People want change – Labour must provide it

End the Occupations

The extreme Right is waiting in the wings with its populist nationalist rhetoric and migrant scapegoating

The mood of UK citizens is for change.  In the face of 14 years of callous Tory government, a cost of living crisis, and a broken Britain, the signs are clear. The Wellingborough by-election which saw a massive 28% swing to Labour – the second highest since the 2nd World War – and Kingswood with 16%, alongside opinion polls showing Labour with double digit leads over the Tories, shows the writing is on the wall.

Sunak’s government is bankrupt, presiding over collapsing public services, continuing price rises, soaring rents and mortgages and now an economic recession. It is little wonder people have had enough. Britain is now a more unequal and poorer country after 14 years of Tory failure. But as Prem Sikka shows, not everyone has suffered. The rich have got richer as the wealth gap has grown with the top 1% now owning the same as 70% of Britons. Bankers’ bonuses continue to be paid, while the energy giants make super profits. Food banks and homelessness alongside in-work poverty illustrate the consequences of this class-biased government.

For most people the experience of the last four Tory governments has been constant austerity. Local government funding has been cut to the bone, as Tom Miller reports, leaving councils with a 40% shortfall in resources to spend on social care, housing and leisure services, with many facing effective bankruptcy. Thousands of libraries, swimming pools and youth centres have closed as a result.

Spending cuts have also hit the NHS hard, boosting waiting lists to over seven million with huge staff shortages and big problems of recruitment and retention of nurses and doctors. Dr John Puntis explains why junior doctors are striking over the long erosion of their pay, the only tactic now left to them in the face of government intransigence.

So what is Labour offering? It has got to be more than Tory lite. Labour had a Green Recovery Plan of £28bn to boost green jobs, cut energy bills, switch to more renewables as part of measures to tackle the climate emergency. Why has Labour abandoned the policy which had inspired millions, particularly younger voters? David Toke asks the question: what is the choice between the Green Party and Labour? Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves talks of sticking to fiscal rules. But these are government inventions. Borrowing to invest in green infrastructure is sound economics, and will reap rewards, as will taxes on the huge profits of big corporations and closing tax evasion loopholes.

There is also a democratic agenda Labour could be proposing for greater devolution, electoral reform and removal of outdated feudal relics like the House of Lords, as proposed by Glyn Ford. These moves would not have big price tags but would show Labour was serious about bringing power to the people in the face of the spurious claims of the Brexiteers whose “take back control” mantra has evaporated into a miasma of failed trade deals and rising costs. Bryn Jones picks up on the Post Office scandal, seeing an opportunity for Labour to embrace the idea of mutualisation as a way of both democratising this public service, and enabling workers to have a voice as a counter to the silence of lambs that stripped thousands of their livelihoods.

As we celebrate 100 years of the first Labour government Jon Cruddas MP highlights some of the lessons from the past. If Starmer embraces the radical tradition of ethical socialism founded on social justice and radical wealth redistribution, democratisation and empowerment then new avenues open for the kind of positive social change millions want to see.

On the international level too Labour should be taking a lead. As we pass two years since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and five months of unrelenting bombing and destruction of the people of Gaza it is time for Labour to stand up for the oppressed and occupied. Solidarity with Ukraine and Palestine should not just be slogans but calls to action. Ukraine desperately needs more military aid to turn back the Putin war machine. Palestinians in Gaza desperately need an immediate permanent ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories. As Frank Hansen argues, Labour should have no qualms about standing for these positions. Self determination for Ukraine and for Palestine are struggles in different contexts but warranting energetic support. Oleksandra Matviychuk explains the death, destruction and despoliation of the Ukrainian people now, more than ever, requires military and humanitarian aid. Pete Duncan in an assessment of Putin’s ten year war of conquest underlines the necessity of arms to turn back Russian aggression if peace and stability in Europe is to be restored.

While hundreds of thousands have marched in London and across the world demanding an end to Israeli genocidal actions and a ceasefire now in Gaza, Mica Nava highlights the importance of the long tradition of Boycotts, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS), which the Tories are seeking to block with new legislation, as a way to peacefully undermine Israel’s aggression. Labour could step up its support for such policies and call for an immediate end of arms sales to Israel alongside its promotion of longer term Palestinian state. Colin Shindler explains the nature of the far right Israeli government behind Netanyahu’s intransigence.

Across the pond Paul Garver reports on the populist leviathan that is Trump and the way the Left in the Democratic Party have been organising with trade unions to develop a more robust domestic and internationalist stand from the Biden regime.

If Labour and the Democrats do not up their game to provide a radical social democratic alternative, the extreme Right is waiting in the wings with its populist nationalist rhetoric and migrant scapegoating. Patrick Costello anticipates this far Right threat in the forthcoming European elections. Only a radical programme of reform and redistribution, founded on inclusive values of social justice and human rights, can fully turn back this threat.

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