Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 25 May 2006

London: The political landscape after the local elections

FOLLOWING THE recent London local elections, PAULA MITCHELL examines the new political make-up of the capital and the prospects for working class political action over the burning issues of health, housing, transport and racism.

NEW LABOUR have been hammered in the council elections in London. The Tories have taken control of seven councils, while six have fallen to no overall control. The Tories now control 14 councils, Labour seven and the LibDems three. There are now eleven BNP councillors in Barking and Dagenham, and 15 Respect councillors, 12 in Tower Hamlets and three in Newham.

The Tory vote in London to a large extent is a 'return-to-the-fold' of voters who turned to Blair's New Labour temporarily. Most of the boroughs which have gone to the Tories this time have been Conservative more often than not for decades.

One exception to this is Hammersmith and Fulham, which has not been under Tory control since 1968 (when the majority of councils were Tory). It would appear that middle-class people and a small layer of workers may also have voted Tory because London, especially in terms of housing, transport and collapse of public services, is at the sharp end of New Labour's big business policies.

The Labour vote did not drop uniformly however. There is a big element of the vote which was simply against whoever was in power - in other words against big business policies. For example, in Islington, New Labour gained 12 councillors from the LibDems and the council went to no overall control; they took ten from the LibDems in Lambeth to take over the council.

In Richmond the Tories, despite making gains elsewhere, lost 16 councillors and control of the council to the LibDems. The Greens did very well in some parts of London, partly as an easy protest vote.

But significantly, the Socialist Party scored excellent results, getting Lewisham socialist councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood re-elected and a tremendous vote for Jess Leech, our third candidate in that ward.

We also achieved good results in our small campaigns in Walthamstow and Southwark, showing a definite increase in the number of people consciously wanting to vote socialist.

Big business policies

The election result which has generated most national comment has been the BNP winning eleven councillors in Barking and Dagenham. Sections of the press have even suggested that if the BNP had stood in every seat they would have taken control of the council. However, in one ward they only polled 106 votes, indicating that they probably picked their wards carefully.

But this result is no surprise. The BNP have achieved a similar level of votes for the last few years.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, scapegoated by the government, was right when she said that white workers feel that Labour isn't listening to them. But of course she and others of her type do nothing to fight New Labour's big business policies.

Barking and Dagenham is an area that has been blighted by big business policies. The workforce at Fords at Dagenham has been decimated, losing thousands of local jobs over the last few years. There is a housing crisis due to privatisation and no new build.

The NHS cuts in the Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trust are the worst in London at over 600 job losses. Of course, it is not just white workers affected by this, but working-class people from all backgrounds. But fears and resentment about asylum seekers and immigrants has been whipped up by the New Labour politicians and their friends in the media.

Divisive BNP

However predictable, the BNP's election is a dangerous development. They masquerade as a party for white workers, but in fact they offer no alternative to the cuts and privatisation of our services, or to job losses and low pay. Where they have had councillors in other towns, they have failed to even vote against cuts and council tax rises, never mind organise campaigns against them.

In fact, it is impossible for the BNP to mobilise effective campaigns on such issues because to do so requires the unity of working people against the privateers and profit-seekers, whereas the BNP is based on dividing working people against each other.

What is also dangerous is that the BNP whip up racism and their election could encourage a minority to carry out racist attacks and abuse. On a more optimistic note, their election will probably lead to increasing numbers of people, particularly young people, wanting to combat the BNP in that area and elsewhere. Campaigning against racism amongst young people will be an essential part of the Socialist Party's work.

It is also possible that a layer of trade unionists and community activists in that area will now start to look for a more effective method to combat the BNP. 12 years ago the BNP won their first councillor in London, who was then defeated by a community and trade union campaign, in which the Socialist Party's predecessor the Militant and Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) played a major part.

Then the BNP won a councillor in Dagenham two years ago. They were defeated again, but their vote did not go down. The main campaigns, conducted by a broad grouping called 'Barking and Dagenham Together' and by Unite Against Fascism, campaigned for a maximum Labour and "anti-racist" vote. The Liberals stood down on that occasion in favour of Labour.

We do not doubt the genuine anti-fascist and anti-racist views of those who participate in these campaigns and recognise that some of them have worked very hard. But we warned at the time that this approach would not be sufficient in future to keep the BNP from winning further seats in some parts of London.

It is vital that an alternative is built that fights in the interests of working-class people and which brings together workers from different communities, with campaigners, trade unionists, socialists and radical environmentalists.

Socialist Party members will be stepping up our campaigning in Barking and Dagenham for a new mass workers' party.

Socialist alternative

The defeat of New Labour councillors in Tower Hamlets by Respect is to be welcomed. But the perception of Respect as a party for Muslims, and the danger of divisions developing between different communities, will not be lessened by the fact that all their elected councillors are from a Muslim background and in Muslim areas.

Respect councillors, as the largest opposition group in Tower Hamlets, will now be severely tested.

The Socialist Party has a proud record of councillors posing a socialist alternative, in Lewisham and Coventry.

We have the experience of Liverpool city council in the 1980s, which, led by supporters of the Socialist Party's predecessor, Militant, built thousands of council houses, provided jobs on decent pay, built new schools, parks and leisure centres, and led a mass community and trade union campaign to force extra money from the Thatcher government.

In Tower Hamlets, our Socialist Party members are writing to the Respect councillors to propose discussions on how to pose a working-class, anti-cuts, anti-privatisation alternative in Tower Hamlets.

Some Respect councillors have a good record of campaigning and we hope to be able to work with them. These elections have given us a snapshot of developments in London. The reality is that large numbers of working-class and middle-class people in are increasingly disillusioned in all the main parties, and it is no surprise.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 25 May 2006:

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Stand up to NHS cuts!

Save our community hospitals


Education bill - Labour depends on Tory support

Teachers call for action

Environment: Nuclear power

Say no to nuclear power

Campaign for a New Workers Party

Step up the Campaign for a New Workers' Party


The political landscape in London after the local elections

Northern Ireland

Unite against sectarianism in Northern ireland

Bobby Sands Nothing but an Unfinished Song

Socialist Party workplace news

Postal workers call for action

NATFHE demand pay justice

International socialist news and analysis

Brazil: 'War' erupts in So Paulo

Appeal for solidarity with Venezuelan workers


Home   |   The Socialist 25 May 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleWest London Socialist Party: The ongoing plight of refugees

triangleTo produce the Socialist we need a building - help us keep ours!

triangleMcStrike: ballot for strike action at six McDonald's stores

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Gaza - protest is not terrorism!


triangleLabour councillors could stop unsafe 'driver-only operation' tomorrow

triangleAberdeen bus drivers strike against pay cuts

triangleMerseyrail protest

triangleRail: fares up, bosses' pay up - delays and cancellations up


triangleEnoch Powell's racist 'Rivers of Blood' rant 50 years on

triangleFight the Tory enemy

triangleAntisemitism slurs: latest attempt to derail Corbynism


triangleYoung people need homes

triangleLondon tenants and workers protest against social housing auction


triangle1,400 beds empty as patients lay in corridors: health unions must act now


triangleWhy I joined: "I hope that more and more people are going to join the Socialist Party and the fight to end inequality"


triangleBristol South Socialist Party: How can councils protect public services?


triangleLewisham & Southwark Socialist Party: Reform or Revolution?

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



UCU members vote to end pensions dispute



Usdaw conference 2018: time for new era of fighting trade unionism



Victorious Fearnville Fields campaigners thank the Socialist



Hull says no to war, no to austerity


The Socialist

The Socialist - a fighting, campaigning, workers' paper


Socialist Party

Building fund: 150,000 milestone smashed!


Fighting Fund

Give us your change (and more) to fight for system change!



Workers' victory over anti-union Scottish council



Avenue School strikers and parents win judicial review



Vote for a left, fighting PCS leadership



PCS rejects Acas offer - further strikes announced



Bromley libraries - indefinite strike action continues



Butterfields tenants join TUSC campaign



Fighting the cuts to women's services



May elections: a chance to fight attacks on health and social care

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018