Bold approach pays off
On May 16 the Socialist Alliance election campaign began in earnest. The SA launched its manifesto outside Millbank Tower while the normal occupants were doing the same in Birmingham.
Deliberately timing the launch of our manifesto to coincide with that of the Labour Party?s seemed to strike a chord with the media. Television crews from Sky News and the BBC were present, along with a clutch of journalists from the national press. The Alliance is clearly beginning to develop a distinct profile, epitomised by the attack on the SA from no less a figure than Tony Blair with his badly aimed remark about ?socialist workers? at his ?selection meeting?. All this is a credit to the work done by the press team and the national office.
Comrade Dave Nellist, SA national chair, began the proceedings. If he was embarrassed by the fact that his own organisation, the Socialist Party, has just published its own manifesto with no mention of the Socialist Alliance (despite the fact that its candidates are formally standing for the SA), he did not show it. Comrade Nellist pointed to what he termed a ?seamless continuity between the last Tory government and this Labour one?. He outlined alliance policies, which he said were aimed at ?reconstructing British politics?.
When questioned about the relationship of the SA to the Socialist Labour Party and the Greens the comrade expressed the hope that some sort of arrangement could still be reached and pointed to what he termed ?the unprecedented unity achieved by socialist groups?. It is certainly optimistic to hope that either Scargill or the Greens will suddenly come looking for an understanding. In the case of the Green Party, there is no reason for us to make an approach. Socialist greens are welcome in the SA, but we should not seek an arrangement with the pro-capitalist Green Party. However, it is to be hoped that the SLP comrades will take a principled stand against their own party?s wrecking approach to the Socialist Alliance.
Commitment beyond polling day was very much in evidence from comrade Nellist, if not from his organisation. When he talked about the need to ?build on June 7? he is in line with the thinking of the majority of alliance activists.
The more immediate need, however, is to make the maximum impact during this campaign - a campaign which so far has been characterised by the lack of popular enthusiasm, a sentiment not enhanced by the less than inspiring fare offered by the establishment parties. Any other outcome than a second term for Labour is still seemingly impossible - even when polls show a slight fraying of Labour support, there is no corresponding increase for the Tories; surely this situation offers the possibility of working class voters switching to the alliance without any fear of letting in the Tories. With this in mind the timidity around the exact size of our target vote should be dropped; when questioned on this comrade Nellist skilfully avoided the question in line with the guidelines issued on the SA press e-group.
An idea of what we are working towards would inspire activists across the country. The figure in and of itself is not the important aspect of such a target: it is the idea of working together towards a common goal that comrades up and down the country will seize on and draw inspiration from. The Scottish Socialist Party has realised this and set a target of 100,000 votes across the 72 constituencies. We should be bold and aim for an equally ambitious figure: 250,000 left votes across Britain is hardly beyond our reach.
Going head to head with the Labour manifesto launch was a good example of the bold thinking that can raise our profile and make the realisation of such a total more likely. We must distinguish our politics from the anti-working class dross of our opponents.
And this should be reflected in the way we put our message across, not just relying on the traditional leafleting and canvassing. A bold approach will win votes and, crucially, political credibility with those advanced workers who want an alternative to the Blairite Labour Party and who see though the ?alternative? being offered them by the other bourgeois parties.