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Volume 54 Number 14, June 15, 2024 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Attempt to Mount Electoral Coup Underscores Why We Need Democratic Renewal

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Attempt to Mount Electoral Coup Underscores Why We Need Democratic Renewal

No to the Anti-Social Offensive of the Cartel Parties:
The Junior Doctors Take the Fight for Pay Restoration into the General Election

RCN England Produces General Election Manifesto 2024:
Invest in Nursing! Invest in Patients! Invest in Society!

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP):
KONP General Election Statement

Attempt to Mount Electoral Coup Underscores Why We Need Democratic Renewal

In an interview with Times Radio on June 12, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned of delivering Labour a "supermajority" [1]. In a sense, he is correct. What is being attempted by Kier Starmer and the Labour Party is to mount an electoral coup, possibly even of an unprecedented scale. The utter rejection of the Conservative Party is so profound, they could be devastated and potentially even relegated to third place in the coming election. The way the first past the post system works may at the same time deliver Labour total domination of the House of Commons.

Shapps' words are partly tactical, in conditions where the Conservatives are certain to lose the election and have given up on any chance of victory, to salvage their situation as best they can. But it also reflects the deep crisis afflicting the political system and process at this time.

The cartel party system in the present has descended into factional fighting. Functioning political parties in the normal sense of the word cannot even really be said to exist. Although there is nominally a party in power and a party in opposition at the present moment, and it is likely that the current party in power will be replaced by that opposition, the nature of these parties is completely factionalised, while they are as one in their neoliberal essence. Any so-called choice is a fraud: power and party in opposition represent the same thing, the global oligarchic private interests, with a turf war between them. They represent the same anti-social offensive and the same pro-war government. And their method of operating could be described as gangster-style politics.

This is what the electorate as a whole despise about how these cartel parties define and conduct politics, why people are searching for an alternative, and why an increasing number of alternative and independent candidates are standing.

Particularly in recent years, but in fact all the way from the Coalition government that replaced New Labour in 2010 through to the present, the ruling Conservative Party has manifested continual factional infighting, with its succession of short-lived Prime Ministers, many of whom were never actually elected by the population. Particularly since the demise of Theresa May, the Party has seen all kinds of political machinations, including the deliberate manipulation of a constitutional crisis by Boris Johnson. Labour for its part has seen its own factions rise, fall and realign themselves.

The cartel party system of government began with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 as a feature of the anti-social offensive her government unleashed - a feature of the restructuring of the state and the arrangements of governance - and culminated in the election of Tony Blair in 1997. In this system, parties no longer function as linking the state and decision-making power with the population or the arrangements of civil society. The parties have become part of the state itself and work to exclude people from political power. They directly represent private interests, as part of the politicisation of private interests, and the usurpation of the public authority by those interests.

Not even in principle then do things even operate nowadays as party in power and party in opposition. That was blown away by Blair's electoral coup. Such coups have generally become how parties come to power and maintain the rule of those private interests they represent. Part and parcel of that is that the mode of governance has shifted to open rule by police powers, rather than any form of accommodating different interests via the arrangements of civil society, which belong now to the past. The reality is that the gap between decision making and politicians on the one hand and the people on the other has widened to a gaping chasm.

What is threatened in the current election is the final collapse of any legitimacy to rule and any veneer of accountability. In that respect it is notable that the election has shifted to the battle for second place, with the winners a forgone conclusion. New parties, some of whom represent further factions of the same cartel party system, are now challenging the usual two-party status quo. The worry expressed by Shapps reflects the real possibility of the final collapse of any equilibrium whatsoever. Instead, certain factions of the cartel system come to power absolutely, with no functioning opposition of any size or of any unified form, and all legitimacy is lost.

Given a large majority of parliamentary seats, Labour and Starmer would undoubtedly try to claim a clear mandate to carry out whatever they wish to carry out on behalf of the private interests they represent. A "mandate" is the name given to the conception of the legitimacy to rule. If a party is given a mandate, it is legitimate for them to rule. However, when there is a profound crisis of legitimacy, there is no mandate in such a situation. Rather, it is one illegitimate rule replaced by another, enforced through police powers. The people, even generally speaking the rank and file of the parties themselves, have no say, no input in drafting the manifestos. And they are increasingly seen to be filled with promises that the parties know cannot be fulfilled, and only pay lip-service to the people's genuine and deep concerns. The claim of "mandate" is fraudulent.

In terms of figures, even on an historically high turnout of 80% and Labour winning a share of the vote of 55%, that would equate to less than 45% of the electorate. In actuality, the figures are likely to be significantly lower. In the 1997 election hailed as a landslide for Blair, the turnout was 71.3%, and Labour's share of the vote was 43.2%, meaning that just 30.8% of the electorate voted for that government: nearly 70% of people did not.

Even if this were not the case, the system as it stands mixes up accountability and deciding matters of policy. There are no real mechanisms for accountability other than party-dominated elections. Voting out the Conservatives through voting in Labour is hardly an endorsement of Labour's manifesto. More fundamentally, what role did the electorate play in setting the agenda of debate, determining what are the election issues, or selecting the candidates for election?

Two of the many alternative candidates standing in the General Election 2024

Given all of this, the working class and people must utilise the election to advance their interests and the programme of the working class, and not be diverted. As Workers' Weekly said in its election call: "There are twin aims for the working class and people in this election. One is to fight for the alternative, for the rights of all, for a change in the direction of the economy, for candidates who are anti-war, who are opposed to the cartel party system. The other is to strengthen the fight for empowerment, for democratic renewal of the political system, for an Anti-War Government, which would be a fundamental shift to the participation of the people in fulfilling their desire for peace and the decision-making power." [2] Such an anti-war government is the expression of the modern democratic personality: a form of government founded on the harmonisation of the interests of individuals, collectives and society as a whole. The urgent present need can be summed up as that of building discussion groups and other collective forms in which the participants empower themselves, to point the way to democratic renewal, an ongoing need whatever the results of the General Election.

1. "Why Grant Shapps is warning about a Labour 'supermajority'", Henry Zeffman, BBC News, June 12, 2024.
2. "All Out to Elect Anti-War Candidates and Challenge the Cartel Party System!", Workers' Weekly, June 1, 2024.

Article Index

No to the Anti-Social Offensive of the Cartel Parties

The Junior Doctors Take the Fight for Pay Restoration into the General Election

On May 29, the BMA reported that junior doctors in England have announced new strike dates during the General Election period over their pay [1]. This will involve a full walkout by junior doctors in two weeks time beginning at 7am on Thursday, June 27, and ending 7am on Tuesday, July 2. Following three months of talks between junior doctors in England and the government, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had still made no credible offer to junior doctors to meet their demands for a roadmap to restore pay lost over the last 15 years.

Junior doctors in Leeds

BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: "We made clear to the Government that we would strike unless discussions ended in a credible pay offer. For more than 18 months we have been asking Rishi Sunak to put forward proposals to restore the pay junior doctors have lost over the past 15 years - equal to more than a quarter [of their income] in real terms.

"When we entered mediation with Government this month we did so under the impression that we had a functioning government that would soon be making an offer. Clearly no offer is now forthcoming. Junior doctors are fed up and out of patience."

The fact that the junior doctors in England are facing a government which is clearly not functioning and are having to take their strike struggle into the general election reflects the deep crisis of the Westminster government and its inability to find solutions to the catastrophic problems in the NHS. It does indeed reflect a government in shameful disarray with no way forward.

Whipps Cross Hospital, Waltham Forrest

What is also clear in the election campaign is that neither of the big cartel parties have a solution to the crisis in the NHS. In the ITV leaders' "debate" [2] Sunak and Starmer were asked how they intended to resolve the fact "that the NHS is broken". Rishi Sunak framed his answer around blaming Covid-19 and the doctors' strike for the massive increase in waiting lists. Trying to pass the blame onto the doctors he said that "the union are demanding a 35% pay rise and I don't want to raise your taxes to pay for that". The Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer framed his answer around claiming that Labour would reduce waiting lists faster than the present government and that they would "get in the room" and "resolve" the junior doctors' strike. But he did not disagree with Sunak in declaring that "we wouldn't pay the 35%". Not only were both of the big cartel parties blaming the doctors for the problems that successive governments have caused in the NHS long before Covid-19 but they both tried to mislead the audience about the aims of the junior doctors and blamed them for the crisis of waiting lists in the NHS.

The facts are the opposite. The doctors' demands are for the government to agree a deal to restore the income that they have lost through successive Labour and Conservative governments. The junior doctors are addressing this massive pay cut as the workload and waiting lists that doctors face are at record highs, and junior doctors' pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008. A crippling cost-of-living crisis, burnout and well-below inflation pay rises risk driving hard working doctors out of their profession at a time when the NHS needs them more than ever.

What the junior doctors have taken up is part of the whole working class actions over recent times that "Enough is Enough!". That the junior doctors are speaking out and smashing the silence on their working conditions is a step towards solving the crisis in the NHS, making sure that doctors are there to tackle the waiting lists and do the operations and provide the patient care that people need. This is something that the big cartel parties have proved that they are unable to do, or refused to solve, with their pre-occupations of paying the rich at the expense of public services which is only increasing this crisis further.

The claim that Labour and Conservatives have done the "costing", and cannot afford to meet the just demands of the junior doctors, or invest to resolve the crisis in the health service, is spurious. It is not a matter of balancing income and expenditure by the state. Working people, including doctors and all health workers, create enormous new value, including a healthy workforce, while the rich refuse not only to pay their share for this workforce, but operate in a society where they parasitise off public funds. It must be recognised that investing in the NHS is a precondition for resolving the crisis and effecting a change in the direction of the economy, which favours working people as a whole.

In fact the big cartel party system has forced the issue of who decides on health care as on everything else. The struggle of the junior doctors', who are refusing to be ignored in this election, reveals that the solutions to the problems in the NHS lie with the health workers themselves whose interest lies in building a modern health service which improves the conditions of patient care. The need is for everyone, including alternative candidates, to take up the fight for pay restoration for junior doctors into the general election and aim for a new situation where decision-making involves doctors, nurses and all health workers, along with communities and people as a whole, speaking and acting in their own name.

1. Junior doctors announce new strike dates in England ahead of General Election
2. Live: Watch the ITV Leaders' Debate

Article Index

RCN England Produces General Election Manifesto 2024

Invest in Nursing! Invest in Patients! Invest in Society!

The Royal College of Nursing has published a manifesto for the election, which they are calling on all parties and candidates to take up [1].

The RCN writes: "When you invest in nursing, you invest in patients, you invest in society. We're asking political parties and candidates for their passion and political will to bring our health and social care services back from the brink.

"The Royal College of Nursing is proud to represent more than half a million members across the UK. We can't stand by and accept more broken promises or inaction.

"Unprecedented strikes over the past two years have emboldened our members. We're ready to make sure our voices, and those of our patients and communities, are heard loud and clear.

"Nursing staff are rightly angry, but we have the solutions to provide the profession with the fresh start it needs. During this election campaign, we won't hold back in speaking up for our members and the people they devote their working lives to care for.

"The public values nursing staff. Patients value nursing staff. We ask you to do the same."

RCN points out that the scale of the nursing crisis is such that 25,000 people left the nursing register last year, 45% of nursing staff are planning or thinking of leaving their jobs, and 2,470 fewer people applied for a nursing degree course.

In these circumstances, the manifesto lists 12 top priorities:

1. Give all nursing staff a substantial pay rise and introduce automatic band 5 to 6 pay progression for NHS nurses.

2. Introduce safety-critical nurse-to-patient ratios in all care settings.

3. Provide legal protection for people raising concerns about unsafe staffing.

4. Fund mental health support for all nursing staff, provided by every employer.

5. Eradicate corridor care, and force reporting of it.

6. Commit to government-funded nursing degrees with a job guarantee for graduates.

7. Revoke legislation restricting the right to strike.

8. Protect the title 'nurse' in law.

9. End exploitation of health and social care workers and properly fund the sector.

10. Provide sufficient funding for continuing professional development.

11. End punitive immigration policies which affect internationally educated nursing staff.

12. Increase overseas aid spending to tackle global nursing shortages.

The RCN notes that nursing is a majority female profession and one of the most ethnically diverse professions too. That makes the injustice of nursing pay a gender and race issue, it points out. Nursing staff deserve to be equipped with a robust framework of workplace rights, one that mirrors the gravity of the responsibilities they shoulder. They should be able to enter into their place of work with their heads held high, confident in the knowledge that they will be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.

Little over a year ago, RCN members voted for historic strike action in every part of the UK and it was for more than just a pay rise, the RCN says. Their fight was for patient safety and to protest against chronic staff shortages, long working hours, unsustainable workloads and limited opportunities for career progression. However, in response, there has been a further erosion of the right of nursing staff to take part in lawful industrial action in England, Scotland and Wales.

"An empowered nursing workforce is good for patients, the very individuals whose wellbeing RCN members tirelessly advocate for every day," the RCN emphasises

For further details of what the RCN demands, see:

1. Download a PDF version of the manifesto here:
A version in Welsh is available here:

Article Index

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP)

KONP General Election Statement

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) have issued a statement for the General Election. KONP says:

"The NHS needs a sea-change in policy from a new political leadership in government. Keep Our NHS Public will be highlighting the record of those in government to asking voters to select those who will best support a public and well-funded NHS, and move to establish a publicly funded national care, support and independent living service. This requires a fundamental change in perspective - one that regards funding of public services as an investment in human well-being and an underpinning of a productive economy. Good public services maximise the ability of people to participate in society and a productive economy - they are not simply a cost to be grudgingly accepted."

KONP gives a call to end private involvement in NHS-delivered health care which, it says, is not just a question of principle. Privatisation means fragmentation and undermining of safe NHS provision, the statement says.

The statement points out: "The NHS needs stability and urgent funding, not reform and further reorganisation. NHS staff and services need security to do their job and to treat patients safely and well. Primary and community care, hospitals and public health desperately need urgent support."

For the full statement, see:

Article Index

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