by Nick Wrack
George Galloway’s victory in Bradford West was remarkable.
It shows that Labour can no longer take its working class voters – be they Asian or white – for granted.
Writing in today’s Observer Andrew Rawnsley fails to comment on the most obvious factor at play here: Labour’s dismal record of opposing the government.
The break-down in the two-party or three-party system is taking place because they all of them say more or less the same thing. Labour has endorsed the government cuts. It backs the government’s pay freeze for public sector workers. It condemns workers who have taken strike action over pensions. It supports privatisation and PFI. It started the privatisation of the NHS. It supports Academies and Free Schools. How, exactly, is Labour putting up an opposition to the Tory-LibDem coalition?
All of this is against the back-drop of Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq and Labour’s support for the continued occupation of Afghanistan.
Even if Galloway’s victory is dismissed as Bradford exceptionalism, the processes at work are profound and will not stop.
There are now millions of working-class voters who are fed up with the three-party consensus in favour of austerity; making them pay for a crisis they did not create, while the bankers and bosses continue to pick up their million pound pay cheques, bonuses and solid gold pensions.
Trade union members are increasingly questioning why they pay money to a party that doesn’t support them in return. Take a look at the tanker drivers as the latest example.
Even more worrying for the Labour leadership than Galloway’s victory will be the prospect of large numbers of trade union members decamping to another party. In London the small Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition now has the support of three union general secretaries – the FBU’s Matt Wrack, RMT’s Bob Crow and the POA’s Steve Gillan – for its bid to win seats on the London Assembly on 3 May. The RMT national executive has backed TUSC in London, as has the FBU’s London region.
Labour had better beware. They may be in for another upset, this time in London.