Coventry: re-elect Rob Windsor!
are focusing in Coventry on getting Rob Windsor (pictured left)
re-elected and regaining our third seat on the council, writes
Lindsay Currie, Coventry Socialist Party.
Defending our public positions is important because of the
voice it can give to our party and our ideas.
We are also standing candidates in four other wards, building
our base of support across the city.
We work all year round on behalf of the residents of St
Michaels ward, which means that when we canvass local residents
are already aware of our party and our candidates and so feel
confident to vote for us.
In the past year, we have supported disabled residents whose
homes are threatened with demolition. Socialist Party members
took a petition around the neighbours and managed to get almost
600 signatures. One of the tenants, thanking us for our support,
said he had no idea that so many local residents backed their
We have also campaigned to retain green space and play
facilities in the ward and have continued to build support by
getting local residents involved in the campaigns.
Councillors Dave Nellist and Karen McKay have fought hard for
the interests of local residents when resisting planning
applications for large developments and have gained many
improvements in terms of parking, green space and accessibility.
Campaigning against NHS
cuts and privatisation
Our involvement in campaigning on NHS cuts and privatisation
has also gained much support across the city. A recent public
meeting attracted over 70 people, including many health workers.
While canvassing, we are able to raise these issues and invite
people to become more involved.
While we have a strong base of support for our ideas within
St Michaels ward we have to fight continually to maintain our
position. The population of the ward is not the same as when
Dave Nellist first won his seat in 1998. The original
working-class population is disappearing, partly due to the
demolition of social housing which is being replaced with
expensive private developments, and there are a large number of
students, asylum seekers and migrant workers moving in and out
of the area.
However, when we speak to people who are new to the area and
to the ideas of the Socialist Party, we find they support our
ideas and so find it easier to support us than New Labour.
The canvassing we have done so far shows that we have a
realistic chance of winning the seat back to ensure that St
Michaels ward once again has three socialist councillors
fighting and speaking up for working-class residents.
Two Coventry councillors re-elected
COVENTRY SOCIALIST Party was left with mixed
feelings, as we didn’t succeed in defending all three of our
council seats in St Michael’s ward, but overall we gained an
excellent 8,614 votes across the city.
All three of our sitting councillors
increased their votes from the last election contested, but
unfortunately Rob Windsor missed out on third place in the poll
by just 16 votes.
Despite winning back a councillor, New
Labour will be relatively disappointed, as several factors meant
that the election was more favourable for them than last time.
Boundary changes, with a brand new estate being added to the
ward, meant that retaining all three councillors would be very
difficult for us.
However, despite a campaign which included
some farcical leaflets from Labour, including talk of ‘mansioned
militants’, and accusations that we voted with the Tories to
oppose a new football ground (it was our votes that secured this
project whilst winning a better deal for working people in
Coventry), we showed once again the firm and deep roots that we
have in the community.
Amusingly, a Labour candidate – who was
defeated once again – lied to one of our supporters, saying
that Dave Nellist took far more than a worker’s wage when in
We canvassed and leafleted the ward several
times and put out a leaflet aimed at the student population and
also an anti-war leaflet in Urdu and Bengali.
Since the election, on our Saturday stall we
have met voters who are extremely angry that Labour got one seat
back. But as Rob Windsor said, "don’t be gutted, get
organised!" Two of our supporters agreed to join at the
stall and we hope to get many more in the near future.
Across the city we scored three votes of
over 500: in Henley, Lower Stoke and Whoberley. On our first run
out in Sherbourne ward, we got 446 votes, and good results in
all the other wards.
In Woodlands, a group of anti-fascists and
socialists stood as ‘Socialist Alternative’ and received an
excellent 348 votes. This is a ward where the BNP polled over
1,000 last time, but their vote fell to 894 this time and they
failed to win the seat. This was the only ward they contested in
Coventry, whereas we fought in 12.
With each voter having the option of three
votes, our total score went up compared to a ‘normal’
election, but the 8,614 we received shows the support we have,
without having watered down or diluted our socialist ideas. We
had around 70 Coventry people involved in the campaign and have
begun to spread roots throughout the city.
The Trouble With Socialist Councillors...
There Aren't Enough Of Them!
The Socialist Party is to stand up to 12
candidates in the local elections in Coventry on 10 June.
Rob Windsor, Coventry Socialist Party councillor
Three of these are the existing socialist
councillors Dave Nellist, Karen McKay and Rob Windsor. These
councillors are a beacon for socialist ideas in the city.
They show that there is an alternative to
the 'free market' - a system that condemns 314 million people to
live on less than one dollar a day while the Bush administration
spent an astronomical $20 billion on waging its colonial war
against the Iraqi people and many billions more on the
The majority of the world's population face
an increasingly unsafe and insecure future.
Whilst serving on Coventry council is a far
cry from changing the world there has to be a start somewhere
and in Coventry, Socialist Party councillors have led by example
on the following issues, both as a minority of three on a
council of 54 and as the biggest component of the smaller
parties who hold the balance of power in the city:
Saved a day centre for the elderly by
organising petitions and lobbies as well as speaking against
the closure in council meetings.
Successfully argued against
increasing pre-school education charges.
Fought for better use of local green
space and assisted local groups in this.
Fought successfully for extra cash
bids to regenerate the oldest shopping street in the city.
Campaigned against extortionate
police charges to ensure that local carnivals went ahead.
Campaigned for regular and free bulky
rubbish removal - this prompted the New Labour council to
set up a one-off free clean up.
Helped beat off privatisation of the
home help service.
Opposed PFI and housing privatisation
and the New Labour council's "Single status" pay
structure that would have robbed council workers of between
£2,000 and £10,000 a year.
Holding the balance of power we have:
Ensured concessions in the Arena
Coventry Stadium deal guaranteeing trade union rights for
construction and operational staff and ensuring jobs are
marketed in Coventry. We also ensured that further finance
discussions would be dealt with at full council meetings and
that any extra land sale proceeds came back to the council
and not the private company building the stadium.
While Coventry's three New Labour MPs
helped Blair push through university top-up fees, the three
Socialist Party councillors ensured that the council took a
position opposing fees.
Preserved social services for over 300
elderly and vulnerable people by refusing to accept Social
Service cuts to 'balance the books' in advance of the
We ensured that over 200 job cuts were
stopped and successfully applied pressure to put an extra
£1 million into social services for vulnerable adults. We
would have won more had the two Liberal councillors not
given in so quickly and accepted the extra £1 million as a
means for New Labour to get their budget through.
Campaigned against 'regeneration'
schemes that propose the demolition of affordable homes with
Campaigned for restrictions on squalid,
Campaigned against school closures and
reductions in nursery places.
We have held regular surgeries where the
previous Labour councillors held none. In addition, we hold
special surgeries based on groups of streets in specific areas
within St Michaels Ward, which we represent.
In late 2000 a power surge knocked out
electricity on four streets for two days and wrecked appliances.
It was a prelude to the further problems experienced nationally
due to the lack of investment and cuts caused by privatisation.
Socialist Party councillors campaigned for
decent compensation including helping organise an angry meeting
of over 60 local residents to face electricity chiefs. We
produced at least three leaflets for every local household on
the issue. As a result 220 local residents received an extra
£100 just before Christmas.
We do not offer a magic wand, we are
effective because we organise with local people. Across the city
many people have said "I'd vote for you if you stood
here" - we now want to give people the chance to do just
that in areas where we have not previously stood. Where leaflets
have gone out, people have immediately got back to us welcoming
our stand and often offering to help.
As we say on our leaflets, "The trouble
with socialist councillors is there aren't enough of them!"
Over 50 people at the West Midlands election
launch meeting heard Tony Mulhearn's inspiring contribution on
the struggle of Liverpool city council from 1983 to 1987.
Tony, one of the 'Liverpool 47' and a member
of the Socialist Party, described how the Militant-led council
[forerunner of the Socialist Party] connected with the working
class in producing concrete and lasting gains to the conditions
of working people in that city at a time of massive unemployment
and the destruction of Liverpool's industry.
The council built over 5,000 houses, most
with gardens front and back, as well as improving existing
council homes. They set up nurseries that were commended by
educational specialists and built schools, sports centres and a
park as well as creating some 10,000 jobs on the council and in
the construction industry.
Small wonder that a worker at one of the
council's direct works depots thought Russian revolutionary Leon
Trotsky was "a brickie"!
The meeting commended the heroic stand of
the 'Liverpool 47' councillors who were surcharged and removed
from office for fighting for working class people.
Coventry Socialist Party councillors
compared Liverpool in the 1980s as "a city that dared to
fight" to "Coventry - a city that didn't try"!
However, Dave Nellist described how, even with only three
Socialist Party councillors, concrete gains for working people
have been won, not least the extra £1 million put into the
city's social services budget after the Socialist Party refused
to accept the New Labour "revised" cuts budget.
"If aliens were to land here they
would think this an outlandish way to run the planet.
We want a socialist world where the wealth
and power in society is owned and controlled by the people who
make it - the working class and where it is distributed for
the benefit of all the world's peoples, not preserved for a
minuscule minority of super rich companies and individuals
shored up by puppet pro-free market governments".
Rob Windsor, speaking at the West Midlands election launch
Labour Prefers Deals With The Tories
here for Update to this article: Coventry: How Socialist
Councillors Fought The Cuts
NEW LABOUR lost overall control on Coventry
council in recent elections. Small parties - especially the
Socialist Party - can effectively hold the balance of power.
Rob Windsor, Socialist councillor Coventry
Our Socialist Party group put some proposals
- not a Socialist manifesto but basic policy changes to benefit
working-class people (see the socialist 17 May) - to New
Labour's potential council leader at the 13 May meeting.
If these had been granted, we would not have
opposed them setting up an administration, although we'd have
kept opposing New Labour policies that we disagreed with
throughout the year. But the Labour group leader's reply was not
On housing there were no written commitments
to our proposals. The same was true on our proposal for a
community land bank where the council could buy up vacant land
for community use rather than rich developers getting it.
But the biggest sticking point was our call
for an end to all PFI proposals including ones for the local
incinerator and sports centre. We argued for an investigation
into publicly funded alternatives. The Labour leader' said
"No" and claimed that he wouldn't let "political
dogma" stop the city's "regeneration."
It appears that free-market
"dogma" that calls PFI "the only show in
town" is fine though! Handing public assets to private
companies in exchange for badly built alternatives to be rented
back to council tax payers at a profit for 30 years plus is OK
So far locally New Labour's
"regeneration" involves "Highland clearance"
type proposals where working-class communities are replaced by
luxury flats and tacky, glossy developments. Local people resent
this - that's why they continue to vote against New Labour.
THE COUNCIL leader said that in his opinion
Coventry council already implements "socialist
policies" but nothing could be further from the truth. It
has been a test-bed for every Blairite prototype and proposal
for years, hence Labour's decline. The difference between the
"two Tory parties" becomes increasingly more blurred.
Before the council meeting New Labour did a
deal with the Tories on the basis of Tories chairing some
"Scrutiny Committees". Our proposals were not based on
getting positions but getting tangible benefits for working
The response we got was too little. Agreeing
only to "look into" issues is a bit like accepting a
cheque without a signature so the Socialist Group voted against
New Labour forming an administration. The Tories abstained.
Labour then tried to stitch up the council's
constitution to block opposition. They failed. The three
Socialist councillors' votes were decisive - one proposal was to
stop communities putting petitions to the council for six months
after a Cabinet Member had made a decision on an issue. This was
clearly meant to disrupt protests against school closures,
Tenants' meetings were eager to hear how New
Labour's power has been eroded. If strong local community
campaigns against cuts and decline are set up the council is now
more susceptible to pressure. This message is not lost on local
Like good shop stewards our councillors will
use all means possible to improve working-class people's lives
without compromising our principles.
Labour showed how little principle meant to
them by sacking Heather Parker as cabinet member for
"Community Well Being" following her opposition to the
war. Another Cabinet member who marched against the war, Dave
Chater, has also been sacked.
But New Labour's arrogance will be short
lived and council meetings will certainly be more lively in
future. Two Labour Councillors have split away to form an
"Independent Labour Group" - how this develops in the
coming months will be very interesting.
Build The Socialist Alternative
LABOUR suffered their worst result for 24 years in the local
elections of 1 May. Most people just didn't bother to vote, fed
up with all the main political parties.
In Coventry, Socialist Party councillor
Karen McKay (left) was re-elected with an increased majority
over New Labour.
Her victory, like those from the Scottish
Socialist Party in elections to the Scottish Parliament, shows
that it is possible to offer a fighting socialist alternative to
the pro-big business policies of the establishment parties - and
Karen told the socialist:
"People in St Michael's had no faith
in the Labour council, named fourth worst in the country by
the government's own audit team. Millions are spent on
projects such as lighting up the council house or for a
'millennium clock' (still nowhere near completion), yet vital
social services, road repairs, and investment in local areas
are all underfunded and inadequate.
There is a strong anti-Labour mood as many
now see it as a second Tory party. But that doesn't mean
people automatically come to us. The whole party works hard to
win our support - we knock every door at least twice, as well
as leafleting, stalls and public meetings.
Among those most active in the community,
those who are politically aware, we have built up a loyal base
of support over the years as we have proved we will fight for
people locally, as well as on the big issues against
privatisation and cuts in services.
We want to build on the support we have
across the city. We need to work in other areas to develop
groups in these communities. We intend to build the party and
draw in the wider layers of support we have.
The council is no longer a majority Labour
council and the role that the three socialist councillors will
play there will be more interesting. We will continue to fight
Labour's moves towards two-tier public services and
privatisation and we aim to build on our links with the trade
If you've had enough of New Labour's
anti-working class policies, join us in
the Socialist Party and help build a fighting socialist
alternative - locally, nationally and internationally.
Socialist Sees Off The Two Tory Parties
In addition to Karen McKay's excellent
victory in Coventry St Michaels reported
below, we scored some very good votes elsewhere.
Party results in England and Wales
Pete Glover increased his percentage of
the vote in Netherton and Orrell despite a scurrilous Labour
Party campaign (see article below). Rob
Menzies secured 16% standing for the first time in Worcester All
COVENTRY SOCIALISTS are
celebrating another great win with Karen McKay being re-elected
as a councillor in St Michaels Ward with her majority doubled!
We also managed to maintain an overall support of 14% in the
seven wards we contested.
Dave Griffiths, Coventry
Holding St Michaels and increasing the
majority, was no mean achievement. Every year there is a
significant population turnover and therefore changing
electorate. There is also a significant electoral
'depopulation', with the expansion of Coventry university's
student population and an influx of asylum seekers.
The latter two factors, when added to the
background of council cuts and declining services, has led to a
layer of cynicism.
New Labour tried to exploit this cynicism in
a dirty fashion. They blamed local ("Militant
Socialist") councillors for the council's failure to
provide services. Leaflets included pictures of burning cars
attacked by rioters with the clear implication that this was
approved by socialists who were more interested in Iraq and
Before the invasion of Iraq, and in the
course of the firefighters' dispute, a strong mood had developed
in Coventry of New Labour being Tories.
The war blunted, or confused this picture
and, certainly in Coventry, an anti-war position - as we
expected - was no electoral advantage, rather broadly neutral.
However, as a party we have made advances around this issue.
It is clear whose criticism hits Labour
hardest. While they lost five seats elsewhere in Coventry, they
still had big teams out in St Michaels. (Not that Suits with
mobiles is the best advert!)
But the result shows the trust Karen and the
Socialist Party have built up in the area. We are an itch Labour
still cannot scratch! Against New Labour's cynicism, enough
people care enough, and hope to improve their local area and
city, that they increased the Socialist majority.
Coventry Socialists are proud of this and we
intend to redouble our efforts to spread support city-wide. Over
70 people worked in our campaign, many people look likely to
join us, (some already have) and many others have asked us to
stand in their area, with an offer to put our leaflets out for
Coventry council is now under "No
overall Control", with the three Socialists (still called
"others" by the BBC/Press!) holding the balance. The
Tories explained to the Coventry Evening Telegraph, they did not
believe they could do a long term deal with the Socialists (!)
and of course the New Labour leadership would find it anathema.
But the two Tory parties won't find it so easy to get their way
in the next year.
Finally, the night presented a warning with
a big vote for the BNP in the ward they contested. This stressed
the urgency of establishing a socialist alternative across the
city - and nationally - in the face of worsening conditions for