THE COALITION took a drubbing in the local elections.
The Tories and Lib Dems lost 741 seats and 13 councils, including major cities like Southampton, where a year long strike campaign by local authority workers has finally seen their wage-cutting Tory bosses defeated at the polls.
Like in France, Britain has turned to the left under the hammer-blows of recession and austerity, unemployment and cuts.
The Labour Party – still associated with trade unions – was the main winner. Some left of Labour candidates – in Bradford, Walsall and Preston for example – also won, but Labour remains for millions of workers the only available political way to hit back against the Coalition.
And it’s not hard to see why the Coalition is so hated. Their budget has been exposed as raising taxes on pensioners’ incomes, hot snacks, caravans and hairdressers, while abolishing the top earners’ 50p tax rate and slashing corporation tax by 2 per cent.
This is a government for the rich by the rich.
It is also increasingly seen as corrupt. David Cameron regularly wines and dines party donors at No. 10 at £250,000 a throw, and enjoys close personal ties with key players in Rupert Murdoch’s News International media empire.
Any pretence that money and informal gatherings do not buy favours is laughable. As Murdoch told the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is the expectation in these circles.
Underlying this suspicion and hatred for the Coalition is the never ending recession. The economy is shrinking again; in truth it never recovered.
Unemployment stands at 2.65 million with twice that number needing to work extra hours to survive. Claimants are made to work without pay on government workfare schemes. Sick and disabled workers are forced into menial jobs even if they are terminally ill, while specialised Remploy factories are closed.
For those in work, pay has been pegged back for years, while inflation keeps pushing essential items like food, housing and fuel up and up.
The truth is austerity is choking the economy. The banks are sitting on their money, while a “lost generation” is deprived of jobs, priced out of education and hounded by an increasingly racist police.
Don’t wait for Labour
After the local elections, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Labour is back, throughout the country, on your side.”
But what has he actually done to stop the cuts? Labour councils have been implementing the cuts and the newly elected ones will doubtless do the same – if we let them. Labour refuses to back any strikes and is relying on voters returning them to office in 2015.
But we cannot afford to wait that long. The time to stop this destruction is now. Let’s hit this vicious government while the Coalition is reeling.
On 10 May 400,000 health workers, lecturers and civil servants will strike in defence of pensions. Unison’s Dave Prentis has called for a national demo against austerity in the autumn – “the biggest in our labour movement’s history”. UK Uncut is mobilising for direct action and street parties on 26 May to highlight inequality and expose the 1% who rule over us.
We need to unite these forces – young activists and mass unions – by organising from below, and demanding serious strike action: not one day, here and there, but all out and stay out to win.
We need to put the pressure on Labour too to oppose the cuts in deeds, not just in words, on the streets as well as in the council chambers and parliament.
But most of all we need a new, anticapitalist party that can help win today’s struggles and link them to the fight for a better world, a socialist future.