A party for the pissed off

Left Unity media officer Tom Walker says we can’t let UKIP be the only option for the disenchanted

I’m going to come right out and say it: we can’t wish away the rise of UKIP. Yes, I’m as annoyed as anyone else that Nigel Farage is on Question Time every other week. Yes, plenty of other things happened in these elections, not least a body blow to the Lib Dems. But we are kidding ourselves if we think the UKIP vote is all media fluff.

We might expect the hard right to do well in the European elections and the Tory shires, but UKIP took 10 out of 21 local council seats up for election in Rotherham – Rotherham! Seven seats in Dudley. Three in Walsall. Two in Wakefield. And so on down the grim list.

If the left was getting results like this we’d be dancing in the streets. ‘News’ is called that because it doesn’t report things that have stayed the same, but things that are new – and this political situation is new. We need to have a serious analysis of why it has happened and what we can do about it.

Any answer has to start from the deep sickness of mainstream politics. All the pundits now agree that there is an “anti-politics mood”, but this is a strange phrase – if anything it is an anti-politician mood. While the roots go back further, this climate started to become noticeable around the MPs’ expenses scandal, and is reflected in the various polls that find politicians are less trusted than estate agents and such. It is encapsulated in popular phrases such as ‘the political class’.

Low turnouts reflect the widespread feeling that there is little point in voting, as politicians are all out for themselves, on the take, and never keep their election promises. Not only is there “no one else to vote for”, but it seems a significant number of people vote for whoever is most likely to wind up ‘the politicians’. UKIP fuses this sentiment with a right wing populism that takes aim at tabloid targets: immigrants, benefits and so on.

It is important to get this the right way around: while UKIP does attract a hard racist vote, for their softer support it is alienation from ‘politics’ that creates the space, then racist and anti-poor (or ultra-neoliberal) ideas that fill it. In the run-up to the founding of Left Unity we sometimes spoke of a ‘space on the left’, and that remains, but in truth there is a vast space all the way around the edges of the increasingly embattled, narrow ‘centre’. We have a Tory-Liberal coalition and a Labour opposition that doesn’t oppose anything. While the main parties fight over a few votes in marginal seats, their historic bases continue to crumble.

Shaping the debate

Elections matter – if I need to make this explicit – because they drag the entire political debate behind them, not just reflecting but fuelling the vicious circle of right wing ideas in society. So we see the Labour leadership falling over themselves to pander to racism.

Already we have seen Ed Balls saying we need “tough controls on immigration” and Sadiq Khan writing a grovelling apology to UKIP voters, saying “we were too quick to dismiss concerns about immigration, or even worse – accused people of prejudice”. Today Ed Miliband said “it’s not prejudiced to worry about immigration, it’s understandable.”

This is not only surrendering to the politics of scapegoating, but will fail on its own terms. UKIP’s anti-politician voters will not return to an anti-immigration Labour Party – but Labour’s base will be further pushed away by such rhetoric. Meanwhile, the 2015 election on the horizon has only two possible outcomes: either Labour will win and implement austerity (the notion it wouldn’t do this is a fantasy), or it will lose and draw the conclusion that it needs to move further onto Tory and UKIP territory.

That’s where we come in. As Labour moves to the right, Left Unity can grow by standing up for left principle – and make an appeal on a progressive basis to those who are fed up with politicians of all stripes.

Our first few local election results are, as Wigan Left Unity candidate Stephen Hall wrote, “modest beginnings” – though picking up 8.8% in Wigan West for a brand new party is pretty good in my book. In the round, the results show that we cannot expect immediate breakthroughs, but which new party has ever won a seat from a standing start?

The question for us is how to build on these results. If we accept my argument above that people want to stick it to the politicians, then what kind of message should we be putting across? Seumas Milne writes that “the only antidote to the growth of the far right is a populism of the left: one that targets class and corporate power instead of foreigners”. While some may bristle at the word ‘populism’, it’s not too difficult to see that the left could be channelling and expressing the popular discontent towards our kinds of targets – bankers, bosses, the super-rich, tax dodgers, energy companies, corrupt politicians, ‘the 1%’.

Among the current options to the left of Labour, including the Greens, none is currently able to project itself as the choice for the disenchanted in the way UKIP does. This is not a question of moaning about media blackouts but of having a story to tell that resonates with people. Yes, we need positive policies, on housing, jobs, healthcare and more besides, and we’re doing well on that front so far. But we can’t let UKIP be the only party for the pissed off. We need to follow the example of Syriza in Greece, and construct a party that can do on the left what UKIP has done on the right.

Left Unity must not be another ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ left project, but a party that works over years and decades to become that left force. Good things come to parties that build branches, nurture local bases, get known for campaigning work in their communities – and stay the course. While this is certainly no easy road, more is at stake than a few council seats: success for Left Unity could pull the entire political narrative kicking and screaming in our direction.


To submit an article for the 'Discussion & Debate' section of our website please email it to info@leftunity.org

19 comments

19 responses to “A party for the pissed off”

  1. Patrick Black says:

    Yes, having a few multi millionaire backers wouldnt go amiss though

  2. ben madigan says:

    agree that “Good things come to parties that build branches, nurture local bases, get known for campaigning work in their communities – and stay the course”

    Let’s look at one example.
    Sinn fein is a largely leftish working class backed party in ireland – NI and the republic.
    It has done well in the recent local elections and EU elections in both jurisdictions.
    It fought 2 elections at the same time.
    It is hoping to do even better in the next general elections.
    Its rise to political clout has taken over 20 years
    Just sayin’ like.

    Left Unity has to be a long term project. OK no discussion there.

    but how much time has the UK got?
    if Scotland says YES in September – how do LU feel about being in a country with an apparently permanent Conservative/UKIP majority?
    How are LU going to cope with that?

  3. Jim Butler-Daulby says:

    Glossing over the media support for UKIP, and neoliberalism per se, misses the greatest hurdle a new party has to overcome. “Populism” is manufactured by the media. Moral panic is a tool used very effectively by the right to encourage compliance. We need a strategy that creates a major, mainstream, moral panic about corporate control of our politicians and democracy. We have to create a populist movement against the destruction of our civil liberties by self-interested politicians without alluding to anything too thought-provoking and requiring any real effort on the part of the voter. We need to point people in the direction of the real issues by making it easy for them to see. Farage used the media effectively by making things easy for people to scapegoat. We should do the same.

    • Russell White says:

      Populism is the opposite of neo-liberalism. UKIP will only advance further if they ditch neo-liberalism and start addressing some of the issues that Left Unity mentions such as nationalising the energy companies, introducing rent controls and banning zero hour contracts. But – a left party which does not address the issues of radical Islam (especially its effects upon women, gays etc), immigration and the EU will never resonate with the voters. The working class are looking for a party which is “right-wing” on immigration and law and order. A party which is anti-EU, but also anti-NATO (a left position). This coupled with left wing policies on the economy, jobs and services, finance/banks etc is what will defeat neo-liberalism. The only left party I can think of that comes anywhere near this combination is the IWCA.

  4. Tony Hodges says:

    Jim – I would have thought that TTIP, the EU/US free trade agreement has what you want in spades. An agreement between governments, promoted by transnational corporations, Wall St. and the City of London in absolute secrecy, that intends to reduce whatever government legislation, be it environmental protection, health and safety regulation, what goes into our food, our right as workers to protect our wages and conditions, holiday pay, sickness benefit, controls on financial institutions, in fact anything that the corporations define as “trade irritants”, i.e., obstacles to the maximisation of profit. On top of that, via Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanisms corporations will be able to (and have under previous WTO agreements) sue sovereign states if their legislatures threaten actual or potential corporate profits thus subverting even bourgeois notions of the democratic process.

    This last questions any promises Labour makes about pulling back from the privatisation of the NHS and moderate steps towards renationalisation of the railways – What? We’ve had a letter from Branson’s lawyers? Well we can’t do that then!

    This is supported by all 3 main parties (it would be interesting to see UKIP’s line on this but as Farage is an old City hand one can probably guess). There is very little publicity about this and even less opposition.

    Something for Left Unity to pick up and run with? Altho it’s hardly a catchy topic.

    http://www.stopttip.net – educate and organise!

  5. “While some may bristle at the word ‘populism’, it’s not too difficult to see that the left could be channeling and expressing the popular discontent towards our kinds of targets – bankers, bosses, the super-rich, tax dodgers, energy companies, corrupt politicians, ‘the 1%’.”

    Brilliant idea! We need more bland and repetitive slogans about bankers and tax dodgers. The SWP hasn’t been doing that enough for the past few years.

  6. Stuart Inman says:

    “Farage used the media effectively by making things easy for people to scapegoat. We should do the same.” Really? Surely we need to do the opposite. Obviously we need to use the media effectively, but I assume you do not mean we should find scapegoats.

    I think that although I disagree with the way you are saying it, I probably agree with much of what you say, and I’d say that is why Left Unity arose, and why I joined, but in almost every way we need to be, not “The UKIP of the Left” but the opposite of UKIP, utterly unlike UKIP except in that we should be able to speak simply and directly, NOT an ideologically-charged rhetoric, but the truth.
    Taken one way, what you say is self-evident, we need to raise concerns and make sure people are concerned, but when you say: “Moral panic is a tool used very effectively by the right to encourage compliance. We need a strategy that creates a major, mainstream, moral panic about corporate control of our politicians and democracy.” I am not sure that sounds as is very truthful or democratic. It suggests creating a new kind of crazy with us in control of a panicky and easily manipulated public, that would make us despicable and the opposite of what I would want.

    When you say: “We have to create a populist movement against the destruction of our civil liberties by self-interested politicians without alluding to anything too thought-provoking and requiring any real effort on the part of the voter.” Not thought-provoking? The absence of thought is the absence of any meaningful democracy. Again this suggests US in control of THEM, the unthinking herd, panicked into supporting us because of the loss of freedoms they never knew they had or intended to exercise, giving us the power to manipulate them. That begs the question of which us in LU would be exercising that power.

    Here is the real problem with language, if I agree with what I think you meant to say, I find the way you said it objectionable, and maybe your manner of writing actually faithfully reflects what you mean, I really hope not.

    Where I do agree is: “We need to point people in the direction of the real issues by making it easy for them to see.” Yes, absolutely, let’s not be obscurantist, let’s be clear about the issues, what we stand for, but if we think of the people as a herd, to be driven, panic-stricken in our direction, to be manipulated through panic, fear and prejudice, then we are lost. Our success would be our greatest failure. We really would be a UKIP of the Left, in the worst possible way.

    I really hope I have read accurately a difference between what you meant and what you seemed to be saying.

  7. Stuart King says:

    But we can’t just be a protest party. UKIPs rightwing populism cuts with the grain – imperial little Englandism, racism, blaming immigrants and foreigners – socialist parties cut against the grain, our voters have to understand our anticapitalist critique, agree with our answers.

    Sure we need clear straightforward messages against UKIP – who is to blame for lack of jobs, low pay, difficulties getting to see the doctor, oversubscribed schools and positive answers which include saying where the money will come from, as Tom says – end super rich tax avoidance, wealth tax on the multi-millionaires etc. This is what our national media message needs to bang on about.

    Our problem at the general election will be that every trade union and class conscious voter will vote Labour to get the Tories/Lib Dems out, they wont risk voting to the left. It might imply only standing in rock solid Labour seats where votes to the left will not threaten the result. But more importantly it means being a different sort of party, one already rooted in the locality, in struggles, campaigns, having already won the loyalty of the most militant fighters, who will go on and vote for us.

  8. Coolfonz says:

    The left have consistently failed to articulate the anger that is out there. We need to do that.

    We need to take all those areas where Ukip’s vote is soft and attack it.

    At the general election we need to target a very small number of seats.

    If we stay consistent, find good candidates and dump all the failed baggage of the left-gone-by, we can begin to grow.

  9. Would UKIP have got where it has without the phenomenon of Farage?
    I know LU wants to avoid personalities and charismatic leaders, but I think we might be throwing the baby out with the bath water, given that the television is the main source of information for millions of people.
    I think most of the people I know on the ‘left’ are deep thinkers and well educated. I think you would be pretty horrified if you realised how little interest or understanding most people have in policies, manifestos or what we think of as politics. But if someone can touch their hearts, or make them laugh, then they will respond. We could do with Francesca Martinez, Owen Jones, Jeremy Hardy, Micheal Rosen, Alexi Sayle and many others on our team. Even Russell Brand. How could we do this?
    They wont trust us until all our main policies are written and adopted, especially the ones on social Security and Education. How could they?

  10. John Penney says:

    Understandably, in a period in which the working class and the trades unions and socialist political organisation are still , after 30 years of same, in headlong retreat in the face of the Austerity Offensive in particular, and neoliberalism in general, we on the radical Left are looking longingly at the considerable electoral success of UKIP, and seeking some “crossover lessons” for ourselves. I think there are indeed some lessons for us on the Left to be drawn, but only in very general terms – so different are the underlying roots of UKIP’s advance , compared to our continued weakness – and so far continued inability to connect with wide sections of the working class to build a fightback to the bosses ever more vicious attacks.

    At first sight it seems remarkable that UKIP, a party with only one coherent, but extraordinarily gaff prone, (millionaire ex stockbroker) figurehead, Farage – a bunch of outright nutters at all other leading levels in the party beyond Farage – no party manifesto at all currently (Farage has specifically renounced the 2010 Manifesto as “bonkers”), has nevertheless trounced the major parties in the EU elections – and done amazingly well , from pretty much a standing start, in the English local government elections. However we have to recognise that UKIP, doesn’t have to be that organisationally efficient, nor policy coherent, because it feeds off a vast reservoir of generations-long reactionary daily mass media reinforced chauvinist, sexist, racist and xenophobic ideology. This vast well , or perhaps a magma chamber would be a better expression, of putrescent reactionary ideological pus, sits as an ideological substructure beneath our capitalist society, reinforcing its structures with its divisive and deliberately confusing messages. All political movements of the right and centre right attempt constantly to “tap off” a bit of the vast negative energies of this underlying ideological pus in their electoral efforts. New Labour , now being a straightforward opportunist bourgeois party with no socialist principal left, now also regularly tries to tap into the dark reactionary zeitgeist of the latest mass media whipped up “social panic” about , for instance, vast hordes of Rumanian and Bulgarian immigrants advancing across the European plain heading for good old Blighty. The BNP for fifteen years , before they essentially blew themselves up via internal feuding, also managed to draw electoral success from its carefully moderated right populist, rather than outright fascist, “mining of the fears and loathings suppurating in the vast poisoned ideological pustule that is fundamental to the social mind control of all capitalist states over their citizenry.

    When using concepts like “Left Unity aims to be the UKIP of the Left”, we always need to remember that our entire political ethos, our entire “ideological narrative” is utterly, fundamentally, different to the deeply embedded national chauvinist, racist, royalist, free enterprise, hierarchical, xenophobia, which forms the ideological pus-ball of bourgeois ideology, the manipulated “commonsense” of the “man on the Clapham omnibus”. Add to this the huge decline in mass awareness of, and sympathy for, socialist ideas , over the last 30 years of neoliberal advance, and the very general mass confusion of “socialism” with totalitarian Stalinism, and we on the radical socialist Left have no comparable underlying ideological wellspring of collectivist, self aware working class consciousness or tradition nowadays to draw upon by simply stating some widely understood and widely accepted “ Pavlovian response” key words in the mass of the public, to help build our counter ideological consensus organisational and campaigning fightback against the Austerity Offensive and its underlying capitalist systemic reality.

    So when we on the radical Left are advised to take a leaf out of the “populist” approach of UKIP in order to build a radical Left alternative , what is it about the populism of UKIP that we can actually apply in our quest to build a mass socialist party ? I think that there are only a few key features of the populism of the Right that we can apply in our radically different reality – counterposing as we need to do a completely different socialist ideological narrative to the dominant racist, nationalist, status quo, pro-capitalist narrative that forms that poisonous ideological resource which parties of the right can all draw upon continuously. I think the key lesson to be learnt from UKIP’s rise is just how limited an “explanation” and “policy bundle” a right populist party needs to be successful – simply because by issuing euphemistic “nod and a wink” key phrases to the voting public – voters attracted to policies based on wildly varying degrees of racist and xenophobic ideology will “fill in the missing detail” with their own interpretations of where the current bandwagon party of right wing despair stands in relation to their own views. Varying degrees of xenophobia and racism obviously lie at the heart of the “UKIP Offer” – but their very vagueness in spelling out any policy detail helps to accumulate around this vague “disgruntled rightist view” a wide voter and support base – unbothered by the “confusions” of detailed policy.

    I think that Left Unity, at this stage of its development, needs to take this single policy lesson from the methodology of the populist Right, ie, we need to keep the message we send out very, very basic – focussing on a few limited issues. We need to attack Austerity as a bosses plot to make us , the vast majority, pay for their crisis. We need to highlight the corruption and self interest of the rich and their political creatures. We of course also need to attack racism and xenophobia as divisive tricks to divide us, the majority working class. We need to counterpose the collective provision and ownership of the health service, the public utilities, the banking system, to the greed driven shambolic chaos of their privatised capitalist system. We need to concentrate on building mass struggle against all the features of the Austerity Offensive. What we don’t need are carefully defined “party positions” on an endless range of what are in the conditions of today’s struggle, peripheral, “bee in the bonnet” causes and issues –often beloved for their endless wrangling potential by too many on the Far left for generations, eg, Ireland, Israel/Palestine the fine detail of environmentalism, the nature of the Soviet Union, what Trotsky or Lenin did or said in 1920, cranky “positive money” or “Citizen’s Income” nostrums, etc, etc, etc .

    And that is actually ALL I think we can or should take from the methodologies of the populist Right. We shouldn’t for instance , as some on the Left periodically urge us to do, try to make concessions to the undoubted widespread worry about “immigration” amongst the working class. (Though it is ironic that the only sociopolitical context in which the neoliberal drive for completely open labour supply on a world scale would be halted in its tracks would be in the context of a socialist state/group of co-operating socialist states operating a comprehensive national economic plan, of which maximising the use of indigenous labour resources would inevitably be a key element). Nor should we get embroiled in “tailing” or pandering to the petty nationalist ideologies underlying so much of the “supposed “Left” takes on issues like “no to the EU” and pro Welsh/Scottish/Cornish independence campaigns. We just need to say at this stage our mission , as Left Unity, is to build a mass fightback against Austerity in its many manifestations – and leave all the divisive , “other stuff” for another day.

    Not much to extract from the supposed “lessons “ that UKIP’s right populist successes are often claimed to hold out to the radical Left – but if we did actually focus on a few basic messages, with real mass appeal – far beyond the eternally fractious “ radical Left Bubble” , then I think we would avoid a lot of pointless internal argument –and set ourselves on a firm course for real growth, as Labour shifts ever rightwards and leaves a huge gap for a popular mass party of the radical Left.

  11. Tim Dawes says:

    As a Green Party member, I find little to disagree with in this analysis. The Greens were really the only party of the Left in serious contention on Thursday (unless you count Plaid in Wales) and although we continued to make steady progres through hard work and careful targetting, our popular vote was down slightly. In the absense of any other credible left party to vote for we really ought to be doing better. And its not for lack of radical libertarian left candidates – eg Molly Scott Cato in the SW Euros.

  12. Heather Downs says:

    http://www.prsecrets.com/freearticles/092_barack_obamas_campaign_strategy.html

    This is from exactly the type of source we usually ignore because of its reactionary associations – overlook all that for once and just ook at it as a tool for communicating. We’re never going to get rich donors. All we have is street stalls, leaflets, the internet and an occasional film. so we might as well work out the most effective way to use our very limited resources

  13. Heather Downs says:

    this is what Labour are doing and they will have had this through the PR machine, focus groups and the lot. I don’t like it, but I could be very much in a minority

  14. Ian says:

    You don’t build a society by having Russel Brand or Jeremy Hardy as “spokesmen” you build it through engagement with your neighbour and co-worker. You look at society as it is and through dialogue illustrate how it can be better. Together we build – leaders only fail us.

    • Coolfonz says:

      You can do both.

      One thing Unity needs, is money.

      Another is to step into other parties’ territory. Make Unity a party of aspiration through its tax policy as well as house building, school places, nurses doctors and hospital beds proposals.

  15. John Tummon says:

    Tom, there are three separate threads on this subject that I think ought to be consolidated. Yours, Micheline Mason’s and Dave Kellaways are all very interesting and vauable contribtuions to the same essential debate.

    I like a lot fo John Penney’s piece but it comes down to ignroing the UKIP agenda and focusing on our own, a viewpoint that I have argued against on a 4th thread, so I am copying the bulk of it onto this one:

    “Just look here at what UKIP voters actually think on social and economic issues (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/16/ukip-divided-left-right-cut-labour-support) and you will see a more developed version of the reason the BNP arose in the early noughties in areas where working class people used to vote Labour but were desperately craving for a voice that seemed or claimed to be listening to them. This is what we tackled in Oldham over several years, by establishing our voice and presence in key communities.

    This is the long haul that I know works and it contrasts with just turning up at election time. We need to knock on doors and talk to people a week after we have posted a leaflet through their door, listening and engaging with them. We need to do this street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, until we know that we have replaced UKIP as the party people look to represent how they feel.

    Then look on the Vote for Policies website and you will see that, once people consider issues instead of personalities, they are close to us, just as the UKIP voters are, at least on socio-economic issues. But election time is a time when media and party propaganda become loud and simplistic, symbolic rather than specific – suited to the de-politicised and volatile electorate. We don’t stand a chance in such an overheated atmosphere.

    And why has UKIP won the EU elections? My view is that it comes down to the political legacy left not just by New Labour, but by Old Labour, too. The Labour Party evolved over the 20th century not only into a social democratic party, but into a nationalist social democratic party, supportive of the British Empire, the nuclear bomb, then of the American alliance, then of the Wars on Terror. It has, throughout its post – First World War history, loyally supported a militaristic monarchy and the symbolism that goes along with that and it is, of course, deeply unionist. Its affiliated trade unions have followed the same nationalism.

    The long-term effect of this on the working class political landscape is that the vast majority of workers are British or English nationalists, whether overtly or covertly so, familiar with and supportive of key symbols of this nationalism and more insular than a lot of Europeans. In combination with a Labour Party which turned its back since the 1980s on the economic and social justice agenda in order to accommodate itself fully to post-Thatcherite neoliberalism, as New Labour, this means that the working class communities where Labour is no longer active feel the loss not just of this economic and social justice agenda (which LU was set up to revive and take forward) but of the nationalist agenda, too. Of the two, the first (our agenda) cannot be taken seriously yet because it has been progressively silenced over decades by free market rhetoric, whereas working class nationalism lives on, connected to a reviving ruling class nationalism, railing at the globalised world of modern capitalism, expressed through everything from Wootton Bassett through to Help for Heroes and the latest round of royal events, the media’s nationalist coverage of Olympics and World Cups and, now, the debate over Scottish independence.

    UKIP, completely (or almost so) uncontaminated by the Nazi past of its membership, has taken over the BNP’s appeal to the people Labour left behind for Blairism, but also in more propitious circumstances. Clegg is right that he stood up to debate nationalism versus internationalism (of a sort) with Farage, won in the eyes of media and political class pundits, but lost in the eyes of all who have an emotional stake in this revived nationalism, including working class nationalism, which never went away.

    This is our problem – we cannot raise socio-economic issues like austerity, wealth inequality etc in a climate in which a potent nationalism is being taken forward in heated electioneering campaigns. We are basically saying to people – “you don’t know it, but this is what you should really be concerned about!”, wishing their nationalism away, pretending it is not there.

    It is – the working class we want to recruit to Left Wing politics is nationalist. Do we confront this nationalism or ignore it and just look for the socio-economic issues where we think there is a vested working class interest? I don’t think so, but linking the two strands and showing the need for progress on global as well as more local equality is the key, but that, I am afraid, is along haul of similar proportions to what the 19th century socialists took on. The notion of socialist growth and progress through incremental vote-gathering at election times ignores the way in which ideology and ideological control operate, diverging in the years between elections and converging during election campaigns which count for nothing if you haven’t got a foot through the door of the mass media. The Greens have taken the incremental electoral route for decades and now have around 8% and their reward for that is to be consistently ignored by the media; even if we were as successful as them, which I cannot see happening, we would still be ignored.

    There are no shortcuts!”

    So, yes, I believe we need to find our left radical populist feet, but that has to involve ways of taking on the attacks on migrants, attacking nationaism as the last refuge of the scoundrel and bending the narrative that John Penney has set out as residing in the magma of popular consciousness under capitalism. That is the long haul, creating strongholds in communities we win over by patient local work over years and years, standing in election sonly when we know we can use them to get noticed by the media and gain a bigger profile, but the media will deny this to us for as long as they can, and that means a very long time.

  16. Steve Wallis says:

    Whereas I agree with some of the points Tom makes, I think he exaggerates the threat of UKIP in working class areas, particularly in cities, where UKIP got virtually got no council seats anywhere in the country, as pointed out in Tom Clark’s blog: http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/local-election-results-2014-aav.html. The blog entry also explains the particularly difficult local circumstances that have caused a lot of racism in Rotherham. UKIP came close in Middleton, where Lee Rigby came from, but their failure to win that seat is more remarkable than UKIP’s minor successes in the odd fairly large town.

    The ridiculous narrative that Labour was struggling anywhere outside London, later used to justify Labour’s swing to the right on the issue of immigration that Tom pointed out, which has caused a “flurry” of membership enquiries according to an LU press release, was started in the Guardian article at: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/23/ukip-results-divide-london-rest-england

    How come Labour won every single seat contested in Manchester with the Green Party second on 12.8% and UKIP fifth? How come the Greens gained one seat and won another in Liverpool to overtake the Lib Dems (who lost the only seat they were contesting) as the official opposition to Labour, which won all the rest (a city that the Lib Dems controlled until recently)?

    UKIP never do anything like as well at general elections as European ones, due to the much lower focus on withdrawing from the EU and immigration (although disgracefully media bosses chose to have a question on immigration at all three of the party leader debates between Brown, Cameron and Clegg before the last election, with the economy only discussed at one of them).

    UKIP appeared to do much better in the Euro elections than they really did, outside London, due to the lumping in of predominantly Labour cities and large towns with Tory heartlands, with Tory and UKIP supporters being more likely to vote than Labour ones (or the mass of disaffected, predominantly working class, people who would vote Labour if it inspired them with a positive vision for the future).

    Labour has a formidable cynical electoral machine, targeting marginal seats and seats in marginal constituencies (which is not to say that the Tories and Lib Dems don’t do likewise, but not always as successfully). Labour actually won more council seats than the Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens put together in the local elections! You would almost think that UKIP had a landslide victory from media coverage but they got a lower share of the vote in local elections than in 2013 and only beat Labour by 2% in the Euros!

    From a democratic point of view, it is scandalous that the Greens can get 12.8% in Manchester, and even 21% across Hackney council, without winning a seat. There is an organisation called Unlock Democracy (http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk) which campaigns for the Single Transferable Vote form of proportional representation (the form of PR adopted by LU for our internal elections), with the strategy of achieving it first in some councils as a step towards a democratic electoral system for Westminster (replacing the misnamed first-past-the-post where a small proportion of constituencies can affect the outcome).

    I’ll finish by making a suggestion of how best to argue for “open borders” (which is LU’s position on immigration):

    We should point out that appealing to the ruling class (big business and its representatives in parliament – and I include Labour MPs here even though some within LU still regard Labour as some sort of “workers’ party”) whose main strategy for staying in power is divide-and-rule, to open the borders is pointless (and arguably counterproductive). Instead we should say that when we come to power and end capitalism (LU policy due to an amendment from Camden branch to the revised Left Party Platform statement of aims, democratically voted for at the founding conference), we will *then* open the borders and allow people from across the world to come and experience life in a wonderful, vibrant, joyful, democratic socialist society – and many of them will undoubtedly go back to their homelands and help achieve socialism there too!

  17. Coolfonz says:

    Unity needs to have a coherent and consistent view on immigration and its effects on pay and employment. Don’t run away from the issue.

    I also have to say the idea of `open borders` is simplistic, utopian and a vote loser.

    Immigration can have an effect on wages and employment.
    But:
    Its effects are industry specific.
    Its effects are region specific.
    It normally hits the poorest 10pc of workers.
    Its effects are normally less than 5pc of wages.
    Its effects are temporary.

    The issue is far more complex than Ukip present.
    The issue has far less weight on wages and jobs than the 2007-08 collapse of the private sector, 35 years of disastrous economic policy, zero hours contracts etc etc.

    Don’t shy away from the issue. But essentially it is a trivial one which the establishment use to distract from their hideous economic record.


Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.

About Left Unity   Read our manifesto

Left Unity is a member of the European Left Party.

Read the European Left Manifesto  

ACTIVIST CALENDAR

Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.

Mon 23 Sept 11.00-12.30
Remain, reform, revolt: In and against Europe

In Brighton. What does changing Europe mean? What can a left movement – in and out of government – do about democratic reform, the environment, migration, and workers’ rights? Part of The World Transformed 2019 programme.

More info here

September and October
Remain Reform Revolt, public meetings

In Southampton, Manchester, Cambridge, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sunderland. Organised by Another Europe Is Possible and with a great lineup.

More info here.

 

20-27 Sept
Global Climate Strike

Global climate strikes and a week of actions to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels and emergency action to avoid climate breakdown.

More info here

Sun 29 Sept, 12.00-16.00
Shut Down The Tories – Protest the Tory Party Conference

They shut down Parliament – now we need to shut down the Tories. Be in Manchester to demonstrate.

Details here

8-10 Nov
European Forum, Brussels

The annual event for progressive, environmental and left forces will take place in Brussels. If you are interested in attending contact info@leftunity.org

More events »

GET UPDATES

Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.

CAMPAIGNING MATERIALS

Get the latest Left Unity resources.

Broadsheet: Disaster Capitalism

Transform journal

Broadsheet: No One is Illegal!

More resources »