Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/211/8558
Socialist Alliance Takes Stock Of Election Results
THE FIRST post-election meeting of the Socialist Alliance executive took place on Saturday 16 June.
With a truncated agenda, the main item was an assessment of the Socialist Alliance's electoral performance.
Some component groups of the Alliance had entered the election with a mistaken assessment of the general political outlook of working-class people at this stage and therefore miscalculated what votes socialist candidates could achieve.
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP), for example, had spoken of "five percent as a good share of the vote" (Socialist Worker, 5 May) whereas the 98 Socialist Alliance candidates, who overall polled 57,553 votes, averaged just 1.7% per seat.
The SWP spokesperson at the meeting expressed surprise at the better performance of the Greens compared to the Alliance - outpolling Socialist Alliance candidates in all the 31 seats where there was a direct contest - and at the residual support for Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party.
In reality the election confirmed that, although British workers now face two main big business parties competing for their support, at this stage there is no authoritative force capable of pulling together trade unionists, public service users, environmental campaigners and young people, into a new mass alternative, a new workers' party, to represent their interests. Recognition of this and a sense of proportion about what the Socialist Alliance represents, will be critical for its future development.
The most significant expression of the absence of a vehicle for working-class representation was the mass abstention, particularly in working-class Labour 'heartlands'.
Also symptomatic was the unprecedented vote in Wyre Forest, where the Kidderminster hospital campaigner polled 28,487 votes (58%), and the Strathkelvin & Bearsden Scottish parliament by-election, where a Save Stobhill Hospital campaigner polled 7,572 votes, coming second to Labour who held the seat.
The case for an Alliance that can draw in future 'Kidderminsters', trade unionists fighting privatisations etc - where such campaigners, and the different political groups involved in the Alliance, are able to retain their separate identity while working together - was strengthened by the election outcome.
Whether these lessons will be accepted within the Alliance, however, with a national conference to discuss the future of the Alliance now scheduled for 3 November, remains to be seen.
In The Socialist 22 June 2001: