Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/770/16909
Southampton byelection: Labour vote halved
Build the anti-cuts electoral opposition
Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party
The Southampton Woolston ward byelection result makes alarming reading for the Labour council, in power for just 12 months, and its backers in the trade union leadership.
The first electoral test since last May's election victory served up a disaster for Labour, who lost almost 50% of its vote.
There was no comfort for the Tories who continued their slide, falling to third behind a massive protest vote that went in the main to Ukip.
Tory poodles, the Limp Dems, were pushed into fifth behind Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate Sue Atkins.
TUSC saw a small increase in its share of the vote, also coming ahead of the Greens who finished in last place.
It was significant that the turnout for the byelection was only 2% down from the May elections.
How can Southampton Labour explain this collapse in its vote if, by its reckoning, they are doing a good job?
The Labour leader and Woolston councillor, Richard Williams, resigned after lying to cover up political splits that opened up in his cabinet shortly after last May's elections.
Williams had claimed that councillor Keith Morrell had resigned from the Labour cabinet due to ill health, when in reality the resignation was in opposition to the cuts.
As the months have passed, the claim that Labour would be your "friend in tough times... on the side of families not millionaires" has been torn to shreds by mass redundancies and savage cuts to services.
In last year's elections, Southampton Unite and Unison branches were able to mobilise some support for Labour from council workers in the fight to restore pay cut by the then-Tory council.
No such effort was made in the Woolston byelection, with many local council workers incensed at Labour's cuts. Some gave their support to TUSC but others gave their support to Ukip.
Time and again TUSC canvassers came away from conversations with disgruntled former-Labour voters sympathetic to our 'no cuts' message.
But Ukip, prominently favoured by the media, was seen as the "biggest stick" to beat the establishment with.
It is presented as anti-establishment, and many considering voting Ukip were also open to our arguments.
Ukip undoubtedly took votes from Tories as well as Labour, though many will have previously not voted.
But Ukip is not an anti-establishment party - far from it. It also stands for austerity. In fact, Ukip members organised a pro-cuts march in May 2011, in response to the TUC's 2011 march against austerity.
The Ukip vote is another warning to the trade unions that, if a political voice to oppose the cuts is not built, dissent can be tapped by right-wing, anti-working class, populist parties who will seek to divide and weaken the anti-cuts movement.
Ukip played on the issue of jobs and immigration, the Tories joined in and Labour followed.
But only Sue Atkins, TUSC candidate, explained the need for determined opposition to the cuts to force the government to restore funding to local government.
This message got an overwhelmingly warm response from people open to an alternative to the growing problems they face.
The active support of anti-cuts councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas has helped to show there are those willing to stand by what they say and refuse to vote for cuts.
Who will be there tomorrow to oppose the bedroom tax, cuts to Sure Start, libraries and youth services? As Labour continue to swing the Tory axe into next year's budget, TUSC will redouble its efforts to mount a city-wide alternative to cuts and we are confident that our support will continue to grow.
Labour 864; Ukip 731, Tories 704; TUSC 136; Lib Dems 120; Greens 107
TUSC backs Brighton binworkers
Socialist Party member Phil Clarke, who is also secretary of the local trades council, is standing as a TUSC candidate in Brighton and Hove council's Hanover and Elm Grove ward byelection.
Phil has been supporting Brighton binworkers on picket lines and at demos (see Brighton bin workers strike). Phil is the only candidate who doesn't just opposes cuts to workers' pay, but also proposes a strategy for stopping them and all cuts in the area: refuse to implement government cuts and build a campaign around a 'needs budget' based on providing jobs, homes and services for the city.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation.
It involves the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA, and socialist organisations including the Socialist Party.
In The Socialist 19 June 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Fighting the bedroom tax
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reviews