By Bridget Anderson
This year’s local elections in Britain conclude in just over two weeks with voters, in the main metropolitan areas including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle as well as other urban areas across the country, going to the polls.
After eight years of Tory austerity, local government services have been substantially cut.
Only a Labour government under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn can halt and start to reverse the years of damage caused by Tory cuts to local councils’ finances.
Labour’s economic policy, which aims to improve economic growth and break away from the current stagnation, by raising the level of public investment, is the means by which the government could increase its income. This would provide additional resources to be directed into local government and other priorities.
Labour’s ‘For The Many’ manifesto proved extremely popular at last year’s General Election because it set out some ways in which a Corbyn-led government would improve people’s living standards – from protecting the NHS and education services to bringing the railways back into public ownership.
Corbyn announced another attractive policy last week that would be introduced by a Labour government – free bus travel for under-25 year old.
Despite the enormous propaganda offensive against the Labour Party from the pro-Tory and pro-Liberal Democrat media – it remains the case that Labour is still polling around 40 per cent in most opinion polls, approximately neck and neck with the Tory Party. The non-stop attacks on Corbyn have failed to significantly push back Labour support from the position it reached last June.
Corbyn’s popularity amongst Labour Party members has risen sharply over the past year. A recent YouGov poll reported his improved standing in the party. Whereas in March 2017 50 per cent of members thought Corbyn was doing well as Labour Leader, that had increased to 80 per cent by March 2018. Also 64 per cent of Labour members think it is likely Corbyn will become Prime Minister, compared to 29 per cent a year ago.
In relation to the allegations of anti-Semitism made against Labour the poll found that 47 per cent of members consider that ‘It is a genuine problem, but its extent is being deliberately exaggerated to damage Labour and Jeremy Corbyn or to stifle criticism of Israel’, a further 30 per cent that ‘It is not a serious problem at all, and is being hyped up to undermine Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.’ 19 per cent consider ‘It is a serious and genuine problem that the party leadership needs to take urgent action to address’.
On the issue of Corbyn’s handling of the Salisbury poisoning incident, 69 per cent consider he was doing well, compared to 23 per cent badly.
Polling of the public’s views on bombing Syria, conducted before the US, France and UK missile attacks, showed that Corbyn’s opposition to attacking Syria was strongly backed within the population. YouGov reported that only 22 per cent supported missile attacks with 43 per cent against.
Whilst the right wing, both outside and inside the Labour Party, is doing its utmost to attack Corbyn and the progressive politics he advocates, the left needs to defend him and between now and 3 May mobilise to maximise the Labour vote.