Monday, 10 May 2010

What's left for the Left ?

Whilst the public school boys are cooking up a deal behind closed to determine what our next government will  be - I am  pondering the results for socialists  candidates in the election.

By no stretch of the imagination can they be called good - I haven't seen anyone push the 'XXX thousand votes for socialism' line - but doubtless some head-bangers will. On the other hand inevitably the nay-sayers will be jumping at the chance to write the obituaries for the Left. I prefer a more sober and honest analysis of where we are:

It is stating the obvious to say this was a weird election in every respect. On Thursday night I couldn't keep my eyes open beyond 3am but what was clear even by then was how localised the patterns of voting swings were - strong swings to the Tories in safe Labour seats set against poor Tory performances in some of their targeted marginals.

And for socialists the best results came unsurprisingly where there is a strong local base grounded in the real world: Dave Nellist in Coventry with a consistent record and profile for thirty years, the councillors in Lewisham who got their highest ever vote but still lost their seats, and in my own constituency Jenny Sutton, with a strong campaign around cuts at the local college. Even here we saw the incumbent David Lammy actually increasing the majority for Labour at the expense of the Lib Dems.

Realistically  socialists elsewhere  were stuck with campaigning for a fairly abstract protest vote against Labour. Not the easiest task at the best of times but possibly made even harder in the future now that people who voted Lib-Dem in protest realise that they may have unwittingly helped elect a Tory government. In that respect - roll on electoral reform and PR. None of that though adds up to a case for socialists calling time on elections - on the contrary this is a time to  stick to our guns. 

The TUSC project came a long way from a standing start in a short time - if not actually Left unity then at least practical co-operation on a fairly unprecedented level, was achieved by disparate groups. And more importantly, even in its name, TUSC has raised the idea of linking trade union representation and socialism.

I would argue that it is a very modest beginning but a necessary one in light of the battles around the corner when the next government turns on public spending. Sadly patience and consistency are not the strong suites of some of the groups that make up TUSC but  one thing we don't need at the next election is to campaign under a different name or acronym ...or even worse a myriad of them.

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