UK elections and the need for a new worker’s party

Nigel Smith

Since the UK general election has been called for July 4th, it seems appropriate to make an analysis of the strength of the Left at the current time and progress towards an alternative political voice for the working class.


The need to establish a British working-class political party has never been greater or more urgent. The retreat of the Labour Party into neo-liberalism and its effective ousting of socialists from its ranks confirm this. The final brick in the wall of any pretence at Labour representing workers has recently fallen. Sharon Graham, the general secretary of the UNITE union, has written to her members complaining that Labour, under Keir Starmer, has abandoned its previous pledges on restoring workers’ rights. Responding to the recent New Deal documents sent to the trade union leaders by the Labour Party, Graham said:

“In truth this new document is not worthy of discussion. All unions must now demand that Labour changes course and puts the original New Deal for Workers back on the table.”

At the same time as condemning the new document, Graham suggests that there is still some point in discussing changes to it with Labour. Labour clearly tore up the previous document negotiated with the unions to replace it with what Graham describes as “a charter for bad bosses”.

This reflects a confusion that the tops of the trade unions have in believing that they can still influence the direction of the current Labour Party. Their inability to really challenge the state by shielding the Labour Party from the full force of the worker’s movement is once more revealed. Unite, along with many other unions is still a major contributor to the Labour Party’s coffers and seems to think that this may make a difference to Labour’s political direction when, in reality, the trade union movement as a whole and workers in particular are treated with contempt by Keir Starmer’s Labour.


The emergence of George Galloway’s, Workers’ Party of Britain, WPB – winning a parliamentary seat at a recent by-election in Rochdale and four council seats in the council elections that followed, has disconcerted the establishment. The local election results in particular revealed a disintegration in support for the Conservative Party and an increase in support for independent and other parties as well as Labour.

The Conservative vote went into free-fall with them losing almost half the seats contested – falling from 989 to 515, a fall of 474. Labour did gain 186 seats, from 972 to 1158, but when one adds together seats won by other parties one can deduce that support was greater for all the other smaller parties and groups than for Labour. These groups were: Liberal Democrats from 418 to 522, an increase of 104, Greens from 107 to 181, an increase of 74, Independents from 135 to 228 an increase of 93 and Residents Associations from 37 to 48 an increase of 11. The Worker’s Party of Britain won 4 seats and Reform UK, a right-wing populist party, 2 seats.

Reform UK must have been disappointed by its results because it would have expected to take votes and seats directly from the Conservative Party. The Worker’s Party significantly out-performed them and from a much smaller base. The WPB did stand in selected seats and largely on the basis of support for the Palestinian cause. In Halifax for example, a Muslim, ex-Tory candidate stood for the WPB and won a seat.


The Trades Unionists and Socialist Coalition TUSC, saw an increase in support. The support for their candidates was over 10% in 10 of the 46 seats they contested. However, the high profile of the charismatic George Galloway offers greater recognition in public consciousness for WPB than for other Left parties and groups, such as TUSC, the Campaign for a Mass Worker’s Party CMWP, Transform Politics, Breakthrough etc. The Corbyn phenomenon showed that support for progressive ideas could gain traction amongst voters once they start to understand what they were and the candidate seems credible. This was the case in increasing levels of support for Jeremy Corbyn prior to the cynical and ruthless undermining of Corbyn by the Blairites in his own party.

The WPB therefore offers a hint at a way forward, but Galloway has twice previously been elected to Parliament only for his support-base to evaporate. It suggests that if a high-profile figure were to get behind a new initiative and, more importantly, grab media attention then support would build for such an initiative. This looks an unlikely prospect from out of Labour’s ranks. Those MPs who have been deselected or had the whip removed have so-far not declared their intentions clearly enough. Corbyn’s bubble has not exactly burst but his solid base of support has largely become disillusioned and drifted away. Many have joined the Greens or experimented with new initiatives, such as Enough is Enough, only to be further chewed up and spat out by bureaucratic manoeuvrings in the new organisations. Many have dropped out of politics altogether. Dianne Abbot has been treated appallingly by the Labour Party and she, along with the remaining Left, should resign and join the fight to build a new party of the working class. It must be said however, that the leadership and direction of any new party should not be determined by burnt-out ex-Labour MPs. The WPB reports increased membership since Galloway’s victory but a reading of their manifesto has some worrying aspects, particularly their failure to address the LGBTQI issue except through reactionary and Biblically-inspired pronouncements from Galloway.


TUSC has the most coherent and progressive platform, but its shrinking body of support from across the organised Left as well as losing a clear impetus from the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) holds it back. Its lack of a wide public platform and a virtual boycott of any publicity for it from any of the capitalist media, when the far-right gets plenty, is also a significant factor in its inability to capture the public’s imagination.

Other groups tend to come and go and there is a trend for looking at standing independents on a socialist platform as happened with Newham Socialist Labour- NSL. Following mass expulsions from the Labour Party, NSL was set up to challenge Labour from a socialist direction. NSL now holds three seats in Newham, two from by-elections and one defection, but it is unclear how much political influence NSL has on the three independents. Elsewhere, increasing numbers of Labour councillors are resigning, especially over Labour’s position on Palestine and this could lead to further support for Left independents. At least 30 Labour MPs are not going to stand at the next election in spite of their chances of winning their seat rising. The Muslim Vote Campaign, supported by the Muslim Association of Britian and other organisations has been launched to try and affect the outcome of the general election. However, this does not mean that any of the Muslim candidates would stand on a socialist platform and it seems likely that the single issue of Palestine would dominate the discourse rather than socialist or progressive ideas. There are also few seats in the UK where the Muslim vote would prove decisive. There are calculated to be 92 seats where the Muslim vote is more than 10% but only 5 where it is greater than 40%.


It is welcome news that TUSC and the WPB have agreed for the time being not to stand against one another. This should be the template across the Left. TUSC has tried to bring left groups together with a conference in Birmingham earlier this year and several groups did attend including WPB. It would seem obvious that many of the groups mentioned above: CMWP, Transform Politics, Breakthrough Party, People’s Alliance of the Left etc should build in unison according to a federal structure. The up-coming CMWP rally on 9th July could be an opportunity for greater unity. TUSC’s desire for a joint electoral descriptor in order to win at least some mainstream airtime seems a reasonable idea but WPB is not interested in such an arrangement. Galloway gets plenty of media coverage.

The approach of socialists everywhere should be to join and support existing groups wherever they are and try to build support where no groups exist. The decision to support WPB candidates will prove problematic for many. The Socialist Worker’s Party entered a pact with Galloway during the era of Respect and because of its negative experience is now unlikely to show support for WPB. Many will see WPB as preferable to Labour or any of the alternatives but Galloway’s anti-trans rhetoric is unacceptable and his pronouncements on LGBTQI issues patronising and reactionary. The Greens have “form” when it comes to local governance and have consistently proved to be effective advocates of capitalist and even neo-liberal policies.  Although their position on Palestine seems better than the other mainstream parties, the Greens should be judged by their past track-record when it comes to governance, rather than pronouncements from the side-lines.


Most people on the Left have in recent months been absorbed into the struggle for justice in Palestine. What needs to happen is for groups to grow out of this struggle that can carry the struggle forward politically. This is a hard argument to put across when there is so much emotion around the systematic annihilation of the Palestinians. But the political task must be engaged in through forging links across the Left and strengthening those links. Over time a greater force could emerge, with a coherent platform of a socialist character. Holding onto past grievances and disagreements is not an option. Once in government the Labour Party will begin to reveal the true depths of its neo-liberal agenda and will fail to help ordinary working people by reversing austerity or protecting worker’s rights. This will lead to greater disillusionment with Labour and an opportunity for the Left. However, the tens of thousands of burnt-out and those disillusioned by the lies and machinations of the Starmer surge, will not come easily back into struggle. A coherent, flexible and modern party or federation of parties needs to begin the process of convincing the youth and those disillusioned by Labour that there is a chance for a fresh and radical force that can capture a new form of socialist democracy.

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