The left must seize the initiative in the coming general election, argues Lindsey German
General election speculation grows and it looks like it may be called later this week, for a date in mid-October. The Blairites and Libdems want to delay, partly because they want a second referendum, partly because they fear a Corbyn government. But it is very difficult for Labour to delay, having called repeatedly for an election - and wanting to challenge the worst Tory government we have seen for a long time. But they could demand concessions - not least the repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act.
Johnson is calling an election if he does because he thinks that he can unite the leave vote round him, minimise the Brexit Party effect and smash Labour. He is buoyed by his lead in the opinion polls and the divisions on the remain side, not least within Labour. He is also painting Labour as a totally remain party, and part of a parliamentary conspiracy to deny democracy.
We should recognise that he is doing all this not out of a sense of real strength but out of a fundamental weakness. He has effectively no majority in parliament and he fears defeat from the opposition parties over no deal. That's why he has introduced such draconian threats to potential Tory rebels and why in reality he has little choice to call an election because nothing can get through parliament.
According to the pundits he may well succeed. Labour's poll ratings are poor and its stand on Brexit much worse than when it stood in 2017. But there are also people much more aware about the Tories/Johnson/austerity than in 2017. And the truth is - like it or not - that the best way to defeat him is a Labour vote.
We also have a month long election campaign, if it happens, where Labour has more of a chance to put its policies, plus the vagaries of the first past the post system which makes the election particularly difficult to call this time.
I would say it is a time not for super optimism or pessimism but for fighting to win, and doing so not by pledging a bit more spending here or there but by a real class politics which talks about public ownership, decent wages and housing for all, taxing the rich to pay for services, restoration of libraries and youth services.
Labour needs to be confident that it can win against these rich and undemocratic right wingers. It needs to project this. It needs trades unions, campaigners, all those who suffer under the Tories, to get onside and see this as the fight of our lives.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Bolton’s gone but an oil war could be about to start - weekly briefing
- Bolton's out, but we can't trust Trump or Johnson
- Stop Boris Johnson - general election now!
- The Boris burnout - weekly briefing
- Their democracy and ours – weekly briefing
- Boris Johnson proroguing Parliament is a Tory coup
- Trump’s trade wars: battle of the giants - weekly briefing