Editorial from the April 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
On Thursday 5 May, elections will be held across the country to elect members for local and district authorities in England, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. In London, there will be elections for the Mayor and for members of the Greater London Assembly.
Through hustings, meetings and TV interviews, the various parties’ candidates will be competing for votes. The Tories will be defending their record in government and claiming that their policies of cutting state expenditure to reduce the government deficit will provide a brighter future for hardworking families. The Labour Party candidates will attempt to convince voters that they have the policies to tackle inequality and the housing crisis. The Liberal Democrats will also claim that they will be working for a fairer society. UKIP will tell us that leaving the EU and curbing immigration will solve our woes. The Green Party will claim to offer a radical alternative with policies that will tackle environmental issues and meet human needs. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) will argue that by taxing the rich more heavily, they will be able to invest more in the National Health Service and welfare services. The Women's Equality Party is standing for gender equality in the market place.
The Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru will argue that independence for their respective countries from the UK is the way forward. The Unionist and Nationalist parties will be fighting for places in the Northern Irish assembly.
And yet, in practice, the results of these elections will not improve the lives of working class people. It is little wonder that some will prefer to stay at home rather than go out and vote. What the above parties have in common is that they all stand for some form of capitalism. Whether they are merely self-serving careerists or they sincerely wish to change things for the better, the aspiring politicians will come up against the reality of an economic and social system where profits come before anything else. Instead of controlling capitalism, capitalism will control them as can be seen when George Osborne in his recent budget had to downgrade his previous estimates on future economic growth, due to the recent deterioration in the world economy.
There are political groups that recognise this and call on workers to abstain from the electoral process. We reject this approach and argue that for a socialist working class to gain political power they will need to contest elections at all levels of government in order to capture the machinery of the state. Elections also provide an opportunity for the Socialist Party to make the case against capitalism and for socialism – a world of common ownership and free access to all that is produced. For these reasons, the Socialist Party is contesting three constituencies in London and one in Wales. Our election manifestos and details of how to help can be found elsewhere in this issue.