The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Great Britain:
A crushing rejection of the Blair government

Jun 21, 2004

Britain has been one of the few countries to have joined the U.S. in sending combat troops into Iraq, an action that has been roundly opposed in Britain. Here is the translation of a report from Britain appearing in the June 18 paper of the French revolutionary group Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), which examines the impact of the war and other Labor government policies on recent elections in Great Britain.

Everyone in Great Britain expected a spectacular defeat for the Tony Blair government with the June 10 set of four elections: for the European parliament, city governments, and the election of the mayor and Greater London Assembly. And that's exactly what happened.

. . .

Massacre of the Labor Party

This vote to punish Blair occurred in each of the separate elections of June 10. In the city elections, which concerned about a third of the voters (city officials are elected for four years and only some posts came up this year), it was the first time in the history of the country that a party in power came in third in these elections. The Conservatives obtained 38%, the Liberal Democrats 29% and Labor 26%.

The Labor Party lost 20% of the city councilmen they had, or 476 positions, which have to be added to the 2,800 positions lost since Blair came to power in 1997. What's more, the Labor Party lost in a number of cities were workers have great weight – in Newcastle, a major shipyard city and Doncaster, a mining and metal working city whose city government has been controlled by the Labor Party since the party was founded in 1905. The dominant position that the Conservative Party won last year, for the first time since the 1950s, due to voters punishing Blair over the war in Iraq, has now been very largely consolidated.

On the other hand, the Labor Party candidate Ken Livingstone was reelected mayor of London. This wasn't thanks to the Labor Party, but despite it. Livingstone, who had quit the Labor Party four years ago while posing as a champion of the opposition to Blair, ended by recently returning to the lap of the Labor party. But he was reelected with a clearly reducedpercentage. Only his strong opposition to the war in Iraq, if no longer to Blair, saved him from defeat. This was shown by the election of the Greater London Assembly, where the Labor Party received 11% less than Livingstone and was clearly surpassed by the Conservative Party.

The European elections were a still more resounding defeat for the Labor Party. Even if the party came in second, it was with only 22.6% of the vote, the lowest score the Labor Party has ever received in these elections, compared to 26.7% for the Conservatives.

. . .

Rejection to the right of Blair, but not on his left

There were many ways for the electors to vote to the right of Blair [not only for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, but also for a new formation, the United Kingdom Independence Party, which made an open appeal to the isolationist, anti-foreign and racist prejudices latent in the population.] But workers hardly had a way to use their vote to express their opposition to the servility of the Labor Party government with respect to Capital, in Iraq as in Great Britain. For in these elections there was no current which chose to embody a policy situated clearly to the left of Blair and indicating a perspective of struggle for the workers.

. . .

A big part of the electorate had good reasons for wanting to punish Blair – his lies over Iraq, his carrying out the military occupation, the growing degradation of social benefits (in particular pensions and health care) and of public services.... It remains the case that British workers have many accounts to settle with the Labor Party government and its agents of the City of London [the British Wall Street]. And if they didn't have the means to show it at the time of these elections, they will perhaps do it tomorrow, by utilizing more appropriate methods, those of the class struggle. In any case, that's what can be hoped for.