STANDING 48 candidates in 34 council wards on 10 June, the Socialist Party (standing as ‘Socialist Alternative’) received 16,787 votes. In addition, 2,825 people voted for Socialist Party Councillor Ian Page in the London Assembly election constituency of Greenwich and Lewisham.
cwi election campaigns 2004. England and Wales.
Four reports from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales.
Socialist Party successes in England and Wales
We celebrated the re-winning of two of our council seats in the St Michael’s ward of Coventry, with increased votes. This was no small feat considering recent boundary changes and a high resident turnover. Unfortunately our third Coventry councillor, Rob Windsor very narrowly lost his seat, despite getting a higher vote than when he won it originally. He was not helped by being in bottom place on the ballot paper. Our three Socialist Party St Michael’s candidates polled significantly more than New Labour, gaining 4,236 votes compared to Labour’s 3,536.
Elsewhere, other Socialist Party candidates had very good results. For example, standing for the first time in Lincoln, Ryan Hayward achieved an excellent 16% (329 votes). Jess Leech in Deptford achieved 13% (374 votes), Steve Pugh in Stoke gained 12% (312 votes) and Alec Thraves in Swansea gained 10% (258 votes). Once again, our candidates had the best results on the left in Merseyside, receiving 23% of the vote in Sefton’s Netherton and Orrel ward.
Two Coventry councillors re-elected
COVENTRY SOCIALIST Party was left with mixed feelings, as we didn’t succeed in defending all three of our council seats in St Michael’s ward, but overall we gained an excellent 8,614 votes across the city. All three of our sitting councillors increased their votes from the last election contested, but unfortunately Rob Windsor missed out on third place in the poll by just 16 votes.
Despite winning back a councillor, New Labour will be relatively disappointed, as several factors meant that the election was more favourable for them than last time. Boundary changes, with a brand new estate being added to the ward, meant that retaining all three councillors would be very difficult for us.
However, despite a campaign which included some farcical leaflets from Labour, including talk of ‘mansioned militants’, and accusations that we voted with the Tories to oppose a new football ground (it was our votes that secured this project whilst winning a better deal for working people in Coventry), we showed once again the firm and deep roots that we have in the community.
Amusingly, a Labour candidate – who was defeated once again – lied to one of our supporters, saying that Dave Nellist took far more than a worker’s wage when in parliament!
We canvassed and leafleted the ward several times and put out a leaflet aimed at the student population and also an anti-war leaflet in Urdu and Bengali. Since the election, on our Saturday stall we have met voters who are extremely angry that Labour got one seat back. But as Rob Windsor said, “don’t be gutted, get organised!” Two of our supporters agreed to join at the stall and we hope to get many more in the near future.
Across the city we scored three votes of over 500: in Henley, Lower Stoke and Whoberley. On our first run out in Sherbourne ward, we got 446 votes, and good results in all the other wards. In Woodlands, a group of anti-fascists and socialists stood as ‘Socialist Alternative’ and received an excellent 348 votes. This is a ward where the BNP polled over 1,000 last time, but their vote fell to 894 this time and they failed to win the seat. This was the only ward they contested in Coventry, whereas we fought in 12.
With each voter having the option of three votes, our total score went up compared to a ‘normal’ election, but the 8,614 we received shows the support we have, without having watered down or diluted our socialist ideas. We had around 70 Coventry people involved in the campaign and have begun to spread roots throughout the city.
Labour panic in Deptford
JESS LEECH, the Socialist Party candidate in the normally solidly Labour-voting Evelyn ward in Deptford, south London, gained 13% of the votes cast. As we had been getting an excellent response during our campaign, at first, some Socialist Party members and supporters were disappointed that we hadn’t run Labour even closer.
We certainly had Labour panicking. Many of Lewisham borough’s Labour councillors stayed out till the last hour in this one ward to get every last vote out, despite important elections for the Greater London Assembly (GLA) and the Euro-elections.
We worried them partly because Jess is well-known on the large Pepys estate, where she has been an activist on many issues, especially housing. Also, the Socialist Party had won the last Lewisham council by-election, when Chris Flood beat Labour to get our second seat in the borough.
In the 2002 council elections Labour got 60% of the votes with their nearest rivals on about 15%. It had been even safer for Labour before then. This time, Labour was down below 50%. What saved them was an increased turnout, with more people voting a solid Labour ticket for Euro, London Mayor, GLA and local elections, particularly as opinion polls made people worry that Ken Livingstone could lose the mayoral vote.
Undoubtedly the New Labour council’s capitalist policies of cuts and privatisation will present local people with many new issues to campaign on. This election campaign, together with that for Ian Page in the Greenwich/Lewisham GLA constituency, has given the Socialist Party a great basis for these new battles – and for future elections.
Lincoln Socialists take 16%
LESS THAN a year after the formation of our Lincoln Socialist Party branch, we decided to stand in the local council elections.
Ryan Hayward stood in Birchwood ward and beat all expectations by taking 329 votes out of a total of 2,100. This means that in less than 12 months a previously unknown party locally has picked up 16% of the vote!
This success has come about through the hard work of our Lincoln comrades with help from others in the East Midlands region and beyond. But it is based on the fact that Lincoln people are seeing through the lies and deceit of the three main capitalist parties. Many are crying out for an alternative that will represent their interests, and the Socialist Party is presenting such an alternative.
We are not going to rest on our laurels now. Although we did not win this election, we intend to fulfil our promises. Failure to do so will leave us no better than the parties who “only turn up when they want your vote” as one local resident said. We spoke to many people who wish to start campaigns on local issues and we will help them to take up their causes. While doing this, we will also take this opportunity to raise consciousness on socialist ideas and on the need to build a new mass workers party.