Britain: Socialist Party successes in English local elections

David Nellist, 1417, 52.8%

English local election campaign reports from Coventry, London and Merseyside.

English local elections


Third biggest party on Coventry council

Coventry Socialist Party secured its best ever local election results. The party contested eight of Coventry’s 18 wards and received a total of 3,758 votes – 14.9% of the votes cast in those wards. Councillor David Nellist was re-elected with nearly 53% of the vote. The Socialist Party remains the third largest party on the city council.

New Labour lost four seats to the Tories. The Lord Mayor used his own re-election speech to attack the Socialist Party, saying that the party had chosen the seats it contested principally to damage the Labour Party and let the Tories in. “It’s a dangerous game they’re playing” he said.

But as David Nellist explains: “Of the four seats Labour lost, the Socialist Party stood in one and the Liberals stood in the other three. Over the last two elections Labour has lost 13 seats in nine wards (half the city).

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that Labour needs to look to why people are deserting it in droves, rather than blaming other parties.

“I vividly remember being told when I was expelled from the Labour Party in 1992 that socialists such as myself should get out and stand under ‘our own colours’.

“Now, apparently, the party that expelled us doesn’t want us to stand even in the limited number of seats our present resources allow.

“Well, the only solution I can see that is that we’ll have to do our best to raise enough money and recruit enough support in the next few years so we’re not just limited to eight seats – we’ll try and stand in all 18.”

Full results in Coventry St Michael’s

Labour, 1022, 38.1%

Tory, 237, 8.8%

Lewisham, London

Highest ever Socialist Party votes

SOCIALIST PARTY candidates Ian Page (right) and Sam Dias (below,left) scored their highest ever votes in Telegraph Hill ward. Ian Page was re-elected with over 1,000 votes but Sam Dias just missed out by 43 votes. Local Education Action by Parents (LEAP) Helen Lefevre won one council seat as did the Labour Party.

While this was a brilliant result for Ian it was disappointing to see Sam lose her seat. This was the first time that the Socialist Party in Lewisham had won a seat at a full council election, both Ian and Sam had previously won in by-elections. Ian received 1,065 votes the highest he has ever had in three elections. Sam nearly doubled her vote from eighteen months ago.

This shows the huge amount of respect that local people hold both of our candidates in and the campaigning work they have carried out since being elected.

cwi Sam has vowed to continue with her campaigning despite not being reelected. Sam said “I would like to thank all those who supported me and say I will not be going away but continue to work with tenants on the Honor Oak Estate and others. I will support Ian and continue to campaign with the New School for New Cross Campaign to fight for a new school on the Telegraph Hill site.”

An important development in Lewisham was the LEAP and three independent tenant candidates who stood for the first time. Parents from the New School for New Cross drew the conclusion that the Labour council was no longer listening to local people and needed to take their struggle for a new comprehensive community school onto the electoral front.

LEAP stood six candidates in four wards and Louise Irvine for Mayor. They polled between 200-450 votes in wards outside Telegraph Hill and 3,710 votes in the Mayoral election. This has forced the education issue to the top of the agenda in Lewisham.

Labour’s new mayor will have to respond to the growing discontent amongst parents. Tenants on the Pepys Estate in Deptford face the Labour Council selling off properties to the private sector. Tenants also gained good results with over 200 votes ( 12.5%).

The significance of these campaigners is that they have seen the need to stand against the traditional parties and find a voice for working class people. These developments give an idea of how a new mass working class party will be built in the future.

At the count, one Socialist Alliance member said that it was tactically wrong for the Socialist Party to support LEAP. Despite Sam Dias losing her seat, we believe it was a correct tactic. It shows the difference in approach of the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party towards community struggles which move on to the electoral plane.

The Socialist Party has worked very closely with the New School Campaign not attempting to dominate or control but genuinely supporting the campaign. We don’t just go along to sell our paper. We help with leafleting, attend campaign meetings, move resolutions at the council, attend lobbies and build constant support for the campaign, winning respect from the activists.

The Socialist Party recognised that while we would be building support for LEAP amongst our existing supporters, LEAP would also be building support for Ian and Sam. In fact this is one reason why Ian and Sam’s vote was so high.

When the ballot boxes were opened it was quite clear that there was an increase in support for the Socialist Party around Waller Road polling area as well as strong support on the Honor Oak estate.

The Socialist Alliance on the other hand, gained an average of only 100 votes in the seats where they stood in Lewisham. Winning genuine support means working alongside working-class people, recognising the issues and putting forward a programme that can bring about real change and win some victories on the way.

The ward had an increase of 2,000 new electors which had traditionally supported Labour. These new areas did not know the Socialist Party or the campaigns which we have been involved in.

Both these new areas had low turnouts of around 15% compared with the 30% turnouts in Waller and the Honor Oak. Telegraph Hill ward had one of the higher turnouts compared with the other Deptford wards. This is down to the campaigning of the Socialist Party over years and the New School for New Cross Campaign.

The Labour Party have very few activists and certainly no longer campaign with local people. They have lost touch with working class communities and only represent themselves and the interests of big business.

Sam and Ian and the tenants on the Honor Oak Estate had won £14 million from the council for refurbishing the estate. The Labour Party sunk to smear tactics such as blaming Sam and Ian for the mess created by private contractors.

The Labour Party who have not been seen on the estate over the last six months attempted to say the problems were down to Sam and Ian and not the lack of support from the council and the private companies trying to make as much profit as possible by cutting corners.

Election night started badly for Ian Page as Millwall (local football team) lost in the last minute to Birmingham in the play-offs. He was also nearly arrested outside the count when he confronted the BNP candidate in Downham ward. Over 300 anti-Nazi protesters mainly from Goldsmith College formed a lobby to stop the BNP entering the count.

However, neither Millwall losing or the sight of the racist BNP could stop the night turning out to be a fantastic result for the Socialist Party and the advancement of socialist ideas.

Telegraph Hill Ward

Labour 1 1132*

Ian Page (SP) 1065*

Helen Lefevre 975* (LEAP)

Sam Dias (SP) 922

Labour 2 904

Labour 3 880

LibDem 1 457

Green 452

LibDem 2 309

Con 1 176

Con 2 164

Con 3 160

Lab average 38%

SP and LEAP average 39%

LibDem/Green average 16%

Tory average 7%

Turnout 26%

* elected

Bootle, Merseyside.

A magnificent result for the Socialist Party

cwi The Socialist Party in Bootle scored a magnificent result by polling 822 votes (32%) in Netherton and Orrell Ward, almost double the previous vote. We polled virtually as much in one ward as the entire left in Merseyside, including the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Labour Party. Workers believed that the Socialist Party were the best fighters for their interests.

Pete Glover

The ward covers a large area of disused industrial land separating communities. There are four distinct areas with different concerns and we were strongest in the area around a proposed landfill site that has been our main campaign. We outpolled New Labour in this district but it wasn’t as simple as just using our record on the landfill.

New Labour mobilised every activist they had to come into the ward. Their candidate, Dave Martin, is the leader in Sefton and they actually won control of the council from the Liberal-Democrats. We were fighting against a big regional swing to New Labour.

They put out two leaflets saying they were opposed to the landfill and organised a public meeting with the MP and the chair of Merseyside Passenger Transport.

The local catholic priest gave it out from the pulpit on who to vote for the Sunday before the election! The Bootle Times, whose editor is a supporter of New Labour, ran a front-page story in election week highlighting a ‘victory’ over a local school nursery.

St Robert Bellarmine’s, a local school, put out a newsletter that went to every child’s home two days before the polls opened. This had a picture of Dave Martin with the chair of the governors and the headteacher and congratulated “the local Labour councillor for all his hard work” – in bold type!

The neighbourhood action group, NAG, also turned out in force; New Labour supporters had taken it over weeks before, and they canvassed for a Labour vote.

New Labour supporters abused and intimidated our supporters throughout the campaign and I was subjected to death threats.

It shows how good our vote was that we achieved it in spite of all these forces ranged against us. We fought the campaign on our opposition to the proposed landfill site and organised roadblocks and demonstrations. We took up a housing campaign in another area where we outpolled New Labour.

They were horrified at the result – it puts us in a good position to win next year.

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May 2002