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UK election: why the Tories won and next steps against austerity

May 13, 2015

The general election result was a bitter blow. The rich cheered and the jubilant Tories are gearing up fast for a new class war. They want to drive through the worst of the cuts straight away, hoping voters will forget the pain by the 2020 election.

Millions of people disgusted at five years of Tory austerity and racist scapegoating are asking, “How could they have won?”


Media commentators claim the vote expresses people’s inherent selfishness, or that it shows that the working class is no longer a progressive force. 

The defeat has thrown the Labour Party into turmoil. It would have lost even if it held Scotland, though its losses there were historic. It’s a sick joke for Tony Blair and his cronies to argue that this happened because Ed Miliband was too left wing. Labour under Miliband aped Tory arguments that said austerity is necessary and politicians must crack down on immigration. It should be no surprise that some people ended up voting for the real thing. 

Pandering to racism has also led to growing confidence of the racist Ukip party, which in turn is dragging the mainstream even further to the right. Anti-racists will still have to be ready to mobilise against racism and Islamophobia wherever it appears.

But there is also a danger that the endless arguments that Labour needs to shift even further to the right will lead to people sowing illusions in any candidate who stands against a Blairite. Remember that Ed Miliband was painted as a turn away from Blairism. He was the favoured candidate of the trade union leaders, who must also carry some responsibility for Labour’s defeat.  


Union leaders have squandered several massive opportunities during the last five years to deal the Tories a body blow. After the mass strike of 2.6 million public sector workers over pension rights in November 2011 the majority of union leaders staged a wholesale retreat within days. Struggles generate confidence and unity, yet time and again this has been thrown away.

It’s not good enough for union leaders to say workers should hold back so they don’t jeopardise Labour’s chances. Holding back has undermined workers’ belief that austerity can be stopped—and still Labour lost. Where do we go from here? 


Simply waiting another five years to try and get a Labour victory in 2020 is not an option. Miliband failed, but the Labour leadership also betrayed its supporters under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. There is no sign that a new leader is going to change course. 

All mainstream parties have failed the working class. The Scottish National Party’s success was in part because it was able to pose as an opponent of austerity. 

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has fought to build a left electoral alternative to Labour. Despite some excellent campaigns it was unable to make electoral breakthroughs.

But socialists have to challenge the pessimism of those who argue that the working class can no longer fight. When given a lead and a serious campaign workers have shown they will resist.


The Marxism 2015 event will be the place to thrash out debates about class, nationalism and the role of Labour. But we also have to use every opportunity to build resistance and solidarity with all groups of workers who struggle. 

The People’s Assembly demonstration on 20 June is a chance for everyone appalled by the prospect of five more Tory years to get out onto the streets. 

While being honest about our weaknesses, socialists have to see that our enemy is not all powerful. The Tories’ majority is narrow and the economy is shaky. Cameron has to push through a referendum on the European Union, which divides his side. 

The next few years may not be plain sailing for the Tories. They want a class war—let’s give it to them.

This is republished from Socialist Worker (UK)

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