TUSC candidates’ “protest and noise” rattles pro-cuts councillors

At the time of writing most of the results of 2nd May local authority, Mayoral and police crime commissioner elections have not been declared. Some things, however, are already clear. The Tories, predictably, got a kicking. They lost the Blackpool South by-election, taking place on the same day, to Labour on a 26% swing. Reform UK were only 118 votes from beating the Tories for second place.

Nationally, as in Blackpool South, Labour was the main beneficiary of the Tories electoral collapse. In no way, however, does this reflect enthusiasm for Starmer’s New Labour. In Blackpool Labour’s candidate got almost 2,000 votes less than Labour did in 2019, to record Labour’s lowest ever result in the constituency since 1983. Generally, turnout was low in all the elections that took place, and growing numbers also chose to vote for candidates outside of the major establishment parties.

In the council elections gains were made by independents, in all of their many different stripes – from left wing anti-war candidates to right wing racists. At the time of writing Reform UK, while they increased their votes in some areas, do not seem to have gained seats. The Green Party, on the other hand has picked up new councillors, in part among voters who saw a Green vote as a means to express opposition to Sunak and Starmer’s support for the assault on Gaza. These trends will clearly continue in the general election. Starmer is on his way to Downing Street, on a tide not of enthusiasm, but of disillusionment.

That will only increase – and turn into angry discontent – as workers experience the reality of Starmer’s pro-capitalist New Labour in office. Last week the ex-Tory health minister, Dan Poulter, crossed over to the Labour benches confident that, “thanks to Keir Starmer Labour has changed fundamentally. The Labour Party of 2019”, as he accurately declared, “has been consigned to history.”  What does he mean? He means that, not only is Jeremy Corbyn not allowed to sit as a Labour MP, but also that his election manifesto pledges – like mass council house building, rent controls, scrapping tuition fees, and nationalisation of Royal Mail, the energy supply companies and more – are dead and gone.  

The workers’ movement needs to start preparing now to build a new party that stands on a socialist programme; that is ‘for the many not the few’ instead of New Labour’s pledge to be the most pro-business in history. In these local elections the Socialist Party, stood as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which fielded 280 candidates as part of the fight for such a party. That meant TUSC contested 10% of the council seats available, making it the sixth biggest party in these elections. That is modest compared to what is needed, but TUSC candidates were nonetheless able to bring the fightback to the ballot box.

For example, in Southampton Bevois, the safest Labour ward in the city, Socialist Party member Nadia Ditta came second with 848 votes, 32%. Two days before the election, and highly rattled, Labour launched an attack on TUSC, in which they complained, “TUSC is a party of protest and noise, and they do this very well, as you have seen in this election”.

Of course Socialist Party and TUSC are not going to stop ‘protesting’ and making ‘noise’ about Labour cuts now this election is over; we will be stepping up the fight in Southampton and nationally. In other areas too we were able to make Labour councils feel the anger at voters over austerity and Gaza via our electoral stand.  We don’t yet know most of the results, but Labour had reason to be rattled in a number of seats. TUSC’s candidate in Deepdale, Preston – Hasan Tunay – also came second to Labour with a tremendous 31% of the vote. Neil Dunne in Northwood, Knowsley received 16.3% of the vote, while other candidates in Preston and Gateshead, for example, broke the 10% barrier.

We will publish a full analysis of the election results early next week. However, it is already clear that in – in the elections on 2 May – steps forward were taken in the fight for working class political representation. Now the battle is on for a workers’ list in the general election.