The Socialist 7 May 2008
Socialist election success shows the way forward
Elections round-up and results
Wales Labour suffers devastating blow
This year's local election results in Wales have delivered a devastating blow to Labour. Together with the results in England they represent a comprehensive rejection by working-class people of everything that New Labour and the Brown government stands for.
Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales
Labour has been thrashed in its old heartlands. It has lost Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr and Torfaen councils and suffered serious losses in Caerphilly. Labour used to regularly win here with crushing majorities in good times and bad. Labour also lost Newport, so now controls only Rhondda Cynon Taff, and Neath Port Talbot in Wales.
A growing layer of working-class people have realised that this is not their party anymore and have abandoned Labour as decisively as Blair and Brown abandoned their interests.
Others cannot bring themselves to vote for the crew who have just put income tax up for the lowest-paid workers in the country. They may return to vote Labour to keep the Tories out in the future but not with great conviction.
Labour's share of the vote across Britain stands at just 24% - the lowest for over 40 years and puts Labour third behind the Liberal Democrats. Brown's premiership has been dealt a mortal blow. There is no enthusiasm or illusions in any of the other main parties in Wales and certainly not the Tories. This was a vote against Labour, not a vote for any of the other parties.
In fact this election represented a further rejection of the Tory policies that New Labour has promoted. The Tories re-gained some seats in their old Welsh strongholds of Monmouth and Vale of Glamorgan, but have not broken through in most of Wales. They only gained control of Vale of Glamorgan council.
Voters supported whoever could beat Labour and in most areas that was not the Tories. Most 'old Labour' voters stayed at home. In the valleys it was People's Voice and Independent candidates as well as Plaid Cymru who broke Labour control. In Cardiff the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Tories gained as Labour was pushed back to be the third party in the capital.
The Liberal Democrats benefited from the anti-Labour mood and held onto control of Cardiff and Swansea but there is no enthusiasm for their councils and they made few gains.
Plaid Cymru suffered serious losses as well as gains, losing control of Gwynedd, their only council. Significantly Plaid lost seats to Llais Gwynedd (Gwynedd's Voice) which was formed primarily to stop school closures in the county.
Overwhelmingly working people are sick of all the main parties. All the opposition parties talk of change but they all implement similar policies when in power. People's Voice's and Llais Gwynedd's gains show the potential for a new mass workers' party.
The increased vote for the BNP is also a warning to the labour movement if it fails to provide an alternative to the pro-capitalist parties. However, despite a big press campaign against immigrants before the election, the BNP failed to make a major breakthrough in Wales. Only in Swansea did this racist party succeed in making gains in the number of votes.
The Socialist Party standing as Socialist Alternative achieved the best results of the left with creditable results in Cardiff and Swansea. However at this stage the support for our ideas is not reflected in votes. Working people realise that we need a bigger vehicle to deliver real change.
A serious discussion must begin in the Welsh trade union movement about the unions forming a new party through which the working class can fight to offer a real change from the policies of all the pro-capitalist parties.
London: Greenwich and Lewisham
Workers' alternative to Labour still needs to be built
THE RESULT for the Socialist Party in the London Assembly Greenwich and Lewisham constituency seat - 1,587 votes, 1.1% of the poll - was shaped by broader factors which our campaign could not overcome at this stage. We stood in this election mainly to raise our profile across the two south east London boroughs and didn't anticipate a high vote.
One reason was the sheer scale of the election. Greenwich and Lewisham, one of 14 London Assembly constituencies, had an electorate of 347,000. But only parties with mayoral candidates, paying £20,000 to stand, could advertise in a booklet delivered freepost to every household, or get regional TV and radio broadcasts.
Our candidate was Chris Flood, well known in Lewisham's Telegraph Hill ward as a Socialist Party councillor there alongside Ian Page. But Telegraph Hill was only one of 35 wards in the constituency.
We produced 12,000 leaflets - eight for every vote won! - and they had an impact. At the April meeting of Lewisham council the Green group leader Darren Johnson (also a member of the London Assembly), angrily waved our leaflet revealing councillors' real record on NHS cuts as he denounced 'Chris Flood's grubby little party'!
More importantly, we had more e-mails and tear-off slips returned than in previous elections, of people volunteering to help the campaign. But these were still small ripples in a bigger pool.
For the hundreds of thousands of voters who didn't know the real position, the Greens appeared as the radical alternative to New Labour, picking up votes in Greenwich and Lewisham while the Liberal Democrats fell back. And then there was the impact of the threat of the Tories' Boris Johnson winning the London mayoralty.
This was confirmed on polling day when we visited supporters identified from previous elections in Telegraph Hill (before then we had concentrated on leafleting, and campaign stalls outside our Telegraph Hill base).
The majority of our firm supporters were still intending to vote socialist. But a majority of those down as 'possible Socialist Party voters' from previous polls, while often assuring us of their support in future local elections, were voting this time 'to stop the Tories'.
This shows once again the importance of being seen as a credible contender in an election contest. That was why Chris and Ian had written to various campaigning and trade union organisations last summer, including the RMT's Bob Crow, calling for discussions on building a broad election list.
Unfortunately the RMT stepped back from standing candidates and an opportunity for a serious London-wide electoral challenge to the establishment parties was lost.
The SWP-led 'Left List' did stand in every seat, with an entry in the freepost booklet and a TV and radio broadcast, and with these advantages, polled 2,045 votes (1.37%) in Greenwich and Lewisham. But this was less than the 3,981 votes (4.2%) Ian Page polled as the Socialist Alliance candidate in 2000, still today the best vote for a left candidate in Greenwich and Lewisham. Indeed, across London the Left List polled less well than the Socialist Alliance did in 2000 - showing that they cannot claim to be the broad left workers' alternative to New Labour, which still needs to be built.
Housing fears build Socialist support
SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE candidate Lynn Worthington, standing in Baguley ward of Manchester city council came third, polling 295 votes (12%) in this year's local election. This was a gain of 17% on last year's 251 votes (10%).
Lynn Worthington and Trevor Prior, Wythenshawe Socialist Party
The Socialist Party's consistent work throughout the year meant we could consolidate last year's vote which centred on the local 'save our baby unit' campaign, and bring towards us more local voters disillusioned by Labour's betrayal of working-class people.
People we met during canvassing are excited that by standing in the ward we offer a genuine fighting alternative to the three mainstream big business parties.
Year on year the Socialist Alternative vote has increased in Baguley, indicating a growing understanding of socialist ideas amongst working-class people and a recognition that we are the only party in the area taking an active, fighting role in the community.
This year the dominant issue on local people's minds was the cowboy approach by Parkway Green Housing Trust to the home improvements programme after city council homes in the area were transferred to Parkway Green a few years back.
During the election campaign we heard horror stories from residents of how their homes and lives were blighted by substandard work and an uncaring approach. Some people have been complaining for months with no result. We have taken up these cases for people and got action.
The election campaign also brought new recruits to the party and we sold almost 350 copies of The Socialist over the campaign. We expect to build upon our growing number of regular paper buyers by revisiting almost 200 people who we sold papers to during canvassing.
Hospital campaign cuts across divisive BNP
A THIRD year of electoral campaigning in the Huddersfield ward of Crosland Moor and Netherton saw Socialist Party member and Save Huddersfield NHS candidate Ian Slattery maintain his support and lay the foundations for councillor Jackie Grunsell's re-election in 2010.
The standing Labour candidate fought on an ultra-local manifesto of back alleys, bins and lighting. By massively distancing herself from Labour's national policies, she held onto a 1,000 majority. With a lower turnout than 2007, Ian got a similar percentage of the vote to last year.
The Tories, with no active campaigning, boosted their vote from 732 to 992 and have a majority of one now on Kirklees council. They could well join with the Lib Dems and Greens to form the new administration.
Unfortunately, independent councillor Terry Lyons, the other half of the independent group with Jackie Grunsell, lost his seat. Despite some political differences, he usually seconded motions forwarded by Jackie.
With further attacks on public services likely, Jackie now faces a difficult task in organising a fightback within the council chamber.
In Crosland Moor and Netherton, where Save Huddersfield NHS poses an electoral alternative for working people, the BNP vote has always been limited. This year the BNP vote fell to the lowest ever in the ward, down from 568 in 2007 to 360 in 2008. This proves the effectiveness of organising anti-cuts, pro-working class alternatives to cut across the divisive BNP.
Frustration at the 'all the same' parties
FACING 20 other candidates and with one of Swansea's lowest turnouts (28%) Socialist Party members who campaigned in the city centre Castle ward can be satisfied with our 172 votes.
We came fifth behind the main parties and in front of the Independents, Wales Communist Party and the Left Party.
We provided a Socialist Alternative to the 'all the same' traditional parties and our election material was well received, particularly our demand for a new workers' party.
The abysmally low turnout reflected the frustration felt by many towards the major parties. These parties were indistinguishable in their propaganda with little on offer to change ordinary people's lives for the better.
The urgency to boost the Campaign for a New Workers' Party to fill this vacuum was shown by a sharp increase in the BNP vote in the four wards where they stood in Swansea. However, despite targetting Swansea, the BNP failed to get any seats.
Future campaigning against the BNP has to expose more directly their racist and divisive policies and not just try and rely on scaremongering about Nazis and fascists which blatantly doesn't work. A clear socialist alternative can counter the BNP and provide a positive avenue for those disillusioned with the establishment parties.
Alec Thraves Socialist Alternative candidate, Castle ward
Workers' unity shows the way
AFTER campaigning in St Michael's ward in Coventry, I was immensely proud of the working-class unity shown on 1 May. This flew in the face of unfounded gutter press accusations of the Muslim community being insular and divided from the rest of Britain's working-class communities.
Sunara Begum, Coventry Socialist Party
Examples range from a Pakistani Muslim woman, offering me into her home for a cup of tea and saying "Dave Nellist he's my man. He was the only one who helped me with my passport problem," to a Bengali lady telling me "Dave Nellist is the only candidate who is going to fight for us."
She went on: "The Labour candidate might be a Muslim and Bengali but he stood mute when Labour went to war on Iraq and Afghanistan and when they closed the local accident and emergency hospital." She was furious at the self-serving, rich businessmen who were stabbing her in the back, by standing as New Labour candidates.
That party has turned its back on its founding traditions of fighting alongside the trade unions for working-class communities to become a party fighting with the bosses and big business to tread all over working-class communities. Only socialists like councillor Dave Nellist fight for all working class people.
Only working-class unity can defeat the bosses' attacks on people's jobs, homes and services. If you want to see an end to the greedy, divisive capitalist system, get involved in the Socialist Party. Join our fight for a socialist world where working class communities are united in planning and organising society for all of us.
Socialist Party election results
Candidate Vote (%)
In this issue
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
May Day Greetings
Socialist Party workplace news