Left-wing sections in the UK, including Momentum and the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), have slammed the Labour Party leadership following setbacks faced by the party in the local council polls held last week. The Labour Party also lost to the Tories in the by-elections to the working class-majority parliamentary constituency of Hartlepool, where the latter has never previously won. The Conservatives made significant gains across the UK, adding 13 councils and an additional 235 councillors while Labour lost 327 councillors and control of eight councils.
The Labour Party was able to retain the mayorships of cities including Greater Manchester, London and others, and won the mayorships of West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Liverpool City Region and West of England. Under the leadership of leftist leader Mark Drakeford, the Labour Party maintained its majority in the Welsh parliament. The Scottish National Party (SNP) maintained its lead in the Scottish parliament.
Left-wing sections argue that Labour leader Keir Starmer has failed to provide concrete policies and positions, and lacks vision for the future. Starmer was elected as the leader of the Labour Party in April 2020 to succeed Jeremy Corbyn. Following the setbacks in the local elections, Starmer reshuffled his team, which also sparked controversies and criticism within the party. Many believe that Starmer’s tactics to challenge the campaigns and policies of the conservative Tories, led by incumbent prime minister Boris Johnson, were confused. However, in regions where the Labour Party has a more left-wing leadership like in Wales, the party has been able to win people’s support and votes.
On May 7, Callum Bell, vice-chair of Momentum’s national co-ordinating group, wrote in Tribune that Starmer must own this defeat, especially after intervening to impose an unsuccessful candidate. “Starmer has so far spent most of his leadership throwing grenades at a Left committed to a Labour Government, and in doing so, he has empowered a small minority in the party whose main ambition is to crush the Left,” Bell said.
“Nor is the solution more of the same timid centrist politics that has defined his first 12 months as leader. It has not worked, and it has been the death of a number of social democratic parties in Europe,” he said.
The CPB has urged the labor movement to not listen to ‘the false prophets of the right’ in response to the May 6 election results. According to CPB general secretary Rob Griffiths, the right-wing blames Corbyn’s legacy for Labour’s many defeats in working class areas last Thursday, but it was “the failure of their preferred leader – Keir Starmer – to campaign for bold and relevant policies that prompted many electors to abstain or turn to the Tories or Greens in desperation.”
“In Wales and those English municipalities where Labour still identifies itself with social ownership and the public good, Labour candidates triumphed against the pro-Tory swing created by the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and ‘getting Brexit done’,” he added.
The CPB political committee welcomed the increased vote share for communist candidates in England, notably across London, and in Wales and Scotland. In the local polls, communist party candidates won more than 13,300 votes in England, Scotland and Wales, partly due to the militant campaigns and activities of the Young Communist League (YCL).