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Left lessons in London elections
CONTRARY TO to earlier opinion poll indications, the turnout in the London mayoral elections and Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections was less than 34%.
Ken Livingstone's candidature was expected to boost turnout, but while he still scored a stunning victory, support for him waned as he adorned the mantle of London populism.
Although Labour's vote plummeted, there was not a massive rise in the Tory vote. Instead, Left and Green candidates attracted good votes, with three Green Party members elected to the 25-member assembly.
In the constituency section for the assembly, from which 14 assembly members were elected, the total Left vote was 47,066, with the majority of this, 46,530 votes, 2.93%, going to the London Socialist Alliance (LSA). Independent candidates supporting Ken Livingstone polled a further 24,499.
Unfortunately, matters were complicated for the GLA top-up list. Four Left groups competed for the remaining eleven places on the assembly. In total, Left groups polled 66,013 votes (3.9%), but this was split between the LSA, the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation (CATP), Scargill's Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the Communist Party of Britain. In addition Peter Tatchell, standing as an independent received over 22,000 votes, bringing the total Left vote on the top-up list to 5.33% - this failure to achieve left unity meant the squandering of an opportunity to get a socialist elected onto the assembly.
With reservations the Socialist Party recommended support for the LSA because of its broad socialist programme, while sympathising with those workers who would want to vote for the CATP because it represented a group of militant workers taking a stand against New Labour. But this situation should never have arisen.
We argued for a joint slate between what we regarded as the two more important left groups, the LSA and CATP. The CATP, whose campaign was endorsed by the RMT London Underground Regional Council, rejected this, insisting on standing on the narrow platform of opposition to tube privatisation.
As part of the LSA we then argued that the LSA should support the CATP top-up list and concentrate on campaigning in the constituencies, where support for a broad socialist programme could be best built. No other group within the LSA supported this, with the unfortunate result that the LSA stood against the CATP.
We believe the assembly election results justify the position we adopted. The LSA did better in the constituencies, achieving up to 7% of the vote, than in the top-up list.
However, while the LSA managed to poll an important 27,073 votes for the top-up list, this unfortunately represented just 1.6% of the total votes cast. The CATP polled 17,401 votes, 1.0%. In two constituencies the CATP polled more votes for the top-up list than the LSA.
The LSA would now be in a much stronger position to unite the Left together had it just stood in the constituencies: it would still have obtained its good constituency vote while being seen to be supporting Left unity and workers fighting to defend their conditions of work and jobs.
Despite its fragmented character the total Left vote is a positive development which now needs to be built upon.