“Earlier today we published an article by Kate Hudson, Respect candidate in the Manchester Central by-election, entitled The unrepresented working class: a space Respect can fill
. Whilst Left Futures firmly believes that “the Left’s future remains inextricably linked with that of the Labour Party
” (as set out in our mission statement
), this has given rise to the mistaken impression that Left Futures supports a candidate standing against Labour in a by-election. That is emphatically not the case. In order to clarify the position, I have decided as editor to withdraw the article from publication.
Those of us on the Labour Left who, whilst committed to Labour’s success, also wish to realign Labour in a more radical direction and to draw into Labour many of those who are currently outside it, must tread a careful path. It is right that Left Futures gives space to others on the Left outside Labour to present their views and contribute to our debate about policy and the future of the Left. But we must be careful to get the balance right and on this occasion we did not but, just as we have carried articles by Kate Hudson and members of other parties before, so we will do so again.
Kate Hudson, as I said in my previous report about the Manchester Central by-election, is a formidable campaigner and a comrade in the campaigns for peace and in solidarity with the people of Greece in their opposition to austerity. Nevertheless, in Manchester Central, we want to see Lucy Powell winning the by-election by running a bold and radical campaign which will bring back Labour’s lost voters rather than see them turning towards Respect.
As it happens, today I was supposed to be on holiday and did not see Kate’s article prior to publication though as Editor it is right that I take full responsibility for everything that is published. When I did see it, I saw no alternative to withdrawing it from publication, and I apologise both to Lucy Powell, Labour’s candidate, for any wrong impression we may have caused and to Kate Hudson who wrote the article for us in good faith.”
The text of Kate’s original article
The unrepresented working class: a space Respect can fill
Why have I decided to stand as Respect candidate in Manchester Central? There is no doubt that the Labour Party has a fine past track record in the service of ordinary people, liberating millions – through the foundation of the welfare state – from poverty and from the denial of basic rights and opportunities. But sadly, the emphasis here is on ‘past’ record. Labour has ceased to advance, or even adequately defend, the great achievements it made for working people. For decades now it has bought into the pro-market, neo-liberal framework which has thrown Britainand much of the rest of the world into an economic crisis of mammoth proportions. The fundamental problem with neo-liberal economics is that it is all about rebalancing the economy, away from the modest redistribution of the Keynesian welfare state and back into the hands of the wealthy. That is not an appropriate economic approach for a social democratic party, especially one founded by the trade union movement – the organised working class.
This turn away from defending and advancing the interests of the working class is a source of great sadness and frustration for many on the left and within the Labour Party itself. And as Labour has moved to the right, this has opened up a political space to its left. People have reacted in different ways to this. Some persist within Labour, wanting to reclaim the party for the policies and values it used to represent. Others grudgingly settle for New Labour-lite, especially in the run up to a general election, hoping that perhaps this time, Labour will fulfil our hopes. Still others have concluded that a different political option must be pursued: the articulation of popular pro-working class policies which Labour – to a considerable extent – used to represent. And that many people, who feel their interests no longer have political representation, require – and will choose to support – a party which stands for their interests. The Respect Party can be such a party and it is my intention – as it is of many others – to work to make it so.
This political space – and the emergence of new parties to fill it – is not just a British phenomenon. It is something that is happening across Europe and has even hit the media radar here in Britain, as a result of the recent Greek elections. Labour’s Greek sister party PASOK was decimated in this year’s elections, as it implemented vast cuts programmes, driving millions into poverty and disaster. Syriza, a new pluralistic party of the left, emerging from radical and eurocommunist traditions in Greece from the early 1990s, won massive popular support, narrowly missing victory over the conservative New Democracy. PASOK had failed to represent the interests of its electorate and so was eclipsed. In France too, this new left current has hit the headlines: Front de Gauche and its leader Jean-Luc Melenchon have made waves in French politics, reconsolidating the left beyond the Parti Socialiste.
Of course what is happening in Greece or France is specific to those countries and is not exactly reproducible elsewhere, but the fact is that parties like Syriza and Front de Gauche are eating into the votes of previously ‘socialist’ parties across Europe, and they will continue to do so because an objective political space exists. In fact what George Galloway did in Bradford was comparable to the stunning rise of Syriza and resulted in the eclipse of Labour, because Labour signally failed to work for ordinary people in that city. And Respect, in the same political stable as Syriza, will continue to advance the alternatives which Labour should itself represent.
That is why I am standing for Respect in Manchester Central. It’s a ‘safe’ Labour seat, with 52% of the votes cast for Labour in 2010. But that figure hides a sorry tale. It also has the lowest turn out in the country at 44.5%. Labour, which has run Manchesterfor a long time, has not addressed the deep problems of the city or the constituency. Manchester is the fourth most deprived local authority in the country and its two most deprived wards are in Central constituency. Clearly, Labour is not working for Manchester Central. The people are making their judgment by voting with their feet, by turning away from the electoral process altogether.
It’s time for a political alternative, articulating the interests of working people. Respect stands for that alternative.