Socialist Party member and former councillor Ian Page received 12% of the vote in yesterday's byelection in the Bellingham ward in Lewisham, south London. This support for Ian is a warning to Labour councils that are making cuts. Working people are growing tired of their excuses!
Lewisham Council is making £88 million of cuts over the next four years, slashing jobs and services. Labour councillors want to put all the blame on the Con-Dems.
In Bellingham, for now at least the anger against this government of millionaires has given Labour a victory - but for how much longer?
Lewisham Socialist Party, standing on a joint ticket with Lewisham People Before Profit, understood that many voters would want to punish the Tories and Lib Dems. But our message was clear - that you can't trust Labour to resist their attacks.
Voting for Ian Page, our anti-cuts candidate, was the best way to send a message to all the main parties that a working-class area like Bellingham needs councillors who will fight for their community and against all cuts.
In a few weeks, we secured a real base of support in a ward where we had not previously campaigned. We could point to Ian's campaigning record as a socialist councillor in Telegraph Hill ward, but Bellingham is at the other end of the borough.
After this result, the other parties will have to recognise that we are a force to be reckoned with right across Lewisham. On the doorsteps and the street stalls there was growing support from local people for our anti-cuts message.
Hatred for the government was mixed with anger at Labour councillors who are carrying out the Tories' dirty work - slashing jobs, closing libraries and privatising children's centres.
The low byelection turnout (22%) reflected a mood amongst many that they couldn't trust anyone to defend them. But our 12% vote - close behind both Tories and Lib Dems - shows that we persuaded many others not to stay angrily indoors on election day but to vote for a real alternative.
While both the Lib Dems and Labour tried to present Ian as an 'outsider', it was the Labour canvassers in suits that looked most out of place in Bellingham.
One Labour councillor was so lost that she had to come up to our stall for directions. 'I'm meant to be meeting the Labour team outside the Housing Office' she explained. 'Yes, but you closed it', came our reply - pointing to the boarded up office behind us!
When Ian finally finished knocking on people's doors, he realised he had dropped the keys to his scooter. A group of lads came out of one of the houses to say they had found them and taken them safely indoors. When they realised it was Ian, they said that their family had voted for him. That's working-class solidarity!
At the town hall election count, Labour looked relieved but we were smiling. Lewisham's Labour councillors know that trade unionists and the community are already organising against their cuts.
Now they will have to start looking over their left shoulders for a socialist challenge at the ballot box as well.
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