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Hartlepool - no surprises

Jim Jepps


There were no surprises in Hartlepool this week as Labour held on to the seat in the by-election. With an expectedly reduced majority Labour was able to fight off the Lib-Dem candidate using extremely vicious dirty tactics - attempting to emphasise among other things that the Lib-Dems were soft on criminals.

The Tories were absolutely humiliated and came fourth after UKIP - a result that will have them tearing their hari out with frustration.

For the left there was no breakthrough. John Bloom the RESPECT candidate did not achieve the percentage vote that the SLP got at the last General Election, and gained the equivalent vote to the Socialist Alliance Brent by-election result. (For those with short memories; 18th September 2003: Brent East - Socialist Alliance 1.7% (5th place) 30th September 2004: Hartlepool - Respect 1.8% (5th Place) )

 

RESPECT did beat the Greens and the National Front which is some consolation, but without even gaining 2% it is difficult to see this as any kind of breakthrough.

none of this is to say that nationally the picture is as poor - only in this particular by-election RESPECt's result was disappointing.

 

40.7%
 
Iain Wright (Labour): 12752 votes (-18.5%).
34.2%
 
Jody Dunn (Liberal Democrat): 10719 votes (+19.2%).
10.2%
 
Stephen Allison (UK Independence Party): 3193 votes (+10.2%).
9.7%
 
Jeremy Middleton (Conservative): 3044 votes (-11.2%).
1.8%
 
John Bloom (Respect - The Unity Coalition): 572 votes.
0.8%
 
Iris Ryder (Green Party): 255 votes.
0.8%
 
James Starkey (National Front): 246 votes.
0.4%
 
Paul Watson Fathers-4-Justice (Independent Candidate): 139 votes.
0.3%
 
Christopher Herriot (Socialist Labour Party): 95 votes (-2.1%).

0.3%
 
Richard Rodgers (Common Good): 91 votes.
0.3%
 
Phillip Berriman (Independent Candidate): 90 votes.
0.3%
 
Alan Hope (Monster Raving Loony Party): 80 votes.

0.1%

 
Ronnie Carroll (Independent Candidate): 45 votes.

0.1%

 
Edward Abrams (English Democrats Party): 41 votes.

 

RESPECT was right to try to stand here. Up until now it had predominantly only done well in areas with high percentages of Muslims - it must break out of this if it is to gain any real success electorally. This means Hartlepool was not tactically wrong for RESPECT to stand in - only that it was difficult terrain in which RESPECT was heavily squeezed.

Jim Jackson, who had campaigned in this election had these observations to make of the election "They seemed well organised, there seemed to be good numbers of helpers. I understand that there was no established Respect group or proto-group in Hartlepool - local campaigners seemed few on the ground but very active.

"Very Many Hartlepool residents were heartily sick of the election - with a "not more bloody election stuff" quite common when canvassing (can't win - in many elections people moan that nobody ever called).

"Several people on the door step said they'd heard of him, his campaigning had made his name locally."

RESPECT has issued a rather upbeat press release to this disappointing result which you can read here

Some have drawn the parallels with the Brent result and compared what a press release would have looked like had the same notions been applied.

What they could have said:
Based on Respect press release:
Labour humiliation, Tory disaster, Lib Dems stole it
From a standing start in a crowded field of 16 candidates and massive and unprecedented resources poured into the constituency by the major parties, the Socialist Alliance and its candidate Brian Butterworth did exceptionally well. We gained a clear fifth place and established the Socialist Alliance as the largest and best organised left challenge to the establishment, gaining only slightly less votes than the Green candidate.

We have established a platform in Brent on which the Socialist Alliance  will build over the coming months.
The well known election specialist s have remarked that the Socialist Alliance  played a decisive role in the Preston and Tottenham by-elections, and the Brent East by-election shows we are well-placed to grow in the forthcoming weeks and months.

Brian Butterworth - SA Brent candidateWhat they actually said:
"The Socialist Alliance is not linked in people's minds with the opposition to the war and is not distinguishable on the ballot paper, except to a small minority, from any sect that can afford a deposit." John Molyneux - Socialist Review

 

If RESPECT is the only game in town - unfortunately the town is not Hartlepool. It's clear there is still much work to be done uniting Greens, Socialists and Respect members for a united progressive challenge against neo-liberalism. It's important in the light of this result for RESPECT members to keep pushing for unity and not to believe some of the more exaggerated hype that comes out of the central press office.

 

 

October 2004

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