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A hope for the Political Left – are Left Unity an answer to UKIP?

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Left Unity meeting in Brighton, 4th June 2014.

Report by Andrew Collins

Beyond The Spirit of 1945

Entitled ‘Beyond the Spirit of 1945’, Brighton and Hove’s branch of the recently formed Left Unity party hosted a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House on Tuesday evening.

Kate Hudson

Introduced by Andy Richards, branch Chairman with  speakers Pip Tindall and National Secretary Kate Hudson, around 50 people listened to their party policy outline political raison d’être.

Ken Loach

Left Unity began as an initiative launched in November 2013 by ex-members of the Socialist Workers Party, ex-members of George Galloway’s Respect Party, people from similar organisations and left-leaning film director Ken Loach.

people's assembly watermarked

They now have 50 branches across the country and over 2,000 members, and are “growing exponentially” according to Andy Richards. He says that broadly speaking it was felt that a party was needed to challenge the austerity agenda that the coalition are pushing: “We need to give people a choice and a voice to express opposition to the austerity policies that all the mainstream parties seem to be signed up to.”

pip tindall watermarked

Pip Tindall, a former member of the Labour party, leaving after Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took over, was the first speaker. She claimed Labour hadn’t really stood up for the working people since the late 70s when they were supposed to be getting the workers the means of production through the Unions. She said;

“They didn’t support workers and they started taking an oppositional view to ordinary people, and it wasn’t surprising that (Margaret) Thatcher got in.”

She remained politically inactive for a while, then joined the Green Party for a short time as she felt they were moving to the left. However, she found in Brighton that she could not get them to talk about what they would do about the cuts imposed by central Government.

Pip Tindall also said;

“In 2010 … people were asked whether they would sign up to an anti-cuts statement saying they were not going to vote for cuts if they got in as councillors. And only two people signed up, and one of them was me. I felt let down.”

Left Unity had their first official formal AGM in Brighton this January where they elected people as officers. They now have bi-monthly meetings, one in Brighton and one in Hove.

Kate Hudson, National Secretary of Left Unity proved to be a very authoritative and captivating speaker, and opened with a powerful statement.

“I’m sure like everybody here and perhaps the majority of people in the country are feeling that everything that is good about our country and everything that’s been important about our society is under attack and is being destroyed. I think this has been going on particularly with the current Government, but it started long before that and I think what we saw in the elections over the past couple of weeks has really reinforced that for a lot of people.”

She certainly has an impressive CV. She is currently General Secretary of CND and was Head of Social and Policy Studies at London South Bank University.

CND

She was also a member of the Communist Party of Britain until 2011, and was a member of the Respect Party before resigning in October 2012.

She was married to Redmond O’Neill, who was an adviser to Ken Livingstone, but is now married to Andrew Burging, officer in Stop the War Coalition and secretary of the national Anti-Cuts Organisation

. She works within the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and is one of the founding members of Left Unity. She states the party should be “socialist, feminist, environmentalist and opposed to all forms of discrimination.

She gave a warning to the meeting:

“I think there is a very serious danger of the rise of the far right that’s taking place in Europe, but the UKIP votes suggest to me and many other people that that is taking place in Britain too. So I think we’re in a very, very serious political situation, perhaps worse than we’ve faced for many decades.”

 

Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson

After the three speakers, questions were taken  from the audience who included members of other groups and parties – SWP, the People’s Assembly, The Green Party – and local University students, who stood and gave varied heartfelt opinion on how they or their party felt about current socialist policy and what they considered needed to be done.

The evening, then, succeeded in provoking interesting and passionate debate on the current state of social affairs in Britain, and it was quite clear that, at least in those who attended, there is a lot of anger and frustration at current Government policies.

Whether Left Unity continue to grow and draw away disaffected voters from Labour and the Green Party remains to be seen. Given the unprecedented success of right wing UKIP, they could well be the beginning of a cohesive and important grass-roots movement to counter the rise of the Right. Certainly, the electorate have shown, albeit in typically small numbers, massive distrust of the three main traditional parties.

A number of speakers voiced the fear of Left wing candidates running against one and another thereby splitting the vote.  They did, however, confirm that they would not run against Caroline Lucas, the very popular MP for Brighton Pavilion. However this may be wishful thinking as Pip Tindall standing as the candidate for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts  in a Brighton and Hove City Council by election in Dec 2011 gained only 20 votes. They have a long way to go.

But given the sea change in the political climate recently, it’s certainly possible. Left Unity could well represent a positive and dynamic hope for the Left.

For more information, visit their website at : http://www.leftunity.org

For forthcoming Friends Meeting House events, visit:http://www.brightonquakers.co.uk/june-2014-at-friends-meeting-house

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