Monday, 29 March 2010

Socialist Labour Party look to provide a left alternative for voters

When Tony Blair rewrote Clause IV of Labour's constitution in the mid-nineties he alienated a significant minority of his party. Their reaction was to form a new party of the left to provide voters with a Socialist platform to get behind after their traditional home had clearly shifted to the political centre. The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) hasn't been particularly successful since their split from New Labour but as a minor party with no significant backing they've done well to survive 14 years. Former trade union leader Arthur Scargill will lead the party into their fourth General Election and I imagine just his name will remind some readers of a time when union strikes really were something for the general public to get het up about!

The SLP fielded candidates across the country, including Plymouth, in 2005 but only received 20,192 votes. They faired much better under the proportional representation system used in the European Union elections as their 173,115 votes represented 1.1% of the total cast in 2009. We asked their South West representative, Rob Hawkins, for his views on the current industrial action and his party's hopes for forthcoming General Election.

The SLP are not confirmed as standing yet but for Hawkins the goal is to gain a seat in Parliament.

"In the event of SLP standing in Plymouth elections we would hope to pull off the sort of surprise that Michael Foot sprang in the 1945 election when his win was totally unexpected. Locally, in a General Election, SLP would be out to win, maximise its vote and put a socialist alternative to the electorate."

I'd imagine an SLP victory in Plymouth this year would be even more impressive than that of the late former Labour Leader's 65 years ago but there is no denying the party offer a clear alternative from the main parties. Hawkins' said he was not bothered if his party's vote cost New Labour a seat to the Conservatives.

"All the main Capitalist parties including Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories are pursuing Thatcherite right wing agendas of privatisation. It matters not, therefore, to the working class that our vote should be greater than a Tory majority over Labour since their policies are much of a Capitalist muchness"

He also felt the strength of UKIP in a city like Plymouth would not affect the SLP's vote share despite both parties' commitment to withdrawn from the European Union.

"UKIP are pretty much a single issue party of the right, that issue being withdrawal from the EU. It just so happens that on this one particular issue there is a coincidence but on the multitude of political and economic issues, I doubt that there is anything else in common with the SLP"

Finally, Hawkins feels the current Government are not doing enough to support the workers involved in the current industrial disputes. Especially as he feels that the UNITE leaders have not exactly covered themselves in glory either.

"The SLP supports any workers in struggle. This must be contrasted with the Labour leadership, Tories and Lib Dems who have all come out on the side of the bosses in the dispute.

"Having said that, the leadership of Unite have consistently done their best to undermine the strike and sell their members down the river. What sort of leadership is it that negotiates wage reductions on behalf of its members?!"

Of course, the SLP are extremely unlikely to secure a seat in Parliament in May. But with the amount of bad news the current incumbents have managed to produce in the last five years they'll be one of a number of small parties looking to seduce disaffected voters away from the Big Three. If nothing else I think it's admirable that the SLP scrape enough money together to give voters a socialist option on the ballot despite the fact they have little chance of receiving their deposit back in most seats. Perhaps, as the calls for PR get increasingly louder, they'll become a more prominent name in British politics. But for the moment just standing candidates is an impressive achievement in itself.


Post a Comment