Speaking today, after the Prime Minister had returned from Buckingham Palace, John Lowry General Secretary of the Workers Party stated: “Today Prime Minister Gordon Browne confirmed what had long been an open political secret, that the elections to the Westminster Parliament will occur on 6th May. A great deal of discussion has taken place regarding what position our Party should take in relation to these elections. There were three main options:
1: Should the Party stand candidates in all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies;
2.Should the Party stand a reduced number of candidates in targeted seats:
3: Should the Party support agreed broad left candidates.
In considering these issues a number of key factors were taken into account, the resources required to contest these elections, the political benefit to the Party, and the organisational impact of standing candidates.
A further consideration, and one which was of pivotal importance in reaching our decision, is the relative diminution in importance of Westminster in the day to day lives of citizens at a time when Devolved Government is firmly embedded in Northern Ireland. This is not to gainsay our many criticisms of the actual implementation of government by the Assembly and Executive. Very much linked to this is the fact that the Westminster, alone amongst elections in Ireland, is still operated by the antiquated and undemocratic winner takes all system. This polarising system plays to the two sectarian blocs and squeezes all smaller parties.
It must also be noted that the Assembly elections, and also the elections to the reorganised Local Councils are scheduled to take place in May / June 2011.
The party has striven for a number of years to build a left anti-sectarian platform which could put forward an agreed platform of candidates. No later that last October we dedicated our Northern Ireland Regional Conference to this topic and invited a broad range of speakers. However, for various reasons it was not possible to make any progress with this project at this time.
In light of the above circumstances, and following input from local Branches, the Belfast Executive Committee and the Northern Ireland Regional Executive Committee, the Ard Comhairle has reached a decision that the Party will not contest any seats in the forthcoming Westminster elections.
This was a difficult decision given our past commitment and long history of providing the people of Northern Ireland with a socialist alternative to the established sectarian political camps.
However, given the current challenges facing the party and the Left in general, the conclusion was reached that contesting these elections would be counter-productive.
The future focus for the Party is clear, rebuilding a strong and relevant socialist party, which will be in a position to contest, and register significant progress in, the Northern Ireland Assembly arid Local Government Elections in 2011.
Issued: 6th May 2010