Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/439/5193
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 secure victory.
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 since 1971.
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 services.
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%)
In The Socialist 11 May 2006:
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news