Those on the ultra-left who have long fantasised about a ‘socialist challenge to New Labour’ may have had some grounds for optimism of late with 750,000 people marching behind their slogans in London, huge discontent with Tony Blair and a surge in media appearances for Stalinists like George Galloway and his Trotskyite sidekicks.

But while the ultra-left may have transformed themselves into pacifists of late, they are reassuringly still well capable of taking out their guns and shooting – themselves of course, firmly in the foot.

The Socialist Alliance – is a collection of various Trot sects and individual cranks which has been busy losing deposits in recent years and whose only significant impact in local elections was to split the left vote and hand a victory to the fascist BNP in Burnley.

But the Alliance was due to hold its annual conference just as war might be about to be declared and many hundreds of Labour Party members could be about to resign – it had a golden chance to finally give some credibility to its claim to be the ‘socialist alternative’ to Labour. But as usual they manage to turn an opportunity into an internal dispute.

Reassuringly for any Labour Party branches fearing an exodus a member of the Socialist Alliance, executive committee Marcus Ström writes in this week’s Weekly Worker that the postponement of the Alliance’s conference, effectively marks the end of the project.

“George Galloway and John Rees spoke at the March 3 ‘Where is New Labour going?’ meeting of the need to provide the working class with a party it deserves. The Socialist Alliance should be rising to that challenge, uniting in our conference behind a campaign to achieve just that – an anti-war party, a new workers’ party. It should then take that campaign to the anti-war movement. Instead the SA will be seen to have clearly failed the test – it has effectively liquidated itself,” says Strom who is a senior figure in the Alliance.

Informed sources tell me that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the leading party in the Stop the War Coaltion and the Socialist Alliance (SA), have decided that if anyone is going to cash in on the anti-war movement it is going to be themselves, who have done all the hard work and not the smaller sects who are allied to them in the SA.

According to Strom, an internal email explaining the effective freezing of the Alliance mentions the heavy schedule of ‘anti-war’ activities “including the Ms Dynamite concert at Wembley on the evening of March 15”.