British Labour takes office but little enthusiasm on show

Labour won a big majority in Britain’s election on 4 July after 14 years of Tory rule. But it was far from a vote of confidence in the party under leader Sir Keir Starmer. The results saw a surge towards the racist far right Reform UK party while pro-Palestine independents won five seats.

Despite an almost 20 per cent swing against the Tories, Labour’s share of the vote rose by just 1.7 per cent, with only one third of voters backing them. And much of this was due to gains in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party vote collapsed.

In a further example of the rise of the racist right, Reform UK took 14.3 per cent of the vote and five seats, including a seat for party leader Nigel Farage. This follows the successes for France’s fascist National Rally, the Alternative for Germany and other far right parties across Europe.

The anger at the Tories and lack of enthusiasm for Labor allowed Farage to dominate the campaign. Some early polls even had Reform UK ahead of the Tories, and the party finished second in 98 seats.

Reform UK called for a freeze on “non-essential immigration”, blaming migrants for the declining health system and the lack of affordable housing. Farage said he wanted the poll to be “the immigration election”.

For years the Tories and Labor have promoted racism against refugees and migrants in an attempt to boost their own support. Farage is simply taking this one step further.

Outgoing Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to “stop the boats” in a racist scare against refugees, attempting to send them to Rwanda in imitation of the Australian government’s detention of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.

The Tories launched a vile racist ad featuring people rolling out a red carpet to refugee boats, claiming this would be “Labour’s approach to illegal immigration”.

As the Tories announced a new cap on migrant visas Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tried to outdo them saying, “Read my lips—I will bring immigration numbers down.”

Independents for Gaza

Labour also lost votes on its left due to its backing for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Jeremy Corbyn, running as an independent after the former leader was expelled from the Labour Party, convincingly defeated a Labour candidate. He said he ran for those who “want something different” and want to see a government that, “will search for peace not war, and not allow the terrible conditions to go on that are happening in Gaza”.

Independent Andrew Feinstein came second running against Sir Keir Starmer, taking 19 per cent as the Labour leader’s vote fell by half.

A Labour shadow minister, Jonathan Ashworth, lost his seat to pro-Palestine independent Shockat Adam, despite a previous majority of 22,000 votes. The Green Party also won three new seats, increasing its total to four. In two of them it ran prominently on Gaza.

Many of the independent victories were in areas with large Muslim populations. But as the votes for Corbyn, Andrew Feinstein and other independents show the impact of Gaza and the mass movement for Palestine was far wider.

There is a message in this for Anthony Albanese about the consequences of his own complicity in Israel’s genocide.

After 14 years of savage cuts to services and the health system under the Tory government, there is a widespread desire for change. But Labour promised little, with Starmer sending signals it would keep the rich and powerful on side, saying the party was “pro-business” and the “party of wealth creation”.

It plans a global investment summit in its first 100 days and has already held meetings with banks including BlackRock, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC to discuss infrastructure deals.

Labour pledged not to increase taxes on corporations or the rich, limiting its ability to restore health funding or roll out renewable energy.

Instead its manifesto dumped earlier promises on the use of private contractors in the National Health Service, affordable housing and green infrastructure spending.

Just the like Albanese government here, British Labour wants to govern in the interests of big business and the ruling class.

This means there is a serious danger of further far right advances as disillusionment in the new Labour government inevitably spreads. Already fascist Tommy Robinson, who called for a vote for Reform UK, has called a protest in London.

There needs to be a union fightback to force the new government to end austerity policies, tax the rich and tear up the anti-union laws. Mobilisations against racism and over Palestine are also set to continue. These movements outside parliament are the key to pushing back racism and forcing real change.

By James Supple


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