back to front - politics of closure
WORKERS, SEPT 2004 ISSUE
While the government tinkers with all-inclusive postal ballots, as trialled in the North of England during the June local elections, and pontificates about regional government and the fragmentation of the UK, attention should be given to the state of local government.
The question is, why has the Labour Party lost control of such bastion heartlands as Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull, Bradford, Barnsley, Huddersfield and Newcastle in the North East, areas dominated by them for decades?
What factors have brought this about? Is this about the struggles between New Labour and Old Labour? Is it a result of the move to postal balloting and away from the traditional ballot booths? Could it be disgust at Blairite local council cabinets undermining traditional democratic participation?
Or could it be because local government is being (and in some cases already has been) stripped of all its traditional functions such as housing, education, public health, planning? A widely held view is that voters are alienated from politics in general, especially the young. What then is the key factor in Labour's losses?
If the traditional industrial base has been destroyed and closed, what gives an area its identity? Leeds: tailoring and engineering — closed. Sheffield: steel — closed. Hull: fishing — closed. Bradford: wool — closed. Barnsley: coal — closed. Huddersfield: cloth — closed. Newcastle: coal, shipbuilding, engineering — closed. Without industry, there is no "political" voice.
Without a political voice, there can be no point in participating in any sham capitalist elections. Labour can only have a claim on the labour movement if there is industry and work, so the deindustrialisation of Britain destroys the Labour Party.