansea. However at this stage the support for our ideas is not reflected in votes. Working people realise that we need a bigger vehicle to deliver real change.
A serious discussion must begin in the Welsh trade union movement to look at the unions forming a new party through which the working class can fight to offer a real change form the policies of all the pro-capitalist parties.

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