Saturday, 6 June 2009

left wing alternative at the polls

The government continues to unravel, under enormous pressure from the expenses scandal. The series of revelations in recent weeks has exposed an astonishing level of sleaze and shameful behaviour, showing how deep-seated is the malaise in our parliamentary democracy.

Many people, understandably, become cynical about everything political: the crisis feeds a kind of anti-politics that is right to be disgusted with the mainstream parties but unable to offer any alternative. Then there's a turn to the BNP from a small minority - it may be be that the Nazis have gained from the spate of scandals, though we'll wait until tomorrow to find out.

It frustrates many people that the Left, meanwhile, seems unable to get its act together and unite to offer an alternative. While there are serious obstacles to left unity, we can at least build on the small examples of success. I was pleased to learn Tom Woodcock, standing as an independent socialist, picked up a very impressive 425 votes (17.6%) in a local election ward in Cambridge.

It may not seem much, but it shows what is possible in pretty much any area of the country. There's nothing exceptional about where he and his supporters are campaigning. After the collapse of the Respect project 18 months ago, a group of socialists in Cambridge remained active in local campaigns, carried on working together, and kept open the possibility of standing in elections.

This approach is vindicated by the result. It offers at least a sliver of hope for the prospects of building left unity, and shaping a principled electoral alternative to a collapsing government and the discredited mainstream parties.

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