“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
May 12, 2003
The following is a translation of an article which first appeared in Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of our comrades in France.
The partial municipal elections that took place in Great Britain on May 1 marked the spectacular decline of support for Tony Blair's Labour Party. This time, the electorate was disavowing not only the anti-worker policies of the Labour government, but its participation in Bush's imperialist war against Iraq.
In fact, the only political currents that gained votes were those that took a position against this war. Socialist Alliance, a political regroupment of the extreme left, which ran 161 candidates and campaigned on an anti-war platform, doubled or tripled their scores compared to the last election. But with 12,000 positions in the municipal councils up for election, the biggest gain went to the Liberal Democratic Party, the smallest of the three major parties but the only one which more or less took a position against the war before it began. It was the first time in its history that the Liberal Democrats did as well as the Labour Party, each with about 30% of the votes.
The Liberal Democrats gained six% since 1999, which corresponds exactly to what the Labour Party lost. This transfer of votes took place in the bastion of traditional Labour Party support, in the working class cities. In Birmingham, for example, which is the second largest city in the country and a center of the metal industry, the Labour Party lost five seats to the Liberal Democrats, thus losing the majority it had held in the municipal council for over 20 years. In the former mining centers in the north of England, the Labour Party suffered what amounted to a rout: in Chesterfield, they lost 16 seats to the Liberal Democrats and 15 seats in Durham.
The Conservative Party, which didn't take a different position on the war than did Blair, maintained the score it had in 1999, 34% of the vote. It gained more seats in the municipal councils than the Liberal Democrats – 566 to 193 seats. But this simply reflects the lack of a run-off in this top vote-getter take all election – even without a majority.
Before the elections, the "strategists" of the Labour Party predicted that the rapid victory of the Anglo-American forces in Iraq would be sufficient to win over the large majority of the Labour Party voters who opposed this war.... In reality, part of the members and sympathizers of the Labour Party who normally take part in campaigning at election time, simply decided to "strike" this time. Contrary to tradition, the apparatus of the Labour party even had difficulty finding candidates to put up for hundreds of seats in the Conservative Party bastions. As for the traditional Labour Party voters, it is clear that a large number of them had not forgotten Blair's arrogance in carrying out this war despite the workers' opposition. So on May 1, without seeing another way to censure Blair, they voted for a party whose politics are not really better than Blair's but which, because it was not in power, was able to be more demagogic.
Blair refused to comment on the results of the May election. He left that up to his ministers, who rushed to explain that the setback for their party was due to the "Muslim vote"! This excuse is more than scandalous. While playing on racist prejudices and bigotry, it reduced opposition to Blair's policies to a religious motivation.
You don't have to attend a mosque in order to be revolted by the bombardment of the Iraqi people! After all the lies and all the insults that Blair used to try to justify this dirty war, he has now added one more.