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Plain sailing for Blair?
OPINION POLLS suggest New Labour are on course for another election "landslide". A Mori poll for the Times put Labour on 50% - 20% ahead of the Tories and almost exactly the same as before the last election.
New Labour lead the Tories on every issue except defence, and even there the gap is just 1%. No political party has ever been so far behind in the polls and won an election.
Not surprisingly Tory candidates are reportedly in a state of panic. At the party HQ officials are reaching for the Prozac in a situation of "descending depression". In a survey of political analysts, only 17% expected Hague to still be Tory leader after the election.
Although a May election is still more likely, some in New Labour are pushing for an election on 5 April - while everything seems to be going their way. Gordon Brown, they argue, will deliver a "give-away" budget and an election victory will be guaranteed.
Whatever the date of the election, barring a major catastrophe, New Labour are likely to win a second term. But their huge lead in the polls is in no way matched by enthusiasm for the party and its policies. Even in 1997 most people voted negatively - against the Tories, rather than positively for New Labour.
In a recent Gallup poll for the Daily Telegraph, two-thirds of people said that Blair is out of touch with ordinary people. 50% think that he shows poor judgment and spends too much time with the rich and powerful.
The accumulated discontent which rose to the surface during last September's fuel protests has not disappeared. The anger at privatisation in health, education and in particular transport (Labour's rating for transport has fallen 41% since last July) is still simmering.
But there's no political channel at the moment through which mass discontent can be expressed. New Labour are ahead only because the alternative of a Tory government is too frightening a prospect for many people to contemplate. Blair's party is seen as the lesser of two evils.
Many working-class people will simply not bother to vote for either of the two "evils" or for any other established party. The number saying they are "certain" or "very likely" to vote is 10% lower than in 1997.
The Socialist Party will be standing 13 candidates in the general election, 11 in England, 10 of whom will be part of the Socialist Alliance, and two in Wales under the banner of the Welsh Socialist Alliance.
With six Socialist Party councillors already elected, we have shown that it's possible to provide a credible socialist alternative to the big business policies of the main political parties.
We are also campaigning for a new mass party to represent working-class people and to channel the anger and discontent which lies behind the opinion polls. Even in this pre-election period, there has been an upturn in the level of strikes and struggles by working- class people.
Local authority workers in Hackney and the north-west, Vauxhall workers, London Underground workers, care workers in Kirklees have all moved into action.
This gives a glimpse of what a second-term New Labour government will have to face but on a much bigger scale, especially with an economic recession looming round the corner. It will be these types of struggles which will lay the basis for the building of a new mass party in the future.
By standing in the election we are preparing for the future - our aim is not just to win votes. We also want to build the Socialist Party into a force which can play a key role in future struggles, in the building of a new mass party and which can provide a programme and organisation for ending the misery of capitalism and bringing about a socialist society.
In The Socialist 2 March 2001: