The summer period has not gone well for the Labour Party. While Prime Minister David Cameron occupied the headlines trumpeting that now the economy is “on the mend” due to a meagre 0.6 per cent growth in the last quarter, Ed Miliband is criticised for his inaction and lack of political initiative.
And if we take into account the polls, the population has the same opinion in relation to Labour. In the Guardian/ICM poll in September, Ed Miliband’s party with 36 per cent has just a four point lead, down from seven-points in June, over the Tories. The lead over the Conservatives is decreasing as the Tories claim there are signs of a “growing” economy.
Apparently, voters are choosing the Tory policy of austerity and cuts in the hope that the maintenance of economic growth will lead to better days, despite their current sacrifice. However, appearances are deceptive, because the current growth has feet of clay.
The attacks will increase
Nothing indicates that attacks on workers and the most vulnerable will decrease because of this growth. On the contrary, it is the success of these attacks that is promoting an improvement in the economic situation. Falling wages, worsening working conditions and increases in the intensity of work pleases capitalism. That’s how profits increase, the stock market rises and the capitalists get richer.
Unemployment in Britain, with 11.5 million, has become permanent, with only 2.5m seeking employment. The latest release of the unemployment figures shows a 0.2 per cent decrease to 7.8 per cent.
But this does not expose that new jobs are mainly part-time or zero-hour contracts, which are growing in all businesses, in the big franchises of the services sector like Sports Direct, MacDonald’s, Wetherspoons, Amazon, but exist also in hospitals and education and even Buckingham Palace.
At least half of the 145 UK universities and two-thirds of further education colleges use zero hour contracts which do not guarantee work and often deny holiday and sick pay.
According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development zero-hour contracts could affect 1 million of the labour market, but as new facts surface the figure of 6 million is realistic.
In this scenario it is difficult to believe that workers prefer Tories to Labour. So the question is: why is Labour falling in the polls and why is the failure of Ed Miliband taken for granted?
Labour defends the same economic policy as Tories
A major problem for the lack of Labour’s political initiative is that its shadow cabinet supports the same political attacks on workers as the Tories do and merely criticises excesses or the pace at which cuts are made. They say the cuts are going too far and too fast.
Facing the scandal of the zero-hours contracts, the Labour Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, limited his statement to say that they should be the exception to the rule: “While some employees welcome the flexibility of such contracts, for many zero-hours contracts leave them insecure, unsure of when work will come, and undermining family life”.
Even Miliband at the TUC Congress said that zero-hour contracts were acceptable for some jobs, like supply teachers and “young people working in bars”.
They merely want to replace the Tory economic policy of low interest rates, quantitative easing and house speculation. Michael Meacher, a firm supporter of Miliband, wants to expand the economy by directing funds from quantitative easing into public-private partnerships and instructing the state-owned banks to lend more.
The only complaint Labour can raise to explain their lack of political initiative is that the Tories robbed all their ideas.
Workers abandon Labour, it’s time for a new workers’ party
The explanation for Labour’s decline in the recent polls should not be thought of as a sign of approval for Tory policy. The workers are abandoning the Labour Party because they know it is no longer their party.
A poll conducted with 712 Unite members between 10 and 17 July 2013 showed that only 12 per cent would pay to join the Labour party as an individual member, if contributions to the political fund no longer meant automatic affiliation, 73 per cent said they would not. But astonishingly 61 per cent said neither Ed Miliband nor Len McCluskey really represented them or the things they cared about. This means that neither Labour nor their union leaders represent workers.
The response of the Labour Party has been to quickly move to the right, trying to break its links with the trade unions and gain votes from the middle class. Recently the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, criticised Tesco and Next for hiring foreign workers, trying to revive their xenophobic campaign of “English jobs for English workers”.
Byrne also criticised the Tories for wasting £1.4 billion in implementing its policy of cutting benefits. But, far from asserting that Labour would end the cuts if in government, Byrne said he wanted to “bring social security spending under control”. “We will have to be laser-focused on how we spend every pound” he said.
As stated in The Guardian, 1 August, “The focus of Byrne is not challenging the substance of reforms… but criticism of his failure to deliver them properly”.
He was following the Miliband line, who had already stated at the conference to make his position crystal clear.
“We stand to inherit a very difficult situation. After three wasted years of lost growth, far from balancing the books, in 2015 there is now set to be a deficit of over £90bn … We won’t be able to reverse all the spending cuts and tax rises the Tories have pushed through. And we will have to govern with less money around.
“The next Labour government will have to make cuts, too. Because while jobs and growth are vital to getting the deficit down – something this government has never understood – they cannot magic the whole deficit away at a stroke”.
There is only one answer to Labour’s preparation for social war against workers, build a new workers’ party, where the rank and file decide. Where there is no room for the unions’ bureaucracies or Labour politicians. Where the goal is to defeat the austerity and benefits cut policy of governments, whether Tory or Labour.