Increased votes for socialism in Lewisham
THE SOCIALIST PARTY councillors, Ian Page and Chris Flood,
were both re-elected with increased votes in Lewisham’s
Telegraph Hill ward.
Clive Heemskerk, Lewisham
Chris Flood was first elected, with 590 votes, in a
by-election in December 2003. This time he polled 929 votes to
Ian Page topped the poll this time, whereas in the last full
council elections in 2002 he finished second behind one of the
Labour candidates (see box). Moreover, his 1,118 votes were only
bettered by five Labour candidates, out of 54, across the whole
of Lewisham borough. It will be harder now for the
(much-diminished) Labour group on Lewisham council to dismiss
the socialist councillors as ‘unrepresentative’!
The only disappointment on the night was that New Labour
managed to grab the third Telegraph Hill seat, despite a very
good vote for Jess Leech in her first contest in the ward. The
day-to-day work fighting for and alongside local residents
obviously boosted the reputation of our sitting councillors,
including amongst other parties’ voters. Some socialist voters
were also confused about how many candidates they could choose,
and only voted for Ian Page.
A re-designed ballot paper, as part of a Department for
Constitutional Affairs (DCA) experiment with electronic
counting, didn’t help. Also, two ‘early voting days’ at
the Sainsbury’s superstore on the edge of the ward, another
DCA experiment, benefited the main parties, with the wide
publicity they get.
In contrast, we had to rely on door-to-door contact to get
our message across and Socialist Party canvassers reported that
many voters we spoke to after they had already voted, had been
unaware that we were standing three candidates.
Another factor helping New Labour was the decision by the
Green Party to stand against the Socialist Party councillors. In
2002, the Greens had only one candidate in Telegraph Hill.
The decision to stand three this time was contested inside
the Green Party, with the 2005 Green parliamentary candidate for
Lewisham West, Nick Long, issuing a personal endorsement of the
Socialist Party candidates as best placed to defeat New Labour.
His approach was vindicated by the results. The Greens picked
up council seats in Brockley and Ladywell wards but were not a
serious challenge to New Labour in Telegraph Hill.
Across Lewisham Labour’s vote flatlined, with the main
beneficiaries of a slightly higher turnout being the Liberal
Democrats and the Greens, leading to a council with no overall
control – the first time Labour hasn’t ruled in Lewisham
In Telegraph Hill, however, there wasn’t the same ‘easy
option’ available to unseat Labour. So it was a great sign for
the future that so many voters backed a clear socialist
alternative to the establishment parties.
Consolidating the socialist vote
IAN PAGE was first elected as a Labour councillor for the
Telegraph Hill ward area in 1990 but was expelled from the
Labour Party in 1995 for opposing cuts in council jobs and
In London boroughs, unlike most other parts of the country,
councillors are only voted in once every four years, with three
councillors elected per ward. In the first full council
elections Ian contested as a Socialist Party councillor, in May
1998, he lost, polling 836 votes to an average Labour vote of
1,200. Fortunately, one of the Labour councillors soon resigned
and, in June 1999, Ian won the subsequent by-election.
In the full council elections that followed, in 2002, Ian was
re-elected with 1,065 votes, but a Labour candidate topped the
poll with 1,132 votes.
This time, for the first time ever, the Socialist Party came
top of the poll in Telegraph Hill.
Telegraph Hill result:
Ian Page, Socialist Party – 1,118 (37.4%)
Labour – 997 (33.3%)
Chris Flood, Socialist Party – 929 (31.1%)
Labour – 856 and 829 (28%)
Jess Leech, Socialist Party – 821 (27.5%)
Greens – 440, 427 & 413 (14.2%)
Lib Dems – 303, 248 & 202 (8.4%)
Tories – 235, 192 & 178 (6.7%)
Fighting For Decent Homes
ON 10 June 2004, Londoners are voting in
European elections, choosing a new London mayor and a new
Greater London Assembly (GLA).
Roger Shrives, Lewisham
Lewisham Socialist Party councillor Ian Page
is Socialist Alternative candidate for the huge GLA constituency
encompassing both Lewisham and Greenwich boroughs.
On the same day, there will be a by-election
in Lewisham council's Evelyn ward following the resignation of a
Labour councillor. Now Lewisham Socialist Party has selected
Jess Leech to stand as our candidate in that election,
Jess lives and works on the ward's biggest
housing estate, Pepys estate. Her three children are or were
attending the local primary school, and Jess has been active
locally on housing and community issues.
Jess says: "The average household
income in communities like Evelyn ward is £8,000 - £9,000 a
year. So defending good quality but low-cost homes for working
class families should be a priority but Lewisham council
recently sold off 145 two-bedroom flats on the Pepys to
private property developers to be turned into luxury
Ian and Jess and the Socialist Party opposed
this sell-off. Ian Page says
"If I'm elected to the GLA, I will
oppose all such transfers to the private sector - they are
just aimed at making huge profits for private property
developers. Particularly at a time of massive housing
shortage, that's criminal."
Jess also says:
"Two years after the last council
election, there is still no secondary school for Deptford and
a number of young people at Deptford Park school have no place
in a Lewisham school." Ian comments: "Jess and
myself have been fighting alongside parents in Lewisham for
properly funded education for every child not one based on
selection and SATs tests."
New Labour are calling the 10 June batch of
elections 'Super Thursday' but they are worried about getting
their vote out across London. In Lewisham Labour used to
consider Evelyn ward a safe seat but they have lost the last
four by-elections they have stood in, including the Telegraph
Hill ward to Socialist Party councillor Chris Flood just before
Jess stood as an independent with two other
housing activists in the 2002 election and gained a very
respectable vote of over 15%. We hope to do even better this
5th December 2003
Socialist Party Election Victory
CHRIS FLOOD has been elected as a second
Socialist Party councillor in the Telegraph Hill area of
Lewisham, south London. He defeated New Labour in a local
"It's fantastic" Chris told the
socialist. "We won clearly by 100 votes, not only beating
Labour but also beating another community campaign. The results
show the solid support we built up locally through the work of
Socialist Party councillor Ian Page ".
"At almost every door we knocked on the
day of the election the answer was 'Yes, I voted for Chris' or
'I'm voting Socialist'", said Keith who was helping in the
election campaign. "Our campaign and Ian's record reached
out to a new layer - the young people, including some first-time
voters. At the other end of the age range pensioners, some
previously lifelong Labour supporters, turned out for us.
"We have built up the kind of rock
solid loyalty in this working-class community that the Labour
Party used to have and took for granted".
Lois, another campaigner told us:
"Local issues were important, so was the war with Iraq. But
many of the people I spoke to were clearly voting
Chris added: "The significance of this
vote is that we now have two Socialist Party councillors in the
Telegraph Hill ward and Labour have none. This will have a big
effect in Lewisham and lets us raise more widely ideas about
building an alternative to the left of New Labour".
Telegraph Hill by-election 4 December
Chris Flood (Socialist Party) 590
Lib Dems 155
Worry, We Always Vote Socialist!"
Socialist 15 November 2003
Lewisham By-election 4 December 2003
Vote For Real Change
THE SOCIALIST Party is standing in the
by-election in Telegraph Hill ward in Lewisham on 4 December.
The Socialist Alternative candidate is health worker Chris Flood
- we aim to get another socialist councillor elected to work
alongside Ian Page.
Local people have had enough of politicians
who care more about big business and fat cats than public
services or the interests of ordinary voters.
The biggest issue on the Honor Oak estate is
the council's sheer gall in charging some leaseholders up to
£11,000 to remove asbestos from their homes! As Chris told the
"Local people tell us that there's a
report going back to the mid-1980s showing that they were well
aware of this asbestos problem.
"Yet the council sold the
leaseholders these properties without telling them - this is
clearly the council's responsibility. They should fund the
cost of removing the asbestos and not charge leaseholders or
threaten to cut the refurbishment budget for tenants on the
"Local people are determined that the
council won't win this battle and have launched a campaign
already that we will get involved with - local residents
welcome our involvement."
Another big issue is the fight for a new
non-selective secondary school in the north of Lewisham borough.
Socialist Party councillors put forward a motion to the council
calling for Telegraph Hill school to be reopened as a fully
funded community comprehensive school.
Labour opposed this and demolished the
building, so Socialist Party members have played a big part in
the new school campaign during the last couple of years. Chris
Flood will keep fighting for a new school to be opened in the
north of the borough.
Chris said: "People on the doorsteps
often tell us they don't know who their local councillors are.
Labour, both nationally and locally, just take their voters for
"Many people though have seen what
Socialist Party councillor Ian Page has done, including leading
the Save Lewisham Housing Campaign which stopped the council
selling off 7,500 flats and houses."
Practically every area of the ward has
gained from our campaigns alongside local people to win
improvements. As Chris Flood said: "There's a lot of
disillusionment amongst Labour's former voters, over the war
with Iraq and the occupation that has followed it, and on
subjects such as education and housing.
"We're starting to see people turning
their backs on New Labour, and if we can show that we're a party
that's different, we can win a second socialist councillor in
Telegraph Hill to fight alongside Ian Page."
If you want to help Chris Flood and the
Socialist Party win this vital seat, please ring the Socialist
Party at 020 8988 8777.
"Fighting together we can win battles"
CHRIS FLOOD, Socialist Party candidate in
the Telegraph Hill ward by-election in south London on 4
December (see above), spoke to the socialist.
I'M A psychiatric nurse and a health
service researcher, born and brought up in Lewisham. I was a
shop steward in the NUPE union (now part of Unison) from the
In the early 1990s I was involved in a
campaign to keep Charing Cross hospital open. The Tomlinson
report into hospital services in London had highlighted it as
a hospital that might close.
The workers and the union led a campaign
which threatened occupation if necessary to save the hospital.
It got a lot of support from NHS workers and the general
public and successfully kept that hospital open - it's still
open to this day.
I have never forgotten that campaign -
through this fight, many people got to see the power of
collective struggle. If we fight together, we can win battles.
I was also very active in the movement
against Thatcher's blatantly unfair and undemocratic poll tax.
Most of the nurses in our hospital didn't pay their poll tax
and the national anti-poll tax campaign amongst nurses was
largely led by Charing Cross workers.
In recent years I've been living in
Deptford and been involved as a local resident in taking on
developers who wanted to build huge luxury private tower
New Labour councillors have gone out of
their way to encourage these developers and to ignore the
concerns of local people, who are worried about the lack of
social housing in what is still overwhelmingly a working-class
and deprived area.
New luxury housing in the area has just
made that worse. There's also the lack of planning and the
impact that has on GP services and schools. All this has
starkly shown up how far the local council was pro-developer
I've also been involved in campaigns on
bread-and-butter issues such as getting security at our local
railway station and getting new traffic-calming measures.
I've worked with local community groups
and raised the need for a new mass workers' party - New Labour
is now clearly just another party of big business like the
Liberals and the Tories. The electorate aren't being offered
any choice in most elections.
That's why it's so important that
working-class people stand in local elections and that the
Socialist Party stands under its own banner.
I think the time is right now for
councillors to take the opposition you hear on the streets
into the council chamber and fight for a socialist
Some people may feel demoralised that
there isn't a Labour Party as there used to be but we've got
to argue that people should come to our banner where we think
the lessons of collective struggle, of collective bargaining
can be relearned.
Lewisham Telegraph Hill
Highest Ever Socialist Party Votes
SOCIALIST PARTY candidates Ian Page and Sam Dias scored
their highest ever votes in Telegraph Hill ward.
Ian Page was re-elected with over 1,000 votes but Sam Dias
just missed out by 43 votes. Local Education Action by Parents
(LEAP) Helen Lefevre won one council seat as did the Labour
Mick Suter, election agent
While this was a brilliant result for Ian it was
disappointing to see Sam lose her seat. This was the first time
that the Socialist Party in Lewisham had won a seat at a full
council election, as both Ian and Sam had previously won in
by-elections. Ian received 1,065 votes - the highest he has ever
had in three elections. Sam nearly doubled her vote from
eighteen months ago.
This shows the huge amount of respect that local people have
for both of our candidates, and for the campaigning work they
have carried out since being elected.
Sam has vowed to continue with her campaigning despite not
being re-elected. Sam said "I would like to thank all those
who supported me, and say I will not be going away but continue
to work with tenants on the Honor Oak Estate and others. I will
support Ian and continue to campaign with the New School for New
Cross Campaign to fight for a new school on the Telegraph Hill
An important development in Lewisham was the LEAP and three
independent tenant candidates who stood for the first time.
Parents from the New School for New Cross drew the conclusion
that the Labour council was no longer listening to local people
and needed to take their struggle for a new comprehensive
community school onto the electoral front.
LEAP stood six candidates in four wards and Louise Irvine for
Mayor. They polled between 200-450 votes in wards outside
Telegraph Hill and 3,710 votes in the Mayoral election. This has
forced the education issue to the top of the agenda in Lewisham.
Labour’s new mayor will have to respond to the growing
discontent amongst parents. Tenants on the Pepys Estate in
Deptford face the Labour Council selling off properties to the
private sector. Tenants also gained good results with over 200
votes ( 12.5%).
The significance of these campaigners is that they have seen
the need to stand against the traditional parties and find a
voice for working class people. These developments give an idea
of how a new mass working class party will be built in the
At the count, one Socialist Alliance member said that it was
tactically wrong for the Socialist Party to support LEAP.
Despite Sam Dias losing her seat, we believe it was a correct
tactic. It shows the difference in approach of the Socialist
Alliance and the Socialist Party towards community struggles
which move on to the electoral plane.
The Socialist Party has worked very closely with the New
School Campaign - not attempting to dominate or control, but
genuinely supporting the campaign. We don’t just go along to
sell our paper. We help with leafleting, attend campaign
meetings, move resolutions at the council, attend lobbies and
build constant support for the campaign, winning respect from
The Socialist Party recognised that while we would be
building support for LEAP amongst our existing supporters, LEAP
would also be building support for Ian and Sam. In fact this is
one reason why Ian and Sam’s vote was so high.
When the ballot boxes were opened it was quite clear that
there was an increase in support for the Socialist Party around
Waller Road polling area as well as strong support on the Honor
The Socialist Alliance on the other hand, gained an average
of only 100 votes in the seats where they stood in Lewisham.
Winning genuine support means working alongside working-class
people, recognising the issues and putting forward a programme
that can bring about real change and win some victories on the
The ward had an increase of 2,000 new electors which had
traditionally supported Labour. These new areas did not know the
Socialist Party or the campaigns which we have been involved in.
Both these new areas had low turnouts of around 15% compared
with the 30% turnouts in Waller and the Honor Oak. Telegraph
Hill ward had one of the higher turnouts compared with the other
Deptford wards. This is down to the campaigning of the Socialist
Party over years and the New School for New Cross Campaign.
The Labour Party have very few activists and certainly no
longer campaign with local people. They have lost touch with
working class communities and only represent themselves and the
interests of big business.
Sam and Ian and the tenants on the Honor Oak Estate had won
£14 million from the council for refurbishing the estate. The
Labour Party sunk to smear tactics such as blaming Sam and Ian
for the mess created by private contractors.
The Labour Party who have not been seen on the estate over
the last six months attempted to say the problems were down to
Sam and Ian and not the lack of support from the council and the
private companies trying to make as much profit as possible by
Election night started badly for Ian Page as Millwall lost in
the last minute to Birmingham in the play-offs. He was also
nearly arrested outside the count when he confronted the BNP
candidate in Downham ward. Over 300 anti-Nazi protesters mainly
from Goldsmith College formed a lobby to stop the BNP entering
However, neither Millwall losing or the sight of the racist
BNP could stop the night turning out to be a fantastic result
for the Socialist Party and the advancement of socialist ideas.
Telegraph Hill Ward
Labour (1) 1132*
Ian Page (SP) 1065*
Helen Lefevre 975*
Sam Dias (SP) 922
Labour (2) 904
Labour (3) 880
Lab average 38%
SP and LEAP average 39%
LibDem/Green average 16%
Tory average 7%
15 March 2002
Battling Socialist Councillors Build Up
THE CAMPAIGN to re-elect Socialist Party councillors Ian
Page and Sam Dias to Lewisham council this May, has begun.
Sam and Ian's ward has been extended and renamed Telegraph
Hill so we have to make sure our councillors' record is known in
new areas. Although there's little interest in the elections,
we've had a good response because our campaign focuses on
working-class people's struggles.
We've organised several public meetings, local trade
unionists have shown their support and workers involved in
industrial disputes have welcomed Sam and Ian's backing.
"Innocent I'm innocent, for the crimes I've been
convicted. By a wicked and evil system who don't care about the
poor." These are words from a song written by Michael Davis
from the M25 campaign and performed at an anti-racist meeting
our party organised on Honor Oak Estate, the heart of Ian and
Michael described his experiences of nearly 12 years in jail.
His conviction for murder was overturned after a heroic campaign
with co-defendant Raphael Rowe.
Sam Dias also spoke of how she had been beaten and dragged
down to a police station in her nightwear, and forced to walk
home at night in the rain, all because of a parking offence
committed by her boyfriend.
Young people on the estate often face being stopped and
searched. Our demand for community control and accountability of
the police went down well.
AT ANOTHER public meeting local campaigners were encouraged
to stand independently in local elections. Members of the New
School For New Cross Campaign have now decided to do just that.
Ian and Sam, the only councillors to consistently support the
campaign for a new local comprehensive school, have put motions
to the council, helped organise and spoke at lobbies, and went
with campaigners to Westminster.
Leading campaigner Louise Irvine spoke of the damage done by
selection in schools, and the lack of school places for local
students. The campaign's pressure forced a climbdown by the
Labour Party who previously opposed a new school.
The campaign now plans to stand several 'new school'
candidates in the local elections, including in Telegraph Hill
where there will be a supportive and co-operative attitude
between ourselves and the school campaigners.
Local tenants' activist Bob Gardiner explained how, in a
previous election campaign, he sent material on Sam and Ian to
people he knew at a Bradford Mosque. They translated it into
Arabic, and asked the Mosque in Deptford to support our
OUR COUNCILLORS have sent letters of support to workplaces
involved in or threatening industrial action, including rail
workers, Benefit workers, postal workers, and library staff.
Ian had a friendly welcome when he visited picket lines
during a local library strike over pay and re-organisation.
Ian and Sam were the only councillors who attended a local
meeting of Transport and General Workers Union stewards, whose
experiences of privatisation included harassment of union reps,
disregard of health and safety, cuts to wages, and bullying and
This led them to unanimously support a motion from the floor
withdrawing support for the Labour Party and agreeing to
actively work for Sam and Ian's re-election.
Working-class people have little enthusiasm for a Labour
Party embracing Tory policies. Ian and Sam are seen as
different, both in words and actions, actively supporting
working-class people fighting Labour's programme of
privatisation and cuts.
Their re-election is important, not only to our party but
also to working-class people in south London and beyond,
inspiring campaigners and trade unionists to stand against the
main three pro-big-business parties.
The Socialist 15 March 2002
How socialists saw off
Report from The Socialist, 1 December 2000
SAMANTHA DIAS is now the Socialist Party’s second
councillor in Lewisham. This great achievement showed that where
a serious socialist alternative is offered, voters will support
Lewisham Socialist Party, particularly our councillor, Ian
Page, has done years of consistent work in Pepys Ward.
Our canvassers put in weeks of hard work, distributing three
different leaflets, knocking on hundreds of doors to convince
voters that Sam could beat New Labour and their policies of cuts
We knew it would be close. When Ian was elected last year,
Labour arrogantly assumed they could defeat us without
campaigning in the ward. This time Lewisham councillors and
local MP, Joan Ruddock, canvassed on streets that they couldn’t
have visited in years.
We knew we’d win support from council tenants. Ian had led
the successful campaign against the council’s attempt to
transfer its housing to housing associations elsewhere in the
borough. Sam is a well-known tenants’ rep on Honor Oak estate
who helped pressurise the council into coughing up £12 million
to refurbish properties.
But Honor Oak is only one part of quite a mixed ward. We also
won support from middle-class voters disillusioned with Lewisham’s
Blairite council leaders.
We launched a petition against Lewisham’s decision to close
three elderly people’s homes. The private contractor the
council wanted to sell the homes to had pulled out. Vulnerable
residents would now be farmed out into the private sector.
On Telegraph Hill, where houses sell for over £250,000, many
voters were angry at their local park’s deterioraton since the
council privatised maintenance. A Parks User Group emergency
meeting called on the council to keep their promise of
match-funding the Lottery bid for park refurbishment.
Suddenly, gardeners were sent to Telegraph Hill Park to put
things right, then councillors told park users that the funding
was in the council’s budget after all! As Ian said, it was
amazing what the council could do when a by-election defeat was
Sam also made a good intervention, helping to counter Labour’s
claims that she could only speak for council tenants.
LABOUR’S ELECTION leaflet incredibly claimed that Labour
councillors “saved” the Honor Oak Neighbourhood Office. In
fact the council had wanted to close it. Ian had to hand in the
tenants’ petition after Labour councillors refused to do so!
Labour’s dirty tactics went further. They targeted Sam’s
friends to try and persuade them to vote against her. Honor Oak
tenants wrote an official complaint against one Labour
councillor after he abused Sam at a meeting.
Socialist Party members were joined by local tenants and some
members of the local Socialist Alliance.
We couldn’t always convince voters, sick of mainstream
politicians’ lies, that we were a serious alternative. But we
persuaded tenants who’d never voted before to vote for Sam.
Several now want to join the Socialist Party.
On the final Saturday, Joan Ruddock and Labour councillors
descended on Honor Oak estate. Quickly we set up a stall and our
loudhailers warned tenants: “Don’t be taken in by Labour’s
lies!”. Slowly Labour’s canvassers came back from the
council blocks, dejected as tenants told them what they thought
of New Labour!
That convinced people on the estate to get out and vote for
Sam. On election day, I remember one young black man coming out
of Honor Oak polling station, almost shaking with anger and
shouting to the Labour teller: “I voted for Blair but you’re
just like the Tories.” That anger with Labour helped us win.
On election day, voting was slow, but, against the usual
pattern, heaviest on Honor Oak estate. But we kept knocking at
the doors of our promised voters right to the end.
After a tense count, friends and Socialist Party members
cheered Sam’s stunning victory. Sam, alongside Ian Page, will
make sure Lewisham council hear the real anger of working-class
people at their betrayal by New Labour.