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Fighting against a Tory majority

30th December 2009 Socialist Action 0

By Stephen MacAvoy

The narrowing of the Tory lead in the opinion polls over recent months underlines that the outcome of the next election is not certain. The political implications are clear: a shift by Labour to policies that motivate the overwhelming majority of the population threatened by the Tories’ planned harsh economic policies could prevent a Conservative government.

Despite the backdrop of a deep economic downturn and strong backing from most of the press amongst other factors, the Conservatives are still only polling on average at around 40 per cent (see UK Polling Report 28 December).

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Why Blair and Mandelson are paranoid about the Labour left

1st November 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: November 1998

An unprecedented and well-funded operation was launched over the summer to back the Blairite slate for the constituency section of the Labour Party national executive. This included spending at least £50,000 on half-page adverts in national newspapers and magazines, direct mail-shots to thousands of party members, printing thousands of glossy promotional brochures and employing a private marketing firm to undertake telephone canvassing. The centre-left slate was publicly denounced by party general secretary Tom Sawyer – who is supposed to uphold the impartiality of the election – and by former party leader Neil Kinnock. At issue was not control of the NEC, because the constituency section makes up less than a fifth of the NEC seats, but the elimination of all possible dissent from the leading bodies of the party. This looks like paranoia. But it is, in reality, rational.

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Battle joined over Labour’s future

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

The first nine months of the Labour government have confirmed that Tony Blair is not simply ‘another’ right wing Labour leader. Blair’s project is to dismantle the Labour Party as a party based on the unions, to destroy the elements of democracy which exist within the party and to transform the British political party system, through electoral reform, to make possible a long-term governmental alliance with the Liberal Democrats and, if possible, the Heseltine-Clarke wing of the Tory Party. The obstacle to this project is the Labour left – linked to the growing opposition to Blair’s attacks on the welfare state in the labour movement.

Blair and Mandelson believe, like those who walked out of Labour to form the SDP in 1981, that the risk of political radicalisation by the trade unions linking up with the left in the constituencies and parliament, makes the traditional mechanisms for right wing control of the Labour Party unsafe. But, unlike the SDP, Blair is using the central apparatus of the party and of government, to try to break up the Labour Party’s structures from within.

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Lone parent benefit – The end of Blair’s honeymoon

1st February 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: February 1998

Tony Blair’s honeymoon came to an abrupt public end with the vote of 47 Labour MPs and the abstention of many others against the government’s proposals to abolish single parent benefits. The government’s attacks on the living standards of the poorest women and children in the country not only provoked a parliamentary rebellion unprecedented so early in the parliament, but also a public outcry which signalled a clear turning point in the Labour government’s popularity. The impact of the campaign to save lone parent benefits and the unexpectedly big revolt of MPs means that, while Blair plans to proceed with attacks on disability benefits, pensions and other pillars of the welfare state, he will face still more determined opposition.

The unfolding of events in the weeks leading up to the vote on 10 December demonstrated two key points: firstly, the importance of the Labour left taking a clear campaigning stand against such anti-woman, anti-working class and deeply unpopular policies; secondly, the crucial role played by a campaign led by women – the Save Lone Parent Benefit campaign – and orientated to linking up with parliamentary and labour movement opposition. This was particularly important in the context of the failure of the majority of Labour’s new women MPs to represent women’s interests – and the divisive use to which this was put by the government.

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Lone parent benefit – Women MPs against women?

1st February 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: February 1998

Only eight Labour women MPs voted against the attacks on lone parent benefits, with a handful of others conspicuously abstaining. Despite more than 90 MPs signing the parliamentary motion against the proposals tabled by Audrey Wise MP, outbursts of anger at meetings of the PLP addressed by Harriet Harman, protests and vocal opposition from women Labour Party members and lone parent organisations – even Glenys Kinnock MEP added her name to a petition and letter against the proposals – the new batch of Labour women MPs were largely noticeable by their absence. Of 97 MPs who, by 2 December, had signed Audrey Wise’s Early Day Motion, only 9 were Labour women, and of these only 2 were from the batch of women MPs elected for the first time in May 1997.

There is no clearer test that these women MPs could have failed than this one, involving the fate of the poorest women, and children, in society. Ninety per cent of lone parent families are headed by women. The proposals will have a racist impact, since black women are disproportionately represented as lone mothers. Removal of lone parent benefits will thus also deepen the disproportionate representation of black women and children among the poorest in society.


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The left after the general election

1st July 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1997

Labour’s 179 seat majority in parliament will not be taken by Tony Blair as a mandate for progressive social reform. Instead it is going to be used to impose the most right wing economic policy of any Labour government in history.

In the period between now and when the voters, trade unionists and party members start to realise this, Blair will use the good will he starts out with to move as fast as possible – starting at this year’s conference – to suppress the mechanisms whereby alternative policies could be expressed within the Labour Party.