Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/439/5194
Stoke - BNP wins close-run election
The BNP unexpectedly won the Abbey Green Ward in Stoke-on-Trent after a very closely fought election. The betrayal of working-class people by New Labour and the lack of a mass alternative has created fertile ground for the growth of the BNP nationally, helped by a number of recent developments.
Andy Bentley, Stoke-on-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent city council had provided a piece of land for the building of a new mosque just a mile away from the ward. The BNP gained votes by opportunistically raising fears about the mosque becoming a focal point for Islamic extremists and highlighting the fact that it was provided at a token rent of only £1.
But it was national developments, such as the revelation that hundreds of foreign criminals were on the loose throughout Britain, which proved crucial in increasing their vote in many parts of the country. National media coverage showing that 80% of people surveyed in one area of London had considered voting for the BNP gave them a certain legitimacy and lessened some of the stigma attached to voting for them.
However, the BNP’s victory in Abbey Green doesn’t represent a significant increase in their support. Despite the favourable factors and a higher turnout of voters, they still only received 91 more votes than in the last local elections in 2004. The BNP won with just 25% of the vote, which is identical to their share in 2004 and seven points lower than in 2003.
The main reason for this was the role of the Socialist Party in providing a serious working class based alternative to the attacks of New Labour. This small increase in the BNP’s vote was eclipsed by the very significant increase of 196 votes received by the Socialist Party. We were the only party to increase our share of the vote in this election - from 12% to 17%. In fact, the Socialist Party is the only party which has increased its number of votes every year since we first stood in 2003.
In Abbey Green, Labour were hammered. They lost 463 votes from 2004 and the Tories were down by 170. Echoing Labour lies, sleaze and corruption nationally, the local Labour machine was a disgrace.
Completely ignoring the threat posed by the BNP, they devoted two of their three leaflets to telling lies about the Socialist Party and making personal attacks on our candidate and the sitting councillor, Paul Sutton. Paul’s ‘crime’ was to make a principled stand against Labour’s relentless cuts in jobs and services, annual increases in council tax and privatisation.
In Stoke-on-Trent, New Labour is in even deeper crisis than before the elections. They have lost overall control of the council and the leader of the Labour group, Mike Salih, has lost his seat and quit the party because they are "Tories in disguise".
While the local Labour machine was attacking us in their leaflets we were also playing a major part in building for the marvellous demonstration of 5,000 NHS workers in defence of NHS jobs and services.
Only the Socialist Party was able to put activists on the streets every day and our election campaign was well received by the vast majority on the doorstep.
Twice as many of our posters were put up in windows as Labour. As a result of our consistent work we have earned a tremendous respect in the area and many have expressed an interest in joining the Socialist Party.
Paul Sutton Socialist Party 508
In The Socialist 11 May 2006:
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news