UK election: ‘Workers need our own political party’

By Pete Clifford
November 18, 2019

MANCHESTER, England — “I can’t decide how to vote. I don’t understand why they don’t do Brexit,” rail worker Danny Boyle told this reporter as we talked during a break at Manchester Piccadilly station, where we both work. Similar conversations among working people are taking place across the country in the run-up to the Dec. 12 parliamentary election.

The snap poll was called after the minority Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to win a vote to proceed with its “transition” deal that he says will take the U.K. out of the European Union. Media pundits are unanimous in declaring that the outcome of the election cannot be predicted. 

Johnson pitches the Conservatives’ appeal as the party that will implement the 2016 referendum for the U.K. to quit the EU. 

“If older, white, working-class men from the north of England split from their Labour roots” in areas that voted to leave, “the Tories will win” contemplates Mike Wade in The Times  Nov. 1. Liberal commentators that favor the U.K. remaining in the EU view workers who voted “leave” as bigoted and backward. 

“All the main parties sought to undermine the referendum result. And the bosses’ assaults on working people means the Communist League is getting a serious response to its campaign,” Caroline Bellamy, the party’s candidate for Wythenshawe and Sale East in Manchester and a production line meat worker and member of the Community trades union, told the Militant. The CL is also standing Jonathan Silberman in Tottenham, London.

“Your party is small today,” hospital worker Scott Francis told Bellamy when he signed to put her on the ballot. “Isn’t there a way to build a working-class party more quickly?” he asked. 

“The idea workers need our own party gets a broad hearing today,” Bellamy responded. “Such a party can only be forged through union battles and other struggles by working people.” Bellamy reported that two of those who nominated her in Wythenshawe renewed their subscriptions to the Militant  and bought the book The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party  by Jack Barnes.  

“I’ll probably vote for the Brexit Party, at least they say they’ll get us out of the EU,” Matthew O’Neill told CL campaign supporter Hugo Wils. Both work at the same factory as Bellamy. “A vote for Labour is against democracy, because that party is preventing the referendum result from being carried out,” O’Neill added. 

“The Brexit Party’s call for the U.K. to get out of the EU is aimed at bolstering the capitalist rulers here in their trade conflicts with their rivals,” Wils replied. “It speaks as if workers have a common ‘British interest’ with the bosses.” The CL has the opposite approach, Wils explained. “Workers need the U.K. to get out of the EU now to strengthen our fight against  the capitalist rulers at home.” 

Paul Rawlings, a retired factory engineer, told CL campaigner Anne Howie that he had always voted Labour, when she knocked on his door in Wythenshawe. But he agreed when she pointed out that “Labour is no different from the other capitalist parties. Its radical talk is a mask for saving capitalism, not mobilizing working people to replace it.” 

The CL’s program says, “Unions should organize all workers — agency, temporary, ‘permanent,’ and native- and foreign-born” — and should “fight all two-tier wages and conditions” that workers face. The program points to building “a movement of millions” that can “establish a workers and farmers government.” 

Capitalist parties debate ‘Brexit’

Prime Minister Johnson’s planned deal with the EU will continue to tie the U.K. to the protectionist trading bloc. Johnson seeks to steal the ground from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by promising to increase government funding for health care, schools and policing. Corbyn retorts by raising the mark on how much he will “promise” to spend. 

Beating the drum for British bosses, Corbyn alleges Johnson will cut a trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump that will involve selling parts of the National Health Service to U.S. companies, a claim the Conservatives deny. Under both Conservative and Labour governments health care provision has declined for working people. 

Appealing to predominantly middle-class supporters of the U.K. remaining in the EU, Corbyn says he will hold another referendum with two options, either a “Brexit deal” that retains most of the U.K.’s relations with the EU, or overturning the 2016 referendum to leave — denying people a vote to reaffirm that decision. 

“No one can trust any of these parties,” rail worker Jamal Ahmed told this reporter. “Trust has to begin with ourselves,” I responded, “that’s why the CL says ‘workers need our own party.’”