Time to be bold in wake of Euro poll


  By Ken Ferguson

First the context.

Across England the right wing populists of UKIP emerged from the Euro poll in first place, in Scotland they came fourth scraping a seat ahead of the Greens.

This is not complacency, simply fact. But that is not the same as suggesting that the UKIP surge is of no consequence for Scottish politics–it is.

Puzzled commentators who portray the UKIP rise as demonstrating an “anti politics” mood which is part of a wider mood sweeping both the UK and Europe really are missing the point.

The truth is that since the rise of neo-liberal economics which removed all controls on big capital and saw de-industrialisation and mass job cuts undermining living standards, mainstream politicians have increasingly acted as cheerleaders for the fat cats.

This process, under way since Thatcher’s time and carried on by a deeply compromised New Labour was masked by the era of cheap and easy credit which ended with the 2008 crash.

Now a brutal reality of falling wages, insecure jobs, benefit cuts and zero hours contracts faces millions and the mainstream parties have no coherent answer since they are actually part of the problem as supporters of the system causing it.

This is the underlying cause of the increasing support for the apparently easy answers offered by UKIP and their European counterparts.

That this was in large measure driven by the saturation coverage of UKIP offered by the mainstream media is another part of the reason for their sweeping gains, winning a Scottish seat where they have a negligible presence on the ground.

However it also has implications both for the broad sweep of progressive opinion in Scotland and the role it must play in the drive to win a Yes vote in September.

Tentative discussions last year about the possibilities of a Red/Green candidate or slate came to nothing yet the figures indicate that such a formation might just have mobilised sufficient extra votes to win the last Euro seat and halt UKIP.

More widely it also underlines the urgent need for the ideas and vision of the left and green forces campaigning for a Yes vote to get beyond the pages of the broadsheet press and present concrete proposals to voters in a clear and popular form.

Loyalty to a party or group cannot be allowed to stand in the way of such an approach and talk of any one force playing the leading role in this task is deeply unhelpful.

Both the SSP and their publication, The Voice, have proposed a way that this could be achieved through a Common Programme for the left covering a range of policies in a succinct statement of what a Yes vote can deliver.

Issues for such a programme could include workers rights, public ownership of green energy, ambitious targets for rented house building, action on low pay and zero hours contracts among others.

Such an approach leaves open discussion of the contents of a programme like this and, crucially, does not require the building of new organisations or parties but the support of the existing parts of the independence left.

The prospect of a No vote followed by a Tory/UKIP victory is indeed close to a Doomsday scenario not just for Scottish democracy but our entire social fabric.

The Euro poll makes the task of winning a Yes vote even more urgent and in that key battle the role of the left in mobilising the working class majority is central.

Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice