In the final instalment of our Pre-Election series, Bob Piper explains why the Labour Party is still worth your vote.
I am a Labour Party member, a socialist, a life-long trade unionist, and a Labour councillor, and over the next two months I will be tramping the streets with my comrades trying to persuade up to 10,000 people in my Ward to vote Labour on May 6th.
Why would we ask people to vote Labour? Not for war in the Middle East, 42-day detention, privatisation of public services and a continuing commitment to the nuclear arms race... that’s for sure.
Nor do I expect an incoming Labour Government to a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families. I wish it were so, but I am not that naive, and more importantly, neither are the electorate.
There is much in the Manifesto of the Green Party, and some within that of the Liberal Democrat Party that I can find resonance with, not to mention those of Respect and the Communist Party. One of my greatest regrets over the last decade is the loss of so many good socialists who have given up on Labour’s cause to join smaller parties or single issue groups.
But the reality is, Labour represents the best left-of-centre hope of defeating the Conservatives. Given our current electoral system a vote for the Greens or Respect is, in all but the most extreme circumstances, an electoral protest vote which will assist the Conservatives. I understand why people may wish to record their protest at the ballot box, but unlike many who are too young or whose memories are too short, I fully recall the devastation inflicted upon the working class in Britain by the Tories during the 1980s and 1990s.
So when people say that Labour hasn’t ended child poverty, or reduced the gap between the very richest and the poorest in our society, I agree, we have not done enough. But in 1996 I sat in a primary school building in one of the poorest boroughs in this country trying to finds ways in which we could mend the a leaking classroom roof without having to sack cleaning or catering staff. If my father was diagnosed with cancer, then he could be waiting up to 18 months for treatment in a hospital built as an extension to the workhouse in the nineteenth century. There was no minimum wage, no Surestart or Children’s Centres, and you could be sacked for being lesbian or gay with no comeback in law.
None of these things represent the ‘fundamental and irreversible’ transformation of society, and those of us who are socialists in the Labour Party know that only too well. Many people who now feel relatively comfortable economically will vote Conservative, or Liberal Democrat, and they will probably not even notice the changeover. However, for those people in our most deprived areas, those living on the margins, the differences will be all too real.
It is for those people that I will be saying, on May 6th, vote Labour.
Bob Piper is a Labour councillor in Sandwell, West Midlands. He blogs at bobpiper.co.uk