Ed Miliband started by saying the right things by stating the Iraq war was wrong, calling for Palestinian statehood and arguing the gap between rich and poor does matter. Unfortunately two years later it was clear that little had changed in the Labour Party. In August 2012 journalist Sonia Poulton wrote an open letter to Ed Miliband calling on him to stand up for the disabled against work capability assessments (http://soniapoulton.co.uk/page11.htm) this was followed up by further articles and many activists contacting Ed Miliband calling for him to take a stand, yet the response was silence. I had to draw the line when it was clear Labour was failing to stand up for the sick and disabled and I cancelled my membership. Since cancelling my membership I realise definitely made the correct decision as the party lurches to the right on immigration chasing UKIP votes and most recently abstaining on the workfare bill to reverse a judicial voting.
I realise now that it is not good enough to want Labour in power because they are not as bad as the Tories and Lib Dems, it is time to offer a true left alternative to the electorate. There is some cynicism around that we are just repeating the mistakes of the Socialist Alliance and Respect, and why will it work this time? I have confidence that the Left Unity shows real promise for the following reasons:
- We are facing a Tory government and there is strong unity among left groups working on campaigns such as scrap bedroom tax, stop the cuts, save the NHS etc.
- There is currently a re-alignment of the political spectrum in the UK. A lot of voters are feeling let down by Labour and looking for an alternative, some are falling for the UKIP populist message and it is important to have a genuine alternative on the left, which doesn't scapegoat immigrants and stoke xenophobia. We need to challenge the lies of the right wing media, and stop the divide and rule tactics of the Tories.
- The splits in Socialist Alliance/Respect were in part due to disagreements with SWP. Following the recent wave of resignation from the party I don't think the SWP are in a position to dominate a new left initiative.
- This is a grass roots initiative. Unlike SA/Respect it is not a group of parties on the left getting together to decide a manifesto. It will be built from the bottom up, with many independent socialists at the heart of the discussion.
- Over 6,000 signatories to Ken Loach's appeal in the space of 2 weeks shows a genuine will on the left to work together and form a genuine left alternative.
In the space of a week over 40 people in York have expressed interest in getting involved in the discussion as to what we want to see in a new party of the left, and we will be meeting in the next few weeks to start this debate.
Sign Ken Loach's appeal at http://leftunity.org/appeal/
To become involved in Left Unity York email firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/126850760835222/