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Election results - what should the Left do now - locally, north west, nationally?

John Nicholson


Do we need to build a national organisation of socialists to fight elections?
Or should we all be joining Respect?
Can we only succeed with a fairer electoral system?
Or should socialists not be involved in elections at all?



"People not Profits", a group of Greater Manchester socialist activists who believe it is time to make a stand against privatisation, are holding a meeting to discuss the outcome of the election - and what this means for public services - on Tuesday May 17th at 7.30 pm at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester (just behind the Central Library). Invited participants include Green Party, Respect, Socialist Party, Merseyside Socialist Alliance, and the independent candidate against PFI in Manchester Withington (where the useless labour MP lost his seat to the Lib Dems).

Anyone on the left who is interested in putting forward an argument about what to do next, or just contributing to the discussion, is welcome to come and participate.

While Labour has returned to office, on policies of privatisation, EU militarisation, increased nuclear weapons (and power), further restrictions of civil liberties, continued occupation of Iraq, its majority has been dented and the Labour left may feel they have strengthened their position within Parliament. The Lib Dems seem to have benefited from opposition to the war, and seats in Greater Manchester have been lost by Labour as a result. Respect has succeeded dramatically in East London, and also gained good results in seats in Birmingham, Tottenham and Leicester. In the North West, Respect in Preston maintained the earlier success of the Socialist Alliance and saved its deposit, and gained 2.5% in the other seat it stood in, Stretford. Socialists and progressive independents mostly got a few hundred votes - across the spectrum of greens, socialist organisations, Respect and so on - the Green Party did get 4.5% in both Manchester Central and Withington constituencies and the Community Action Party saved two deposits in the Wigan and Leigh areas.

The fascists didn't break through anywhere, but saved many deposits, as did UKIP, sometimes both fighting in the same seats to this effect. With Labour and Tories having laid the groundwork for racism, the far right has found it easy to capitalise on this - the danger still remains that if Labour isn't challenged from the left, it will be the fascists who fill any vacuum arising politically. On the other hand, the present election system does not work in our favour. First past the post, in constituencies not representing natural communities, with non-registration of many poorer and migrant populations, and postal vote systems that work against face-to-face campaigning, add strength to the argument for a fairer electoral system. But can any system, under capitalism, favour socialists and democratic socialist organisation? Should we be campaigning, rather than electioneering?

If you want to add to this debate, we look forward to seeing you on May 17th.

 

May 2005

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