Some opinion polls have the Tory lead as low as two percent. On balance the polls suggest Cameron will have a small, but workable majority. But the Tories have been pushed back, and clearly can be pushed back further. That is good.
All the mainstream party leaders are committed to cuts, but it makes a big difference whether the party in power has a mandate for huge and rapid cuts — so big and so rapid that they might have to launch a new Thatcher-type attack on the unions to push through. While the unions have channels they could use to fight Labour — though at present they scarcely do — the Tories in power would be under pressure from parties even further to the right, like UKIP and the BNP.
A Tory victory would represent a mood of thinking that nothing better is possible, and that maybe the Tories’ hardline version of cuts will sort things out quicker. But a poll in the Financial Times on 15 March suggests that 50 percent reject all cuts. The widespread anti-cuts sentiment may be hardening.
It is vital to defeat the Tories — but it will be a hollow victory if we do not couple it with a fight for the labour movement to take on and defeat Brown. It will be a hollow victory if Brown uses a strong Labour vote in the general election to stitch up a coalition with the Lib Dems, or even a “grand coalition” with the Tories, rationalised on the grounds that the economic crisis requires “strong government”.
Even if Labour does well enough to form a new government by itself, it may be a hollow victory.
• Look at the BA strike. Although the Labour Party depends heavily on financial support from the BA workers’ union Unite, Brown and his weaseling henchman Andrew Adonis have turned on the workers, trying to bully them into giving in, because their politics and their instincts tell them to side with the bosses.
• Look at the budget. According to his Financial Times interview of 18 January, chancellor Alistair Darling plans cuts of 17 percent in most departments other than health.
• Look at the cuts taking place in higher and further education.
• Look at the NHS, where Labour is promoting further privatisation in the guise of “social enterprises”, dumping the government’s vague commitment to Unison to make in-house NHS services the “preferred provider”.
The New Labour leaders get away with all this because the unions let New Labour take them for granted. By doing so they demobilise workers, spread demoralisation and fertilise the ground for the far right. We must fight for the unions to use all the means they have to push working-class interests against New Labour’s dominant neoliberalism.
There are six week to go until the election. Socialists should use that time to rally trade union members, and go into the streets to rally new activists — to build a force which can not only keep the Tories out, but fight Brown and his Tory policies in the name of a working-class alternative. That is the only way to fight both cuts and the continuing growth of the far right.
That is what the AWL will be doing. If you agree with our analysis, help us.
• Campaigning in Peckham and Camberwell, centre pages.
• Building the Socialist Campaign to Stop the Tories and Fascists.