Britain: More nails in New Labour's coffin

July 12, 2008

Following disastrous performances in the English local council elections and the Crewe and Nantwich by-election in May, the ruling Labour Party suffered more humiliation at the hands of the electorate in the June 26 by-election in Henley-on-Thames.

Conservative Boris Johnson vacated the Oxfordshire seat after he took up the post of London mayor in May. Although the seat was deep in Conservative territory and Labour had come third in the 2005 general election, Labour's performance in the by-election was worse than even the most pessimistic Labour supporters could have feared.

The June 28 Morning Star reported that Conservatives retained the seat with a majority of 10,116 over the Liberal Democrats, who took second place. Labour lost its deposit and polled just 1066 votes, finishing fifth behind the Green Party and the far-right British National Party.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's woes increased on June 28 when Wendy Alexander, the Brownite leader of the Scottish Labour Party, resigned following a recommendation by the Scottish Parliament's standards committee that she be barred from the parliament for a day because she failed to declare donations to her 2007 campaign for the leadership of Scottish Labour.

In a comment posted on the Scottish Socialist Party website, former Labour MP and MSP John McAllion, who is now a member of the SSP, commented: "Unfortunately, Scottish New Labour will stagger on under new management … The party will continue to push the same pro-business and anti-worker policies at home and abroad while the economy implodes around them."

There is further potential by-election misery in store for Brown following the announcement by Glasgow East Labour MP David Marshall that he is resigning from the Westminster Parliament on health grounds.

The seat should be one of Labour's safest, but as the June 30 Morning Star commented: "At the last election, Marshall had a majority over the [Scottish National Party] of 13507 — but no Labour seat in Scotland can be seen as safe after the shock of the 2006 Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, where the Liberal Democrats overturned a Labour majority of 11500."

In a sign of how worried Labour are, they have been struggling to find someone willing to the candidate. The July 7 Morning Star reported that Labour's initial nominee, local councillor George Ryan, pulled out "to prevent pressures on his family life".

The July 9 Morning Star reported that Margaret Curran — currently a sitting MSP for Glasgow — had been drafted in at the last minute as Labour's replacement and that "opponents branded her Labour's 'fifth choice' and alleged that Gordon Brown had 'pressganged' her into standing after others rejected his personal pleas".

The SSP's national co-convener Frances Curran (no relation) is contesting the seat. Speaking at the SSP campaign launch on July 8, launch, Frances said: "We need to tax the wealthy fat cats and profiteering companies who rake in billions in profits as they jack up prices for gas, electricity, food, petrol and other essentials [to fund] a programme of investment in public services, high-quality housing for rent and action to create real, well-paid jobs."

With inflation on the rise, the housing market in a slump and the economy in general on the brink of recession, Brown is also likely to face a "summer of discontent" as unions fight his attempt to impose de facto pay cuts on public sector workers.

[Visit http// for information on the SSP's campaigns.]

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