Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/486/2395
Strong support for the Socialist Party in Coventry
After another hard fought battle in Coventry's St Michael's ward, Socialists narrowly lost and now hold two seats on Coventry Council. The Socialist vote held up but, against the background of a significant swing to Labour, Labour's vote rose by 130 to give them a 84 vote majority.
Dave Griffiths, Coventry
Socialist support was very strong, Labour's support much harder to discern and working people remain angry but frustrated over the continuing decline of public services and of industry and jobs in Coventry.
Over the last year one of our last remaining major factories has gone, the main post sorting office with 600 jobs is threatened and, a week before the election, the closure of the main Post Office was announced.
Three years ago the Tories gained control of the council because of anger at Labour's cuts, the attempt to impose the single status deal on council workers and the failure of Blair's Iraq invasion.
This year Labour focused on the Tories' cuts. Hypocritical yes, following years of Labour cuts, but undoubtedly the Tories still hold little support amongst working people. Fear of a national Tory revival, whipped up by predictions of a major defeat for Labour in the council elections, helped Labour gain four seats in Coventry and saw their vote rise from 36% to 41.5% while the Tory share fell from 38% to 34%.
Labour claimed to be the 'only party who could beat the Tories'. This was ludicrous in St Michael's ward, but not to the more than 30% of brand new voters there. St Michael's has seen a consistent haemorrhaging of its long-term residents and their replacement by a growing population of students, temporary workers and residents of new city centre apartments.
It was a curious election in some ways. Upon the announcement of the central Post Office closure, Socialist Party members petitioning on the streets found themselves joined by local Tories! The same Tories who had planned to privatise the Post Office years ago, but backed off in the face of resistance. Labour also claimed to be petitioning, though nobody saw them, despite it being their own government who are 'stealth privatising' the Post Office!
It was even more curious when Labour's St Michael's candidate published leaflets condemning the rich (although only the 'Conservative rich'). We considered warning Gordon Brown about Bolsheviks in his party's ranks, but then realised that the leaflet was only put out in St Michael's, a ward Labour call the 'Socialist Republic'.
With only three Labour posters up in the ward and Socialist posters everywhere, many people cannot believe or understand why we did not win. The local Socialist Party has already drawn its own conclusions and is acting on them.
Many were furious that Labour's candidate who, as a leader of the TGWU, urged a boycott of Peugeot cars as a (failed) method of opposing the closure of the Ryton plant, was then found to have bought a new Peugeot! They will be even angrier that, despite denying any hypocrisy, he then announced in his victory speech that he would "celebrate by driving his new car around".
In a city with a proud industrial past, industrial decline and the preponderance of cheap labour jobs, together with deterioration of services, have led to resignation in many. They are unhappy but feel powerless to change things. That frustration fortunately did not spill over to support for the BNP who failed to make any progress despite standing in 16 of 18 seats.
Working people here remain worried about what a Tory government would mean but angry with a Labour Party that has failed them. Socialists will need to redouble their efforts to show that there is an alternative to the two Tory Party option.
We have already begun the fightback. The next election is only a year away and we expect Labour to move heaven and earth to unseat Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist to try to kill off the challenge from the Left. But we will defend our seat and continue to spread socialist support across Coventry.
In The Socialist 10 May 2007:
Socialist Party election analysis
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party workplace news