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Local elections 2014: A good base for TUSC to build on
The final vote tally for the 560 local election and three mayoral Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) no-cuts candidates in the 22 May elections is 68,031.
In 21 councils TUSC has polled over 1,000 votes. In ten of these, it has been over 2,000. There are 78 council wards where TUSC has polled over 5% of the vote.
Anti-cuts councillor Keith Morrell was re-elected in Southampton's Coxford ward with 43% of the vote. In Coventry, while Labour held on to the city's St Michaels ward, TUSC's national chairperson Dave Nellist polled a very good 974 votes, coming second with a 29.7% share.
In Birmingham TUSC's 12 candidates polled 1,766 votes, with James Redfern scoring 9.3% in Tyburn ward and Ted Woodley 7.6% in Stockland Green. Also on 9.3% was Amanda Dilley, the top TUSC result in Stevenage council.
In Sheffield TUSC's candidates have collectively polled 2,657 votes across the city, with a 10.2% share of the vote in Manor Castle ward and 8.4% in Burngreave ward. In Doncaster TUSC polled 1,556 votes, in Barnsley 1,361, and in Wakefield 1,257.
In London there were 5,482 votes cast for TUSC candidates in Waltham Forest, 4,166 in Haringey, 2,260 in Hillingdon, 2,162 in Enfield, 1,887 for the ward candidates in Newham (in addition to the 1,708 votes, 2.2%, for Lois Austin, TUSC's candidate for mayor), 1,315 in Lambeth, and 1,134 in Southwark.
What is clear from the results is that 'the party that doesn't exist' for the national media has made its mark and prepared the ground for broader and deeper electoral challenges in the future.
The TUSC national steering committee is meeting on 28 May to discuss the results and plans for next year - the general election but also the 2015 local council elections, being fought in more seats (excluding London) than were contested this year. A full election report will be ready for the meeting (see www.tusc.org.uk for latest).
Great TUSC victory in Southampton
Keith Morrell has re-won his council seat in Coxford, Southampton, standing as part of TUSC. Keith was previously kicked out of the Labour Party for voting against cuts.
He has been decisively re-elected with 1,633 votes, 43%. This is a great result and vindication for his stand, alongside fellow rebel councillor Don Thomas, in opposing all cuts.
Ukip came second with 796 votes, Labour third with 724 votes, the Tories fourth with 500 votes, and Lib Dems last with 168.
The result has lit up the idea that fighting councillors can help build support for a real alternative to austerity. It is in sharp contrast to the close shave for Labour council leader Simon Letts who nearly lost his seat to Ukip after two years of implementing Tory cuts.
Keith said: "This result is a victory for the people of Coxford who fought to save local services and won an important victory to re-open our local swimming pool. It shows what is possible.
"Other significant results across the city for TUSC Against Cuts candidates show the potential that exists for a new party - a party that stands up for working people, campaigns for jobs and housing and tackles the growing poverty that affects so many families in the city".
Support still strong for socialists in Coventry
In Coventry, standing as TUSC for the first time, socialist candidates received a total of 2,592 votes (3.5%) across the city. Dave Nellist recorded a solid 974 (30%) in second place in St Michaels ward.
We expected our campaign to be impacted by the 'European election factor' which undoubtedly boosted the votes of the main parties plus Ukip and the Greens (neither of which really exist on the ground in Coventry).
TUSC supporters can be pleased with the result given those conditions. More importantly we have laid the foundations for future TUSC work in the city. A significant number of leading local trade unionists took part in the campaign for the first time.
A fantastic campaign launch meeting of 65 people was held in March where many signed up to be part of a campaign team which distributed over 30,000 leaflets across the city, with multiple leaflets in St Michaels.
In St Michaels we still have a strong base of support despite an increasingly transient population replacing former settled communities.
Our campaign and material focused on raising socialist demands and policies - calling for a £10 an hour minimum wage, thousands of new jobs and homes and kicking privatisation out of the NHS.
Unlike every other party, our campaigning won't stop on election day. We have established better roots and support in the city to build upon for the general election and for future class struggles.
- Comment on Facebook from Coventry voter: "Voted for you in Sherbourne ward. Really nice to have somebody to vote for rather than usual bag of unscrupulous bastards. Thank you :)"
For weeks we have been pounding the pavements and front doors of New Cross and Brockley, looking for those TUSC votes that would elect a socialist back onto the council in Lewisham, south east London.
We have had socialist councillors in Telegraph Hill ward before, Chris Flood and Ian Page, and residents on the doorstep and visiting our stalls had fond memories of this. In the end, Chris received 659 votes. Many people signed up to get involved in TUSC and in the Socialist Party.
Unlike when we have won in the past, there is no unpopular New Labour government that helped us in our argument that an alternative to Labour is necessary. With residents mainly wanting to punish the Con-Dems, the Labour 'brand recognition' and party machine is a formidable hurdle to overcome.
On election day Labour didn't bother to appear until late afternoon. For the last couple of hours, the Labour candidates degenerated into blocking the polling booth entrance and aggressively interrupting our conversations with residents.
Of course it is best for Labour to keep the conversation short - why get into any awkward conversations about the services they've closed, the jobs they've already cut or the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts they plan to make over the next four years. If Labour in Lewisham continues with its plans, there won't be much of a council left for them to run.
TUSC stood more widely than we have done before with 12 candidates in ten wards and Chris Flood for mayor. Chris received 1,354 votes in the mayoral contest and all bar three of our candidates gained more than 150 votes. It is an excellent foundation to build on.
We will continue to campaign against cuts, the bedroom tax, service closures, and local housing and all the other attacks on our community.
Cheryl McLeod, Chris Flood and James Kerr
- On Twitter from Natasha Hourau (who stood on the No2EU Yes To Workers' Rights list in London in memory of her father, general secretary of the RMT, Bob Crow): "Well done in your victories! Looking forward to seeing how TUSC now moves forward from here!"
In Tower Hamlets, east London, TUSC stood for the elected executive mayor and candidates in 13 wards. Some on the left argued before the election that we shouldn't stand because the independent mayor, Lutfur Rahman (standing during these elections as Tower Hamlets First), is left-of-Labour.
The political background was explosive. Rahman was targeted by Labour because he stood against the Labour candidate last time. There have been allegations of corruption in his administration and even a Panorama special which led to police raids on his offices orchestrated by Tory communities secretary, Eric Pickles. The Labour candidate, John Biggs, was the borough's Greater London Authority representative. Undoubtedly the other mainstream parties would have preferred the safe Labour candidate to Rahman.
In this highly polarised election TUSC received enthusiastic support for a programme of rent controls, building council houses, a £10 an hour minimum wage and a fight to return £123 million stolen from the council by the government over the last four years.
The TUSC mayoral candidate, Hugo Pierre, got 871 first preference votes, which given the circumstances was a creditable result. In the council seats we got a total of 2,144 votes.
The count still hasn't finished at the time of writing but Tower Hamlets First and Labour hold 18 seats each with the Tories holding 4. The collapse of the Lib Dems, who ran the council for eight years until 1994, was quite spectacular, as they fell behind Ukip and the Greens.
Lutfur Rahman's re-election opens up a new stormy chapter in the borough, not least how he will deal with a gaping £80 million hole in the budget and a continuing and deepening social crisis.
Our stand was a modest but successful start to place working class action, solidarity and socialism as a real option in the future for workers in this borough.
Tower Hamlets TUSC
In our first time standing widely across the east London borough, Waltham Forest TUSC gained 5,480 votes. This is a great success for our 33 candidates and all supporters and campaigners.
TUSC candidates received 3% of the overall vote, which is about 5% when adjusted for the number of seats we stood in. In High Street ward, where we stood a full slate, we got 5.2% of the vote. Our highest vote, 362 for teacher Dan Gillman in Markhouse, means more than 11% of voters in the ward voted for Dan.
That our vote held up regardless of how many candidates stood in each ward shows the real advantage of standing widely and will hopefully encourage more trade unionists and campaigners to join us next time to ensure we can contest all 60 seats.
If election results depended purely on who had run the best campaign, TUSC would have been the hands-down winner. Our demand for rent control to bring down rocketing rents and investment in building affordable council housing got a huge echo.
We spoke to thousands of people on our rent control flashmobs, knocking on doors in our target wards and leafleting at supermarkets and schools. On all of these activities it was clear that the majority in Waltham Forest are sick of the parties of big business and were pleased to learn of an anti-cuts, working class alternative. On our final canvass, the night before the election, someone said he would definitely vote for us because we are saying what Labour leader Ed Miliband should be saying but is too scared to.
On election day it was clear that the campaign had made a mark - people enthusiastically wished us good luck and told us that they had or would vote for us. One woman told us she was so pleased she had met us as she wasn't sure what she was going to do at the ballot box or if she would even bother voting.
We will now have monthly TUSC committee meetings, open to anyone who wants to help build TUSC in the area. We will continue our campaign for rent control in the borough - initially by collecting the 4,000 signatures needed to force a debate on the issue in the council chamber.
- In Hillingdon: While we were leafleting Northwood Hills a young man came up to us and said: "Are you the socialists? Then I'm voting for you"
The north-east generally has been regarded as a Labour heartland but Labour's support is now fraying at the edges. It is against this backdrop that there were 21 TUSC candidates across Tyne and Wear.
The election campaign, whose candidates included trade union activists and many young people, was given a welcome boost when activists from Sunderland Against Cuts joined the campaign.
When one of our 18 year old candidates heard the BBC was interviewing candidates for the European elections in her local town centre she and her mam boldly went down, armed with placards asking: "Where's our Recovery?"
Our candidates and volunteers in Sunderland had 'blisters on their blisters' as they delivered 14,000 leaflets. On Facebook after the election one of them posted: "We've only TUSC begun!"
In Newcastle we were approached by a Labour candidate who requested we stood down as he was on the left. We asked if he would vote against cuts. He said he would argue within the Labour group against cuts but conceded that he was not prepared to guarantee us that he would vote against all cuts. For us this was not good enough and we stood against him.
One of Gateshead's Labour councillor's bragged in her election material that they were "supporting over 250 volunteers to help run five libraries and 15 community centres." This is because Gateshead's Labour controlled council has sacked workers!
In North Tyneside we stood candidates but also worked alongside an independent socialist candidate.
This is the first time that TUSC has undertaken such a huge campaign in Plymouth, managing to stand candidates across all 19 wards. 17 of our candidates had never stood for TUSC before.
With relatively small numbers on the ground, we have managed to achieve 1,168 votes. With 19 candidates and a modest number of supporters we've already inspired over 1,000 people to reject the notion that austerity is a necessity. We also had a great deal of interest from people who are willing to get involved with TUSC and we now need to build in anticipation of next year's elections.
The fact that Bill Stevens, newly re-elected Labour councillor for Devonport, saw fit to make a dig at us by proclaiming that he is a "real trade unionist and socialist" shows that Labour are already feeling the pressure that we are exerting on them.
The irony of his statement was that at the same time as he was making this proclamation, the Labour-led council was at the courts petitioning for the next batch of Council Tax Liability Orders. 20,000 people, in a population of around 250,000, have found themselves in council tax arrears since the Welfare Reform Act was introduced in April 2013.
Remember, if you're against cuts, sign up to TUSC!
Across Salford 2,150 people voted TUSC. Across the nine wards we stood in (six of which TUSC had never stood in before) we received 9.9% of the vote. In Little Hulton ward we came second.
We'll be meeting on 28 May to talk about the results and discuss where next for TUSC in Salford. We need to continue building and growing so that there are 20 TUSC candidates standing in Salford in the 2015 local elections.