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Whatever Happened To The Far Left?

August 31st, 2007

H&S

    Sean Fear’s Friday slot

A couple of weeks ago, I examined the impact of parties to the Right of the Conservatives. This week, I do the same with parties to the Left of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Back in the 1980s, quite large numbers of people supported Labour’s policies of nationalisation, unilateral nuclear disarmament, restoration of the right to secondary picketing and the closed shop, and ending the sale of council houses. In fact, I can remember intelligent people at university arguing at the time that East Germany’s economy was outperforming our own, and that the United States was a greater threat to this country than the Soviet Union. Most of the people who held such views must still be alive today.

Although the current Labour government has been more left wing than its rhetoric suggests, it must still be a disappointment to people who hold such opinions. It is puzzling therefore, that no significant party of the Far Left has emerged over the past 10-15 years. In Labour’s heartlands, the potential for such a party must exist.

Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party occasionally saves a deposit, but never really developed any momentum,. Tommy Sheridan’s Socialist Labour Party enjoyed some success in the Scottish Parliamentary elections of 2003, before collapsing in the embarrassment of a libel trial that saw most of Sheridan’s close colleagues giving evidence against him. Militant Tendency changed its name, and has won the odd council seat here or there, but has nothing like the support it had 20 years ago.

Respect has built up a following in the East End, and a few other parts of the country. They won Bethnal Green and Stepney in 2005, and came a very good second in Birmingham Sparkbrook. Unfortunately, for them, the latter constituency has been abolished in the latest round of boundary changes. In the long run, they may challenge Labour in East and West Ham, but outside of a few constituencies, Labour doesn’t need to worry about them. Their support is almost completely confined to Muslim voters, and even then, most Muslims don’t vote for them.

The Green Party would probably deny that they are a party of the far Left. Their policies however, place them well to the Left of any of the main parties. They have over 100 elected councillors (no mean achievement under first past the post). They also have a chance of winning a seat off Labour in Brighton, at the next election. However, they probably do more damage to the Liberal Democrats than they do to Labour. In 2006, a strong Green performance certainly cost the Liberal Democrats overall control of Islington Council, and may well have cost them control of Haringey as well. In inner urban areas, the Greens and Liberal Democrats are often chasing after the same type of voter, young, secular, environmentally concerned, and professional.

All in all, Labour must count themselves fortunate that no party of the Far Left has emerged that can do significant damage to them.

There were three by-elections last night:-

Loughton BC, Alderton. BNP 393, Resident 367, Lib Dem 172, Conservative 163 Labour 98 ,UKIP 28. BNP hold. This is the first BNP by-election win for 4 years, and their first ever hold in a by-election. It points to firm BNP support in the old London County Council overspill estates. Until quite recently, this was a safe Labour ward.

Isle of Wight UA, Newport North. Conservative 207, Lib Dem 189, Labour 137, UKIP, 25, Independent 23, Independent 2. Conservative hold. The Liberal Democrats leap-frogged Labour to take second place.

Stroud DC, Nailsworth: Conservative 857, Green 810, Labour 261. Conservative hold. This is a most unusual example of a Conservative/Green marginal seat. For several elections in a row, the Conservatives have held on by very narrow margins here.

Sean Fear is a London Conservative activist and a regular contributor to pb.com

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