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Archive: Coventry Councillors

Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist



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Socialist challenges break New Labour's grip

April 2006

Coventry: re-elect Rob Windsor!

Coventry - re-elect Rob Windsor!We 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 position.

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.

June 2004

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. 

Paul Hunt

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 parliament!

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.

June 2004

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 occupation. 

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 council budget.

  • 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 no replacement.

  • Campaigned for restrictions on squalid, multiple-occupancy housing.

  • 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!"

Election Launch

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

Click 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 satisfactory.

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 by Labour.

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.

Blairite policies

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 class people.

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, cut-backs etc.

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 activists.

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.

May 2003

Build The Socialist Alternative


Karen Mackay, Coventry Socialist Party CouncillorNEW 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 win.

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 unions."

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. 

Socialist 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 Saints.

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 'others'.

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 us.

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 working-class people.



Third Biggest Party on Coventry Council

Coventry Socialist Party secured its best ever local election results. The party contested eight of Coventry’s 18 wards and received a total of 3,758 votes - 14.9% of the votes cast in those wards. 

Councillor David Nellist was re-elected with nearly 53% of the vote. The Socialist Party remains the third largest party on the city council.

New Labour lost four seats to the Tories. The Lord Mayor used his own re-election speech to attack the Socialist Party, saying that the party had chosen the seats it contested principally to damage the Labour Party and let the Tories in. "It’s a dangerous game they’re playing" he said.

But as David Nellist explains: 

"Of the four seats Labour lost, the Socialist Party stood in one and the Liberals stood in the other three. Over the last two elections Labour has lost 13 seats in nine wards - half the city.

"You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that Labour needs to look to why people are deserting it in droves, rather than blaming other parties.

"I vividly remember being told when I was expelled from the Labour Party in 1992 that socialists such as myself should get out and stand under ‘our own colours’.

"Now, apparently, the party that expelled us doesn’t want us to stand even in the limited number of seats our present resources allow.

"Well, the only solution I can see that is that we’ll have to do our best to raise enough money and recruit enough support in the next few years so we’re not just limited to eight seats - we’ll try and stand in all 18."

Full results in Coventry St Michael’s

David Nellist 1417 (52.8%)

Labour 1022 (38.1%)

Tory 237 (8.8%)


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