How should Socialists React to Britain’s coming Election?

Sunak must go, but Starmer will be little better


The sight of a sodden Rishi Sunak dripping wet in the pouring rain telling us to vote for his Conservative Party because it had a plan for the future sums up the current situation of the Tory Party. Sunak, rain running down his Armani suit, called the election and asked us to vote for him on the basis that he was going to fix things. Seemingly forgetting that it is his party that has been in power for 14 years.

Britain is still staggering from the  financial crisis of 2008. On average a worker is now £14,000 worse off per year due to that crisis in the worst period for wage growth since the Napoleonic Wars.

As evidenced on Wednesday the Tories are washed up. They have for several years now been unable to put forward a coherent plan for British capitalism, instead lurching from one right wing culture war policy to another.

The horrific Rwanda deportation plan was never a practical policy even in right wing terms, it was instead a signal to the right wing voter that the Tories hated foreigners as much as they do. The horror of the Johnson premiership and the comic opera term of Liz Truss followed by the nothingness of Sunak clearly demonstrated that the Tory Party is running on empty.

An election is to be welcomed, in fact it has been long called for, but what attitude should the Left take?

It is almost a certainty that the Labour Party will win the election with a large majority. Unfortunately this will be under the leadership of Kier Starmer, a man who has bent over backwards to have no policy that might offend any boss anywhere. This spineless attitude was compounded when Starmer slavishly followed the line of the imperialist states in backing Israel’s right to commit genocide in Gaza. Asked by radio host Nick Ferrari whether cutting off power and water was “appropriate”, Starmer said: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.”

This was massively unpopular with Labour voters, with many tearing up their membership cards and a swathe of councillors resigning the Labour whip and sitting as independents. Labour has since tried to row back from that line to a position of simply equivocation but continues to back the Israeli state.

Nevertheless, for the majority of voters, the priority will simply be to get rid of the Tories. Socialists should definitely be in this camp! Millions and millions of workers will be there.

However to simply cheer Labour on is impossible. The Labour Party under Starmer has adopted policies that are little different from the Tories: they only say that they will carry out the cuts more slowly and with a smile instead of a snarl. They will continue the racist immigration policies of the right and they nothing to relieve workers from the oppressive anti union laws enacted in the last few years.

Labour no longer even defends the integrity of the National Health Service. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has said that the NHS needs to use the “capacity” of private health care providers, and will shovel millions of pounds into their coffers. Labour is also fast back tracking on its green policies. Keir Starmer has already announced that he is scaling back Labour’s £28bn annually green investment programme.

Fortunately a space has opened up to the left of Labour. The massive pro Palestine movement in the UK and worldwide has provided the space for serious challenges to Labour. “No ceasefire, no vote”, has become a popular slogan. There was already a fallout from Labour as Starmer and his cohorts used the charge of antisemitism to witch-hunt Jeremy Corbyn and the left out of the party. The collapse of the potency of that slander as it is used to justify the genocide in Gaza has opened the eyes of many more. Starmer’s positions on Gaza have led to widespread disillusionment with Labour especially in strongly Muslim areas but not confined to them.

This challenge will be led by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbin who has announced he is to stand as an independent in his constituency of Islington North. Every socialist will be supporting him. Unfortunately, however, Corbyn left it to the last minute to announce his candidacy although it was long expected. This delay means that there is no time to build his challenge as a national one. If he had gone earlier a network could have been created with a national presence.

Nevertheless a Corbyn victory will be a slap in the face of Starmer. Corbyn has been a dedicated and very hard working MP in his constituency for decades. In fact one of the most common sights in Islington is to see Jeremy cycling past on the way to visit some constituent or other. It is probable that he will win.

Starter himself will be challenged by the left wing activist Andrew Feinstein in Holborn and St Pancras. The former anti apartheid activist will fight a good campaign. A whole host of other candidates will stand as a left alternative from Luton to Liverpool and they should be supported.

George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain will also stand in a large number of places. I don’t think this is an appropriate vote for leftists. Whilst Galloway is very good on Palestine, he has adopted a whole range of homophobic, transphobic and anti women stances. He has also adapted to the right over immigration in a manner similar to Sahra Wagenknecht in Germany. We can’t throw the oppressed under the bus because Galloway says the right things about Gaza.

Important as the election is, it is not the most important thing happening in British politics. This remains the necessity to continue building the massive movement in support of Palestine. It is this movement, here and worldwide, that is opening up the cracks in the international imperialist order. The ICC decision to pursue arrest warrants for Netanyahu and co is one example of this. The imperialist arguments around Israel are no longer common sense.

The decision to carry on marching, with the 15th National Demonstration for Palestine being called for June 8th in London is welcome. It is the movement for Palestine that has opened up the challenge to the left of Labour and it is important that the movement remains on the streets and is not sidetracked into simply electioneering. The movement can bring about a wholesale change in politics not simply focusing on who forms the next government. The student encampment indicates the possibilities here.

So, in my opinion, get the Tories out, vote as left as you can but carry on building the movement for Palestine!