Archive article from The Socialist Issue 347
Greater London Authority elections 10 June
Electoral agreement in Greenwich and Lewisham
THE SOCIALIST PARTY has reached an electoral agreement for the 10 June Greater London Assembly elections with the Respect - Unity Coalition, headed by the anti-war MP, George Galloway.
In the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency London assembly seat Respect have withdrawn in favour of the Socialist Party candidate, our Lewisham councillor Ian Page.
Ian, in turn, is recommending a vote for the Respect candidates for the London-wide members assembly seats and the London European parliament seats, where voters have to select a party list.
In the London European seats, the Respect - Unity Coalition list is topped by George Galloway, who last year was expelled from New Labour for opposing the war.
The Socialist Party has not joined Respect because we have political differences with this new formation and also differences on how a new left formation should be built in England and Wales. But that does not prevent us reaching electoral agreements where they are possible.
The original agreement between Respect and the Socialist Party was for Ian Page to appear on the ballot paper purely as the Socialist Alternative candidate, the electoral name the Socialist Party is obliged to use following a 1999 ruling by the unelected Registrar of Political Parties that debarred us from standing under our own name.
However, another unelected official, this time the BBC's chief political adviser, David Jordan, ruled that this electoral agreement would disqualify Respect from being allocated a regional TV and radio party election broadcast.
To qualify, Respect would have to contest every seat, or Ian Page would have to describe himself as the Socialist Alternative/Respect candidate on the ballot paper.
"It does not seem too much to ask", he wrote, in rejecting a joint appeal against his decision.
The broadcasting authorities have 'discretionary powers' in allocating election broadcasts and, in this case, parties could qualify without contesting every seat if they could demonstrate 'electoral support'.
The fact that the Respect list is headed by a sitting MP didn't count for this BBC dignitary because George Galloway "was elected on a Labour Party manifesto".
The fact that one of the parties to the electoral agreement, the Socialist Party, has as much representation in Lewisham with two councillors as the Tory Party has, didn't count either.
Respect made it clear that they would stand a candidate against Ian Page if it was necessary for them to do so to get a broadcast.
Consequently, to enable Respect to get an election broadcast without standing against us, we have agreed to amend the ballot paper party description to fit the BBC dictate, while conducting the campaign in Greenwich and Lewisham as originally agreed.