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Friday, May 14, 2010
Left Labour prepares for battle
by Daphne Liddle
WE HAVE a new Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government and Gordon Brown has resigned both as Prime Minister and as leader of the Labour Party. New Prime Minister David Cameron is busy stitching up the Liberal Democrats while the left of the Labour Party is rallying to wage a defensive war against the coming urge of public sector spending cuts.
The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) has already organised a conference for this Saturday 15th May in London’s University of London Union (10.30am to 3.30pm, admission free, donations welcome) for labour activists and trade unionists to discuss how to build their own coalition.
The LRC said: “With a Tory-Lib Dem coalition threatening massive cuts in public spending, there is clearly a need for the Left to discuss how it can build a coalition to argue against and defeat the cuts consensus.
“There is also the fight for socialism in the Labour Party to be fought – and a vacancy for Labour Party leader . . .
“This is a one day conference for the labour movement left across the UK to share experiences of the General Election and plan for the coming months.”
Speakers will include John McDonnell MP and Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union.
They are encouraged good results that Labour won in last week’s general election in traditional Labour’s core areas of the north of England, central London, Scotland and Wales. LRC MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn both succeeded in increasing their majorities.
And although Labour lost the general election it made significant gains in the local elections.
The message from voters is that they have no stomach for Cameron’s proposed drastic cuts to local government spending.
John McDonnell said on Monday: “The public and private horse-trading masks the fact that whatever government emerges will be somewhere on the neo-liberal spectrum, and will soon be driving through large scale cuts in public services, pensions and benefits.
“To face a neo-liberal coalition government, the left and trade unions will be forging a coalition to resist attacks on our communities.
“The disgusting sight of the bond markets opening during the night to speculate at our expense demonstrates starkly what we are up against: the return of the casino economy backed by a neo-liberal coalition government.”
The Liberal-Democrat Party encompasses a wide political spectrum with party leader Nick Clegg on the right of it. He is facing a huge challenge to ensure his 57 Lib-Dem MPs will toe the Tory line. Many are bitterly opposed to it.
On Tuesday night the Labour Party’s on-line membership application page crashed under a flood of applications. Political commentators believe many of them were from left Lib-Dems unhappy with Clegg’s decision to form a coalition with the Tories.
Cameron is not making it easy for Clegg. Already the Lib-Dems have had to jettison their principled opposition to the renewal of the Trident missile system.
On proportional representation – their flagship policy – the only concessions the Tories have made is to agree a referendum on Alternative Voting – a halfway step. But the Tories have made it clear they will campaign for the proposal to be rejected.
Since Labour also opposes PR the Lib-Dems chances of winning it are remote.
The Cabinet positions given so far to the Lib-Dems carry little political weight. Clegg will be made Deputy Prime Minister.
Vince Cable – a far better economist than the Tories John Osborne – has been denied the position of Chancellor. He will have to make do with Minister for Banking and Business while Osborne occupies Number 11 Downing Street.
Danny Alexander, a member of the Liberal Democrat team which negotiated the coalition, becomes Scottish Secretary.
Chris Huhne will take on Energy and Climate Change, while David Laws will be Treasury Chief Secretary. No real power there at all.
So at the moment Clegg is crowing that he is the first “Liberal” to enter Number 10 as a Cabinet Minister for about 90 years but it is not certain he will have a party at all in a few months.
This will be an unstable coalition and Labour had better get on selecting a new leader in time for the next general election, which many believe is only months away.
And Labour must recognise that the left of the party polled much more strongly than the right-wing New Labourites.