ELECTIONS FOR the new Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were to take place on Thursday of this week, after Socialist Worker went to press. The media was feverishly speculating about Labour's vote in both polls. It did not say that many feel deeply disillusioned with Labour after two years in office, and that there is deep bitterness even amongst those who were to vote Labour on Thursday. SAM ASHMAN reports from Glasgow.
|Pictures: SAM ASHMAN|
|WORKERS FROM Kvaerner Govan, where 2,000 jobs are threatened, were among the 5,000 who joined a May Day march in Glasgow last Sunday|
"I'LL VOTE Labour. I've always voted Labour. But what do they think they are doing? Where did all the promises go?" Those were the words of one shopper in Govan, Glasgow, last week, but she was speaking for thousands more people like her. "I'm always Labour," says another. "But they are all much the same now. You think you are doing okay and then another bill comes. What do they ever do about that?"
A postal worker agrees. He says, "I think this is a really important election, but the election campaign has not talked about any of the real issues. I guess I'll vote Labour again, but not with much enthusiasm." Theresa Murray says, "I voted Labour last time but they've been really dreadful. "Social services are cut to the bone. Childcare is horrendous. The NHS is a disgrace. I gave up work to look after our kids and I feel like I'm a second class citizen. We've not had a holiday in ten years. The child benefit immediately goes to pay the community charge. What are they going to do about that?"
Many people who said they were going to vote for the Scottish National Party were doing so because they are sick with Labour. One SNP voter in Cathcart, Glasgow, says, "Labour are just the same as the Tories. I'm totally against nuclear weapons. They should spend that money on health. I also like Tommy Sheridan of the Scottish Socialist Party. He'd be good in the Scottish Parliament. We need a different voice."
"I voted Labour at the general election," says a Glasgow University student. "They never told us about tuition fees, or that the NHS is to be done away with. The SNP will get my vote on tuition fees alone." Another says, "This is not the Labour Party I voted for throughout the Thatcher years. I'm voting SNP because I want to see a hung parliament and to give Labour something to think about."
Some Labour voters are also sickened by the bombing of Yugoslavia. "I am very much against this war. I think it's nonsense," said unemployed David Lamont. "It is disgraceful the way Alex Salmond has been ripped apart by the media over this. All he did was stand up and say what many people think." A retired Rolls Royce engineer agrees. "I saw a picture of George Robertson last week and he was hugging a bomb. HUGGING A BOMB. I could not believe it. These people used to go on CND marches. It doesn't make any sense to me. But then, Robertson won't say boo to any employer."
The feeling was similar on the May Day march in Irvine last Saturday. The local Volvo factory is threatened with closure and only last week another 600 jobs were put under threat at Prestwick Holdings, which has factories in both Irvine and Ayr. Tam McGlone, an AEEU member at Volvo, says: "What do I think of Labour? Not a bloody lot. The first thing they did was hit the single parents. That about sums them up if you ask me. Neither Labour nor the SNP want to hit big business. But it is big business which is hitting us."
Joe, a worker from the Rolls Royce plant at Hillington, says, "Nobody is talking about the real issues for working people-housing, education, jobs-the things that make a difference to ordinary people's lives. What about trade union rights? I am not a nationalist. I don't think the SNP is any alternative to Labour. But Blair has done more for the SNP than they ever could for themselves."
A TGWU member on the march was like many others in Scotland last week-he could not decide who to vote for. "It is hard when you have voted Labour all your life and then you see your own party hand picking its candidates to weed out socialists and to make sure they just get Blair loyalists elected. I'd love to see them say they will repeal all the anti-union laws, but they won't. They have dropped people like me."
Others were less unsure and had decided to back the socialist candidates in the election who were standing to offer a left wing alternative to New Labour. Eighteen year old factory worker Christine McGeachim from Erskine was voting socialist on Thursday. She says, "Labour have just taken on board Tory policies. But they are worse. They are doing what the Tories would not have dared to have done with things like PFI. What have they done for the people? The minimum wage is one example-just £3.60 an hour with so many exemptions it's unbelievable."
Nineteen year old Carrie Markwick in Dumbarton, who is unemployed, was also going to vote socialist. "I can't express what I think about Labour. I am disgusted from the bottom of my heart. I am totally against this war. I feel like I want to stand up and shout out, 'Don't listen to all this filth and bullshit!' It all seems to be about power, money and greed. It infuriates me. That is why it is good to be able to vote for a socialist candidate. They are talking about the fundamentals of society. That is what I want to hear."
"LABOUR IN office have been terrible. They promised a new world and have delivered nothing. I voted for them in 1997, but not this time. I'm voting socialist. Labour are just the Tories in disguise, carrying on Tory policies. The SNP is no alternative to me. They are not left wing."
"I WAS very happy when Blair got in. I thought it was wonderful. The Tories had been in so long I couldn't remember anything else. Now I'm upset that so soon something that seemed to stand up for working people has just gone. They are not thinking about the little people at all. What people say, "New Labour, Old Tories", is right."
"BLAIR said "education, education, education". Now Labour are the only party in the election defending tuition fees. What about Fairness at Work? That got watered down. And so has the minimum wage. That is very important to me. Why are those under 21 exempt? I was married at 20 years old and yet wouldn't get the minimum wage. To think we voted them in! They are having a laugh."
SOCIALIST WORKER was urging all its readers to support the United Socialists in Wales and Socialist Workers Party and Scottish Socialist Party candidates in Scotland.